The possibility of expanding your family through adoption is exciting, scary, joyful and confusing all at once. When people imagine adopting a young baby or older child, though, they sometimes labor under mistaken ideas about what is actually involved and how adoption works in Minnesota. We wanted to set the record straight.

Many perfectly qualified would-be adoptive parents, for instance, never move forward with the process, because they’re intimidated by the prospect of a home study program or background check. The truth is that this kind of “vetting” does not have to be stressful or consuming.

Perfection: Not Required

Your family does not need to be perfect. During the home study, for instance, the social worker just looks for honesty and signs of a coherent, ethical family that knows how to identify, address and overcome challenges.

Five Misconceptions About Adoption in Minnesota

1.    You do not need to own your residence to qualify to adopt a child. If you rent a house or apartment, you’re still in the running.

2.    You do not need to meet minimum income requirements. If you’re an internet entrepreneur making $25,000 a year working at home, and your husband just started a new job as a school teacher making a modest salary, for instance, you will not be disqualified just because your household income is under some arbitrary cut off.

3.    A criminal background will not necessarily make you ineligible to adopt a child. Check with a qualified family law attorney to learn more if you have questions about specific crimes and their impact on a potential adoption.

4.    Not all adoptions are the same. There are special rules for adopting children aged 14+, for instance. Such an adoption may not need to go through a licensed child-placing agency in Minnesota, whether that agency is private or sanctioned by the government. You can adopt a child under the following conditions as long as he or she is older than 14 and wants to be adopted by you:
a.    A homeless child that you meet while volunteering in a soup kitchen.
b.    A child in foster care who attends the school where you work.
c.    A child, either homeless or in foster care, who attends your religious institution.

 5. You do not necessarily need to bankroll the costs of parenting without help. The courts provide monthly monetary assistance and medical insurance for parents who adopt special needs children, for instance. These payments range from $247 to $337 monthly per child, depending on the age of the child. The courts provide additional funds at four different levels, ranging between $150 and $500, depending on the severity of the disability.

Photo of Cynthia J. Brown Cynthia J. Brown

“Some lawyers play a lot of games. That’s not my approach. There is a lot of gray area in the law, but I try to keep things relatively straightforward for my clients. That way, we can all focus on what’s really important: getting…

“Some lawyers play a lot of games. That’s not my approach. There is a lot of gray area in the law, but I try to keep things relatively straightforward for my clients. That way, we can all focus on what’s really important: getting matters settled fairly and cost-effectively. We’re certainly ready to litigate, but favor empowering clients to control the outcome of their case.”

Cynthia is a founding partner with the Brown Law Offices, P.A. She is a graduate of the University of South Dakota and William Mitchell College of Law. She publishes extensively on divorce and family law issues.

Cynthia Brown was admitted to practice in 1998. After graduating from law school, Cynthia served as the law clerk to the Honorable Timothy R. Bloomquist, retired Chief Judge of Minnesota’s Tenth Judicial District. Upon completing her clerkship, Cynthia practiced family law with a well-known firm in Cambridge, Minnesota. She founded the Brown Law Offices, P.A., in 2003.

Early in her career, Cynthia served as a prosecutor and public defender. In the last decade, however, Cynthia’s practice has focused primarily on family law. She has handled a wide variety of matters throughout the Twin Cities, and greater Minnesota, including divorce, custody, child support, alimony, paternity, step-parent adoption, harassment and grandparent rights.

Cynthia publishes extensively on divorce and family law issues. She is a contributing author to the Family Law Forum, the quarterly publication of the Family Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association. Cynthia also writes a bi-monthly family law column for the Minnesota Lawyer newspaper, and monthly articles for Divorce Magazine.

Cynthia obtained her Bachelor’s Degree, magna cum laude, from the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, and her Juris Doctorate from the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul.

Cynthia founded the Amigos de Guatemala Foundation in 2007. She is a former Board Member and President of the Foundation, which provided educational, health and financial resources to underprivileged Guatemalan citizens. Her interest in serving the impoverished began with a medical mission trip to Honduras in 1994.

When she is not practicing law, Cynthia enjoys scrap-booking, soap-making, beading and spending time with family. She and her husband, Jason, also an attorney, have two children.