This month is National Adoption Month, a month set aside to raise awareness for the need for adoptive families for those in foster care. In honor of adoption month, this blog post will discuss part of the process of adoptions from foster care agencies.
Not every child who is in foster care is, or will be, eligible for adoption. In order for a parent’s rights to be terminated, they have to either permanently surrender their rights to an Agency or have their rights terminated by Court order. Neither of these is a simple, quick process. A foster care agency’s first goal is reunification. However, there are many children who are currently ready to adopt from the foster care system – an estimated 2,600 just in the state of Ohio. Further, biological parents can also choose to voluntarily consent to an adoption.
If a family is going into the foster care system with their hearts set on adoption already, they may benefit from reviewing the Adoption Photolisting that is offered by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, where there are descriptions of children who are already available for adoption, whose parental rights have already been terminated.
Potential adoptive parents will need to undergo training before being placed with a child. The type and requirements of training vary. All adoptive parents will need to have enough space for the foster child (a separate bed for each child, and separate bedrooms for children if there are boys and girls over age 5), everyone 18 and over in the home must have criminal background checks completed, and the house must be free of hazardous conditions.
For adoptive situations, once they have been placed in the home of the prospective foster parents for at least six months, the adoption petition can be filed. Prospective adoptive parents will need to first undertake a home study to ensure their suitability as well as the suitability of their home for the adoptive child or children.
The legal process typically requires only a couple of steps. First, a Petition for Adoption, which includes information about the child to be adopted and the prospective parents, makes note of how the biological parents’ rights were terminated or if they consented to the adoption, as well as any other consents. For instance, the Agency having permanent custody will need to file a consent to the adoption, and the child who is being adopted, if over the age of 12, will have to consent to the adoption as well, unless the court finds it is not in the best interests of the child to do so. Second, with foster care agency adoptions, very often there is only one final hearing, where the judge goes over the Petition, allows a time for personal stories of why they believe the family is a good fit for adoption, such as by family members and caseworkers, and then finalizes the adoption. After finalization, the adoption is legal!
Adoptions can occur in many different ways, and this brief overview is definitely not typical for those who are long-term foster parents. For those who may go into the system with an eye for adoption from the beginning, however, it can be possible for a relatively smooth transition to adoption, so long as the family is a good fit for each other and the child adjusts well. In everything, the best interests of the child are at the forefront. As National Adoption Month comes to a close, please consider how you can support your community foster care system, foster families, or adoptive families. There are many children who are looking for a forever home, and that home may be closer than you think.
Contact White Law Office if you are looking at pursuing an adoption and have any legal questions.