What is a home study?
The laws of each state in the United States and adoption require prospsective adoptive parents to obtain an approved home study. The purpose of a home study is to prepare the adoptive family for adoption and to evaluate a family’s ability and readiness to adopt. This does not mean that a family or individual must be perfect. It just means that a person can offer a child a stable, financially and emotionally secure and loving environment. Typically, a home study report will be supervised by a licensed social worker. The home study process involves interviews, home visit, background checks, review of medical information, income statement, answering a set of autobiographical questions, providing references and reviewing resource material. Once all of this is completed, the social worker will write a report referred to as a home study. In general, the report will discuss issues such as: family background, employment, education, relationships, daily life, religious or spiritual life, home and neighborhood, parenting, feelings about adoption, a statement concerning the risks inherent in adoption, and finally the recommendation.
Must we work with one agency for both our home study and our adoption?
Absolutely not. In fact, many adoptive parents have two different agencies, a home study agency and a placement agency. Often, the placement agency is not located in the adoptive parent’s state of residence and therefore, two agencies are required.
Must we work exclusively with Adopt America for our placement?
Absolutely not. In fact, our Network Program offers options where we help you identify other agencies or attorneys who have available situations through use of a national search database that is available only to licensed agencies and attorneys and we have a large network of colleagues whom we can engage in your search.
What is an Adoption Service Plan?
This is an important element of a successful adoption process that many agencies don’t take the time to do. When we have identified a birth mother that appears to be a good match, we begin the process of evaluating estimated birth mother expenses, legal issues concerning the Consent of the birth mother, termination of parental rights, including birth father’s rights, medical expenses, etc. Once you are matched, the Service Plan serves as a roadmap to your adoption process.
What is a match?
The birth mother chooses the family that she wants as parents for her child by looking at your profile, talking to you on the telephone and in some cases, meeting with you in our offices. Birth mothers can choose the family and the family has a right to turn down the selection. When the birth mother and the family agree to go forward with the placement, we call it a ‘match’.
What happens at the birth?
Typically, you will travel to where she will deliver and likely be in the delivery room when ‘your child’ is born. The majority of our birth mothers want the adoptive mother and/or father to be with her in delivery. Prior to delivery, we will coordinate with the case management staff at the hospital where your birth mother will deliver to go through any special protocol and then prepare you for what will take place from the time you arrive, how the Consent process will unfold and guide you through the discharge process.
What if we live in a different state than where our birth mother lives?
If you reside in a state other than the one in which your baby is born, Adopt America will go through an Interstate Compact (ICPC) agreement regarding the movement of children from state to state. An agency in each state is charged with making sure that the laws of that state have been followed before the child can be allowed to cross the state line from the sending state to the receiving state. We will prepare your ICPC documents. You should expect to wait about least 1-2 weeks after the birth of your child before ICPC allows you to go home. In some cases this will be less and in some cases this will be longer. Before the birth of your child, the agency will discuss with you the laws and policies of that particular state and how long the process should take.
What is the difference between Termination and Finalization?
Termination of parental rights involves the process whereby the birth parents either voluntarily consent to the termination of their rights or action is taken to terminate rights (in the case of birth fathers). Each case is different and we will review this process during the initial phases of the adoption and matching process.
Finalization is the process whereby after a post placement supervision period after your baby is placed with you, the court is petitioned for you to become the permanent parent(s) of your child. There will be options as to where the finalization will occur when different states are involved in the process and we will discuss this with you as well at the time of initial matching. You will not need to make a final determination as to where you will finalize the adoption until the child is born and we are preparing ICPC documents.
What about my baby’s birth certificate and social security number?
The hospital will ask the birthmother to complete a form for the birth certificate. She can name the child anything she chooses at that time. In some instances, the adoptive parents and birth mother may have chosen a name for the baby together and she will place that name on the form. The baby’s original birth certificate will contain the birthmother’s last name. During the legal adoption process, the baby’s name can be changed. After you have finalized, you will receive an ‘amended birth certificate’. It will list date of birth, state of adoption, and adoptive parents. This is usually mailed by your attorney direct to you in about six to eight weeks after finalization.
Social Security Cards are usually requested at the time the birth certificate is ordered by the hospital. Your baby’s social security card will be in the name that is on his original birth certificate until you finalize and ask the governing state for a name change. The social security card is generally mailed to our office and forwarded to you.
What exactly is post placement?
All states require that the adoptive family have a home study and follow up visits by their social worker after the baby comes home to live with them. Each state has different specifications and time frames for these requirements. Visit Adopt America’s Services page for more detailed information on what is involved in post placement visits.
Will our birth mother require medical care paid for by us?
It is not likely that your birth mother will need to have her medical care paid for by you. Most birth mothers qualify for Medicaid and we enroll them before they begin their pre-natal visits with the doctor if they don’t already have medicaid. If for some reason, Medicaid is not available, we will discuss these issues with you prior to matching.
What if our birth mother changes her mind?
This is a difficult and unfortunate situation of course. We will help you through the grieving process and help you in deciding how best to move forward when you are ready.
What are the eligibility requirements for Adoptive Families?
- Couples or singles including gay and lesbian applicants are welcomed by Adopt America. If married, there are no requirements of how long you have been married.
- Demonstrate a stable employment history, sufficient financial resource, emotional maturity and stability, and adequate living conditions conducive to a child’s well being as evidenced by an approved home study.
- Demonstrate that you are free from communicable disease and in sufficiently good physical and mental health.
- Demonstrate that you are emotionally and mentally capable of understanding the needs of an infant or small child and being able to meet them. This is demonstrated by a recommendation for adoption in your home study.
I have a DUI conviction on my record. Will this hurt my chances for adoption?
A DUI will not automatically preclude you from being able to adopt. Every adoption agency has their own policy regarding convictions. Our agency looks at each situation individually. In most cases, if a significant amount of time has passed since the DUI occurred, and the individual has followed all of the steps required by the court, this is not an issue.
A DUI, or any other conviction, will need to be addressed during the home study process. Please explain to your social worker the circumstances of your conviction and the details of how the court handled it. The social worker will summarize the situation in your home study report. Your home study report will be a part of the court proceedings for your adoption. This is not something that birth parents would ever see or know about your family unless you choose to inform them.
Will a medical condition preclude someone from adopting?
We look at medical conditions on a case-by-case basis. As part of the home study process you will be required to have a current medical statement from your doctor. The medical statement asks your doctor to rate your physical and mental ability to parent a child. Every family who adopts completes this part of the process regardless of their health. We have worked with many people with special health considerations that have successfully adopted.
Can we choose the gender of our baby?
Prospective adoptive parents can be gender specific; however, many birthmothers are matched prior to knowing the gender of the baby.
At what point can the birth parent(s) sign over their parental rights?
In most states birth parents cannot sign over their parental rights until after the baby is born. A common time frame is 48 – 72 hours after birth. Florida law allows a birth mother to execute a Consent 48 hours after birth or earlier upon discharge from the hospital. Once you matched, you will be educated as to the legal process for the state in which your adoption will occur. Once the birth mother signs the legal paperwork or goes to court, her rights are terminated. This means she can change her mind until the specified time when she can sign the consent to relinquish her parental rights. Once she signs the consent documents, her decision is irrevocable unless she can provide fraud, coercion or duress.