Adopting a child is an exciting time for a family. Before adopting, there are some basic procedures that are helpful to know about. Understanding the process, rules, and requirements ahead of time will better prepare you for what lies ahead on the sometimes long and emotional journey.
Consent to Adoption
For any adoption to be legal, the birth parents must consent to the adoption (unless parental rights have been legally terminated). In most states, officials won’t let birth parents consent to an adoption until after the child is born. In other states, they require three to four days after birth before the parents can sign a consent form. This means that birth parents can legally change their minds about adoption at any point before the birth of the child.
Even after the birth parents have given their consent and the child has been placed in the adoptive home, many states allow birth parents to revoke their consent within a specified period of time. In other words, birth parents can change their minds about the adoption entirely. In some states, this period can be as long as three months.
This is one of the reasons why birth parents in some states must undergo counseling before giving their consent. Their intention to go through with the adoption is explored at an early stage in the hope of reducing the likelihood of a change of heart later.
The Adoption Process: The Home Study
All states require adoptive parents to undergo an investigation to make sure that they are fit to raise a child. This investigation is called a home study, where a state agency or licensed social worker typically conducts the study. They will examine the adoptive parents’ home life and make recommendations to the courts based on the following things:
- Financial stability
- Marital stability
- Other children
- Career obligations
- Physical and mental health
- Criminal history
In recent years, the home study has become more than just a method of investigating prospective parents; it serves to educate and inform them as well. The social worker helps to prepare the adoptive parents by discussing issues such as how and when to talk with the child about being adopted, and how to deal with the reactions of friends and family to the adoption.
If the social worker writes a negative report, the family wishing to adopt the child may contest the conclusion. Each state has different appeal procedures. Some states provide for a separate procedure, while other states make the appeal part of the adoption hearing.
Adoption Process: In Court
All adoptions, whether handled by an agency or done independently, must be approved by a court. The adoptive parents must file an adoption petition with the court and go through an adoption hearing.
A standard adoption petition generally includes:
- The names, ages, and address of the adoptive parents.
- The name, age, and legal parentage of the child to be adopted.
- The relationship between the adoptive parents and the child, such as blood relative or stepparent.
- The legal reason that the birth parents’ rights are being terminated (that they are voluntarily giving the child up for adoption).
- A statement that the adoptive parents are the appropriate people to adopt the child.
- A statement that the adoption is in the child’s best interest.
Adoption Hearing and Order
At the adoption hearing, if the court determines that the adoption is in the child’s best interest, the judge will issue an order approving and finalizing the adoption.
GCW Lawyers Can Help
If you do not use an agency in your adoption, you should strongly consider hiring a lawyer experienced in adoptions. Even if you do use an agency, it may be beneficial to hire an attorney to help prepare the adoption petition and to represent you at the hearing. The Family Law lawyers at GCW are experienced in adoption and can help you prepare for every step of the process of bringing your child(ren) home. Contact us today for a free consultation.