Adoption is a wonderful, loving way to build a family. But as you may be aware, adopting or placing a child can be quite complicated, with laws differing widely from state to state. It is important to become as knowledgeable as possible as you begin to build your family through adoption.
- How can an attorney help me in the adoption process?
- How can an attorney help me develop an outreach plan for my adoption?
- What are some of the specific legal issues that may arise? How can an attorney address them?
- What is the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC)?
- I am already working with an adoption agency. Do I still need an attorney?
- How can an attorney help me regarding the issues of post-placement contact with the birth parent(s)?
- How do I go about finding an experienced adoption attorney?
Q. How can an attorney help me in the adoption process?
A. A knowledgeable, experienced adoption attorney can help explain, simplify, and organize the adoption process and outline your options. The attorney can clarify the relevant adoption laws and regulations in your state. If you are considering adopting or placing a child from another state, your attorney can consult with an experienced attorney who is familiar with the laws of that state, then explain them to you and/or refer you to that attorney.
Q. How can an attorney help me develop an outreach plan for my adoption?
A. Your attorney can assist you in understanding and weighing the effectiveness of your various options for getting the word out about your desire to adopt. These include: using the internet and social media as resources for finding birth parents; conducting an advertising campaign; working with consultants; utilizing your personal network and other networking techniques; and working with in-state and out-of-state agencies and attorneys. There are complicated rules that vary from state to state and your attorney can advise you on them. Your attorney can help you to develop a practical and legally secure outreach plan that is specifically tailored to your needs.
Q. What are some of the specific legal issues that may arise? How can an attorney address them?
A. Your attorney can give legal advice regarding issues that may arise during the pregnancy and after placement. A few examples are:
1. Determining what, if any, payments to birth parents during pregnancy are legal and permissible under the laws of your state or other applicable jurisdictions; and provide an attorney’s trust account to safely pay these expenses.
2. Making sure all the birth parents’ rights are fully and legally terminated.
3. Providing resources for appropriate adoption counseling to help the birth parents through this difficult time.
4. Forming a strategy to deal with unique state-by-state issues faced by LGBT and single adoptive parents.
A. All states in the United States must follow the rules of the ICPC if a child is born in one state and being adopted by parents who reside in another state.
The ICPC is designed to ensure that: A child has gone legally from one state to another; adoptive parents have full access to information on the child’s health and well-being; parental rights are or will be properly terminated; the adoptive parents taking the child from one state to another have approved home studies showing that they have a safe home and that they are a safe family who is ready to parent. Lawyers or agencies in both states assist in the preparation and coordination of the ICPC and will keep the process on track so the child may come home with a safe adoption. Adoptive parents may not leave the state of the child’s birth until both states’ ICPC administrators give their approval. It may take from 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the state. We find that clients tend to enjoy the time they are alone with their baby out of state while ICPC clears. It is a great chance to bond with your new baby.
Q. I am already working with an adoption agency; do I still need an attorney?
A. Adoptive parents must have a home study, which the state Department of Social Services or a private adoption agency. While some agencies can help find expectant mothers, our law office limits the number of clients looking for a baby at any one time, and can provide personalized outreach nationwide. It often helps to have an attorney to personally represent your interests and manage your case from beginning to the final hearing to make sure all appropriate legal work is done for a safe adoption. An experienced attorney can help find the birth mother, terminate parent rights, and finalize the adoption, all while performing risk assessment and mitigation at all stages of the process.
Q. How can an attorney help me regarding the issues of post-placement contact with the birth parent(s)?
A. Post-placement contact between the adoptive and birth parents varies from periodic letters and photographs exchanged through your attorney or agency to more open agreements involving phone calls and scheduled visits. Your attorney can help you understand these options and, if appropriate, draft an applicable agreement between you and the birth parents. An attorney can file this post-placement agreement in court if the parties want this to be a legal document rather than just an informal agreement.
Q. How do I go about finding an experienced adoption attorney?
A. The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA) is the nationally recognized organization for adoption attorneys. It is composed of approximately 300 adoption attorneys in the United States and Canada. Currently, applicants for membership must have successfully completed at least 50 adoptions, and agree to be bound by ethical and “best practices” in order to be considered for membership. While there are excellent experienced attorneys who are not members of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, the Academy is the largest and most easily available resource of experienced adoption attorneys. The Academy of California Adoption Lawyers is a California organization for California lawyers who have completed more than 200 adoptions. Adams, Romer, & Stoeckenius LLP, has one or more attorney members of both AAAA and ACAL, as well as many specialty professional organizations including the San Francisco and Sonoma County Bar Associations, and the American Bar Association Committees on Adoption and Assisted Reproduction.