The process of adoption is an important family decision. Bringing a new child into the family is an important legal decision, too. Once the court grants an adoption, the adopting parents are legally responsible for the support, maintenance, welfare, and education of that child. An adoption creates a legal relationship between the child and parents and is permanent. The adopted child is seen as a biological child of the adopting parents in the eyes of the law.
The legal process begins with a petition to the court. The prospective parents must undergo an adoption home study process. Normally the home study includes a criminal and child abuse/neglect background check, classes, home visits and an extensive interview by a social worker. The interview may cover your family background, your income and household expenses, statements from primary care physicians, and references. A report is generated by the social worker at the end of the process and provides a recommendation as to the fitness of the prospective parents to adopt. An adoption study does cost, and the cost is dependent on the type of adoption and who conducts the study.
The court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem to represent the child’s best interest in the case. The Guardian ad Litem after conducting an investigation into the child’s best interest will make a recommendation to the court. A hearing will be held, and at the conclusion of the hearing the judge will grant or deny the adoption.
Once the court grants the adoption, the adoptive parents are legally responsible for the adopted child. The adoptive parents must provide for the child’s welfare, education, health, and support. If the adoptive parents divorce, the court will decide child custody and support of the adopted child. The adoptive parents and the adopted child have inheritance rights after the adoption.
Many times a parent will remarry and the new spouse becomes involved in the parenting of the child from a prior relationship because the natural parent has had no contact with the child and does not provide for that child’s needs financially. The step-parent cares for and loves the child as if the child is his/her own child. With a step-parent adoption this relationship will be legally recognized. The court will terminate the rights of the natural parent due to that parent’s lack of contact and financial support. Once the natural parent’s rights are terminated, the court will proceed with the adoption by the step-parent. The step-parent that chooses to adopt is making a life-long commitment to that child. By adopting, the step-parent will become legally responsible for the child’s welfare and support.
Foster Child Adoptions
When a parent has abused or neglected his or her child, the Department of Social Services – Children’s Division becomes involved with the family. In certain abuse and neglect cases, the Juvenile Court will terminate the parental rights of the natural parents. These children need a permanent loving home, and adoption is the answer.
Agency adoptions are inter-family adoptions.