Adoption Process

Before any child can be adopted, three things must first happen:

  1. Termination of Parental Rights
  2. Home Study of the prospective adoptive family must be successfully completed;
  3. Custody must be formally obtained
  4. FINALIZATION

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

The termination of the parental rights, which is commonly referred to as "TPR", is the surrender of all rights associated with parenthood. TPRs result in one of two ways.

(A)voluntary consent; and (B) without consent.

The first is when the birth parent(s) both consent to the termination. The second method is when the Court, after a hearing, finds a statutory reason for termination and termination is in the Child's best interest.

(A) Voluntary Consent

If the child is an infant, the birth mother may sign consent to a future adoption after the baby is at least 48 hours old. The consent must be written and notarized or signed by two adult witnesses, who are not the adoptive parent or an attorney involved in the adoption. If the birth father is the legal husband of the birth mother, or is otherwise recognized as the father of the child, he must also sign a consent to the adoption. A consent may be withdrawn if the consent was obtained by fraud, duress or undo influence.

There are certain exceptions to the consent rules and statute changes may not be reflected on this website. It is best to consult with an attorney prior to obtaining consent or taking any steps to secure a TPR.

(B) Without Consent

There are several grounds that allow a Court may terminate the parental rights of the birth parents without their consent. Some are if the birth parent(s)

  1. abandoned, abused or neglected the child,
  2. failed to rectify those potentially harmful conditions that brought the child before the Court which has caused the child to be in the jurisdiction of the Division of Family Services
  3. seriously injured, killed or aided or attempted to kill one of his/her children
  4. is guilty of a felony sex offense or incest when the child or a child in the family is a victim,
  5. are found unfit because of a consistent pattern of abuse or conduct
  6. Other causes are:
    a) if the child conceived was a result of a forcible rape, the biological father's rights may be terminated.
b) If the child has been in foster care for at least 15 months.

Disputed termination of parental rights cases usually may be filed by a private agency, an individual or the Court. The Department of Social Services is frequently involved. Likewise, the proposed adoptive parents may be eligible for the payment of their attorney's fees through the adoption subsidy program.

THE HOME STUDY

All prospective adoptive parents wishing to adopt must participate in a full investigation, which commonly called a home study. This is to determine whether the child is suitable for adoption by the parents and whether the parents are suitable for the child.

Time is spent gathering information such as reference letters, record checks and medical information. Interviews of the prospective parent(s) are conducted and a home visit with all the family members is completed. As adoption effects every member of the adoptive family, the assessment process includes all family members.

Below is an example of what information may be gathered in order to complete the home study:

Identifying information on each member of the household including: full names, current addresses and phone numbers, previous addresses; date and place of birth; citizenship; social security number; race and ethnic background; religion; education; place of employment; any children, including those not living in the home; physical description.

A social history on each applicant which may include: family structure, discipline

methods, child rearing experience; educational and occupational history; marital history and current relationships; interests and hobbies; physical and mental health history including psychiatric treatment, if any and extent of alcohol and drug abuse, if any; religious beliefs; applicants personality, including their perceived weaknesses and strengths, emotional stability and maturity.

Parenting background of the applicant; motivation to adopt; attitudes and acceptance of adoption by other family members; location and description of family residence; child care arrangements; financial status; if the family contains school age children, reports from school personnel regarding school adjustment.

Potentially needed documentation:

a. medical reports, no more than 12 months old on all adult members of the household.
b. Verification of marriages and divorces if applicable.
c. Income and financial resources, including a copy of the latest Federal Income Tax 1040 form verifying adjusted gross wages.
d. Birth and death certificates.
e. Reference letters, including but not limited to one employment related reference.
f. Child abuse and neglect background screening check no more than six months old.
g. Criminal arrest and /or conviction records may include a finger print search.

CUSTODY

Foster adoptive placements are made by Court order by the Juvenile Court. Private placement adoptions require a statutory intermediary to assist in placement. Thereafter the adoptive parents must obtain a transfer of custody order, from the Court. This is a very important stage of the adoption process and should be handled under the direction of experienced legal counsel. A child must be in the lawful custody of the adoptive parents for at least six months before the adoption can be finalized. When the final adoption order is granted, after six months of lawful custody, the child becomes the child of the adoptive parents, as though born to them.

FINALIZATION

After the child has been placed into custody with the adoptive family, an investigation will monitor this placement for six months. At the conclusion of the six-month period, a written report is presented to the court that sets forth a recommendation on the pending adoption. The Court will hold a hearing and finalize the adoption. At that hearing, the child will legally become a member of the adoptive family. The Department of Health will then issue an amended birth certificate, showing the child as born to the adopting parent(s). Children over the age of 16 must give their consent to the adoption in writing.