You’re ready to adopt an infant and you’ve found a birth mother who wants to give her baby the benefit of a loving adoptive home. But then you discover that English is not the birth mother’s native language. What should you do? Do you need an interpreter for your adoption?

Arkansas law says yes

Arkansas adoptions pay a lot of attention to the rights and well-being of the birth mother. She is allowed to make many decisions about the adoption. In order to give her the full rights she is entitled to, it’s essential that she fully understands the agreements she makes.

For this reason, Arkansas law requires that the adoptive family provides an interpreter for the birth mother who needs one.

Act 599 says, “If a parent whose consent to adoption is required under this subchapter does not speak English as a native language, the parent shall be provided a qualified interpreter for the purpose of interpreting the consent adoption into the native language of the parent before its execution by the parent unless a petitioner is:
(A) A stepparent whose spouse is a natural or adoptive parent of the child to be adopted;
(B) Related to the child to be adopted within the second degree as defined in § 28-9-212; or
(C) Represented by an attorney pro bono in the adoption proceeding.”

In Arkansas, a child cannot be adopted without the permission of the biological parents. The essential part of the law quoted above says that a biological parent who doesn’t speak English needs translation. The consent agreement must be translated for her before she can legally agree.

There are exceptions. For example, if the husband of the birth mother is adopting the child, his wife will not legally require this service. The same would be true if the birth mother’s parents are adopting her child. Also, if her attorney is representing her pro bono — without charge — she is not legally required to have an interpreter, though she might still benefit from having one.

How to provide an interpreter

The interpreter must be chosen from the current registry of court interpreters maintained by the Administrative Office of the Courts. The adoptive parents must pay for the interpreter. The interpreter can be physically present or can communicate by phone, Zoom, or similar means. The consent document must include the native language of the parent, the name and qualifications of the interpreter, and the method used by the interpreter to translate the consent to adoption.

If the birth parent feels that her English is good enough that she doesn’t need an interpreter, she can sign an affidavit saying so and no interpreter will be required. This can also be done if the birth mother’s attorney is bilingual in her native language and can translate for her. However, the affidavit must be translated into the birth parent’s native language by a qualified interpreter before she signs, so this is not a way to avoid hiring an interpreter.


Adoption can be a complicated process, and this may seem like just one more complication. However, it provides protection for the birth parent and the adoptive parents. Heimer Law can assist in smoothing the process, including the requirements of Act 599.

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