March 16, 2017 | By Bekah Harger
By Patrick J. Kelly, McCathern Family Law Attorney
Adoption is a journey. In many ways it is journey that could be the most joyous and fulfilling journey a person could make. It can also be a journey fraught with delays and disappointments. Whether you’re a family seeking to adopt or a pregnant woman looking to make an adoption plan for your child, you need to find the path that’s right for you and your family. There are many options to consider and many choices to make.
After the adoption is complete, there are issues unique to parenting adopted children, to moving on as a birthparent, and to growing up as an adopted person.
Below you will find some general information and basic steps in the adoption process.
What is the first step in the adoption process?
You will need to decide whether to adopt through a private or public agency. As you examine these options, you will discover there are advantages and disadvantages to each, so take your time and be thorough in your research.
What should I expect when I call the agency?
The agency may invite you to attend an orientation. The information given at orientation is very valuable. They will discuss their process in detail and give you an opportunity to ask questions, obtain their fee schedule, and meet other families that are considering adoption. It is a good idea to attend more than one agency’s orientation to be able to compare procedures and philosophies, and get a sense of which agency fits you the best. At the end of orientation, you will be offered an application to complete and return together with an application or registration fee.
What is a “home study?”
After the agency has reviewed and accepted your application for adoption, you will need to complete a home study. The main goal of the home study is to evaluate the home environment and to help the adoptive parents prepare for parenting and the arrival of the child. There are several different ways to meet this requirement. Your agency will advise you as to their preferred method. The assessment will include one or more visits with a social worker, one of which will take place in your home, and possibly the request to take some educational classes. You will also be required to have a physical examination, fingerprints taken, and a background check. Average time for completion of the home study is approximately two months.
How long will we have to wait for a child?
The waiting period varies depending on several factors. If you are planning to adopt a Caucasian newborn, many agencies have a wait. This delay is due in part to the fact that adoptive parents and birthmothers are matched according to the requirements of both the adoptive parents and the birthmothers. Adopting a child of another race may reduce the waiting period significantly. International adoptions may take a year or more depending on the requirements of a particular country.
When is the adoption finalized?
After the parental rights of the birthparents have been terminated, the child will have been in the home for at least six months after which the social worker will submit a recommendation for approval. A judge will then finalize the adoption by awarding the adoptive parents all legal rights and responsibilities. This final step will vary with international adoptions as there are additional legal steps required, including those of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Department.
More Adoption Questions
It is common to have more questions than what is addressed above. The Family Law staff at McCathern, PLLC is available to assist you on this very special journey.