Last month, we celebrated National Adoption Month. You may be celebrating this month because multiple people in your family were adopted or maybe you are in the process of considering whether adoption is right for your family

Either way it is good to know how the adoption process works. It is also good to know your rights when it comes to adoption.

Here are a few of the key aspects to know regarding both private adoption and fostering to adopt.

Private Adoption

Private adoption has a clear guideline for adopting. Like fostering, the first step is being dedicated to the adoption process.

Hire A lawyer

The first step in adopting is to hire an experienced family law attorney. Hiring a lawyer will help you understand the adoption process from start to finish, which is really helpful because it isn’t a simple process. Adoption can be hard and lengthy, so it is a good idea to have a legal advocate in your corner to fight for you.

Home Study

You will have to engage in a home study, which consists of 3 phases. A licensed social worker will complete a documentation pass, an in-home visit and a home inspection.

Choosing An Agency

Make sure to choose an agency that shares the same values as you and who will support you throughout the process of adoption. These agencies should be certified to provide these adoption services.

Finalizing The Adoption

An adoption cannot be finalized until the parents surrender their parental rights. In Missouri, the parents cannot consent to the adoption until 48 hours since the child’s birth. If you are adopting a child at the age 12 or above, they will have to consent to the adoption.

Once the parental rights are terminated, there is a finalization hearing. This is undoubtedly the most important time to include your lawyer to make sure the process is done legally and ethically.

Foster to Adopt

Foster to adopt is a long process and one that is not always guaranteed to end in adoption.

When fostering to adopt, you are allowing children in foster care to enter your home and you are expected to ensure their safety and well-being.

In Missouri, there are around 13,000 children in foster care, and of that, 1,500 of them do not have an adoptive placement.

However, by the time legalization of the adoption happens within foster care, 98% of parents do not fight the adoption.

Adoption Process

When children are in foster care, their parents are typically engaged in services and trying to fix their problems to try and get their children back in their home.

If the parent of the child you are fostering is successful, the child will go back to live with them. However, if a parent surrenders their parental rights, an adoption can take place.

Also, if the court decides the parent has not made reasonable efforts within a certain amount of time, the judge can terminate parental rights. In this case, adoption is also an option.

While fostering, you will be expected to be involved in encouraging visits between the child and their biological parents. These visits can vary depending on the parent’s progress.

As a foster parent, you will also be encouraged to attend court in support of the child as well as everything else you would do for your own child.

However, understanding the system and your expectation can be hard, which is why it is advised to hire a lawyer to help guide you through the process.

A parent surrendering their rights, or the termination of parental rights are the only time a foster child can be adopted by their caregiver unless there is expedited termination. Once your home is approved for adoption, it will take 3 to 9 months to legalize the process.

Whether you are just thinking about adoption or have decided on private adoption or fostering to adopt, it is always a good idea to consult with a lawyer from the start.

Knowing your rights from the beginning can smooth each process. The lawyers at Marler Law Partners can help guide you through this difficult but wonderful time.