The day your baby is placed with you will be one of the happiest of your lives. However, it doesn’t mean the adoption process is complete. Before your child is irrevocably and legally yours, you still have to complete two steps: post-placement visits and the adoption finalization hearing.
A post-placement study is, in essence, a follow-up on your home study. The social worker who provided your home study will continue to visit and assess your home for a supervisory period that lasts at least six months. When you receive your final decree of adoption in California court, these visits will stop.
During each visit, your social worker will interview everyone in the household to make sure everyone is adjusting properly to the newest addition to the family. If necessary, the social worker may help you find services that will meet any specific needs your child may have.
Just like the home study process you went through before the placement of your child, the post-placement visits are designed to help you and your family. The social worker is there to make sure you and your baby are adjusting properly and to help you prepare anything you may still need for the California adoption finalization process.
The post-placement visits aren’t the only step you’ll have to take between placement and your adoption finalization. All adoptive parents must wait for the termination of parental rights, whether the birth parents voluntarily consent to the adoption or the court has to terminate their rights in the best interests of the child. This step must be completed before your child can be adopted into your family.
Depending on your individual adoption situation, there are two additional statutes you may need to comply with:
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA): This is a federal law enacted to preserve American Indian tribes and families. If the baby you wish to adopt is a member of a federally recognized tribe, or if he or she is eligible for membership, you will need to complete certain legal proceedings with the aid of an adoption attorney.
The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC): If you’re a California family who adopted a child from another state, or if you’re from another state yourself and adopted a California child, you’ll have to comply with ICPC. This serves to ensure that all adoptions across state lines are legal and ethical.
Once all other steps have been completed, it’s time for your finalization hearing. You’ll see a judge in your county on the appointed day for a brief proceeding, usually about 30 minutes to an hour long. Here’s what you can expect to happen at the hearing:
You, the adoptive parents, will stand before the judge as well as your adopted child, your attorney, and occasionally your social worker.
Your attorney will have you introduce yourselves and then give a brief testimony explaining why the adoption should take place.
You’ll confirm to the judge that you intend to provide your child with a safe, loving home. At this point, the judge may ask you some simple questions. If you like, now is a great time to take a picture to remember the day!
At the end of the hearing, the judge will sign the final decree of adoption. If there are any other orders, such as terminating an alleged father’s parental rights, this will happen at the end of the hearing as well.
After the hearing, you’ll also get a birth certificate that lists you as the parents. At this point, congratulations! You’re finished with the adoption proceedings! Of course, adoption is never really over; it’s a lifelong process that you should continue to discuss with your adopted child as he or she grows older.
For more information about pursuing adoption in California, call 1-800-ADOPTION.
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