Bring Your Child Home
Children who are placed for adoption through public agencies may move in with an adoptive family as soon as the parents complete required pre-placement visits and are approved to adopt—provided the timing is not unnecessarily disruptive to the child’s schooling or other activities.
When a new child is placed in your home, you will assume temporary legal custody. For a few months, your agency will monitor how the placement is proceeding. This period typically lasts about six months to a year. During this time, the worker may call or visit to assess how you and your child are adjusting, and to answer questions. If all goes well, at the end of the monitoring period, the agency will recommend to the court that the adoption be approved.
File a Petition to Adopt
An adoption petition is the document filed in court that initiates the legal aspect of adoption. Through the petition, adoptive parents formally request permission to adopt a specific child. To file a petition you will likely need the following information and documentation:
- The child’s birth certificate or birth date and place of birth
- A written statement that confirms your desire and suitability to adopt, as well as your ability to provide financially for the child
- A written declaration that the adoption is in the child’s best interest
- Your name, age, and address
- The date on which and from whom you received custody of the child
- A statement of the legal reason why the birth parents’ rights are being (or have been) terminated
- A disclosure of any relationship that you share with the child if other than an adoptive parent (aunt or uncle, grandparent, step-parent)
Finalize the Adoption
Your adoption is not legally complete until your newly created family goes through the finalization process. Finalization hearings usually take place within a year after a child is placed in the home.
Before scheduling a hearing, check with your agency to make sure you have completed the necessary paperwork. If you are missing required documents, the finalization could be delayed.
The finalization hearing is a judicial proceeding, sometimes held in the judge’s chambers, during which adoptive parents are granted permanent legal custody of their adopted child. The hearing, which usually lasts only 30 to 60 minutes, is designed to establish the legality of the new family unit, and confirm that the adoptive parents are willing and able to provide for their new children.
The following individuals generally attend the finalization hearing:
- Adoptive parents and adoptee(s)
- Adoptive family’s lawyer
- Agency social worker who placed the child with the adoptive parents
In a few cases, the child’s birth parents may also appear, but only if their parental rights have not yet been terminated or if they are participating in an open or cooperative adoption.
To verify that the adoption should take place, the court will attempt to establish that the child has been placed in a safe, loving home. Expect to list all the identifying information included in your adoption petition and answer questions such as:
- Why do you want to adopt?
- How will you care for your new child?
- How will your family adjust to a new child?
- Is there anything the court should know before finalizing this adoption?
As soon as the judge signs the adoption order, you gain permanent legal custody of your child. Finalization is the last formal step in the adoption process and marks the official beginning of your new family.
Find Post-Adoption Supports
Although we recommend finding post-adoption services before placement, if you haven’t already done so you need to learn as much as you can about post-adoption services in your community and online. Support groups, respite care, support groups, online support groups, workshops, conferences, etc. have proven to help keep families together and improve family functioning.
Parents who have post-adoption support are better-equipped raise children who have complex needs. Parent’s report that post-adoption services help them:
- Adjust their adoption expectations
- Understand the needs of their child
- Address their child’s behavior challenges
- Learn about community services available to their family
- Cope with the challenges of raising a child with a trauma history and disabilities
- Improve their relationship with their child
- Gain emotional and social peer support
- Reduce stress and increase parenting satisfaction