One might assume that once a baby is placed with his or her adoptive parents, the adoption is finalized. This is not necessarily the case. Even after you bring your baby home with you, there are a few steps you will have to take before receiving your final decree of adoption in Missouri.
In a private domestic adoption, which is the adoption of an infant, both parents must legally and ethically consent to the adoption by relinquishing their rights to their baby. In Missouri, a parent cannot terminate their parental rights until the baby is at least 48 hours old. The parent must provide written consent and can revoke it at any point until a judge verifies that adoption is indeed in the best interest of the child and finalizes the adoption.
If you adopt a child from a state other than Missouri, you will need to comply with all ICPC guidelines. ICPC was enacted to make sure adoptions between state lines are ethical and legal. Since different states have different adoption regulations, complying with ICPC may have different requirements depending on which state you adopted your baby from.
If your child has any Indian heritage involving a federally recognized tribe, you will be required to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act. ICWA was enacted in 1978 and serves to keep Indian children with Indian families when possible. This does not mean that you can’t adopt an Indian child if you are not a member of a tribe, but there will be additional steps to complete. For example, a tribe member who has just given birth may not consent to an adoption until 10 days have passed since birth.
After your child is placed with you, your home study provider will visit your home to make sure everyone is adjusting and integrating well with the newest family member. In Missouri, the social worker will make regular reports on this progress to the court to verify that the adoption is in the child’s best interests.
Once all the necessary steps are completed, it will be time for the event you’ve been waiting for — the finalization hearing. Your social worker or attorney will let you know when your finalization hearing will take place, and you’ll generally be able to invite those close to you to come celebrate the day with you.
Usually, your adoption attorney will have provided the court with all paperwork in advance, so the judge will already have seen that all the necessary requirements have been fulfilled. The hearing itself shouldn’t take more than an hour, and you can expect a few things to happen:
You’ll stand before the judge with your attorney and be sworn in.
You’ll introduce yourself and answer some questions about your adoption decision.
The judge may ask additional questions and invite everyone present to take a picture to commemorate the day your child legally became yours.
The judge will sign the final adoption decree.
After the finalization hearing, the adoption is legally complete. Aside from working on your relationship with your child’s birth parents and talking with your child about adoption throughout his or her life, you only have two tasks left:
Apply for a social security card for your child. You will need the Missouri final adoption decree, your child’s new birth certificate, and an immunization record.
Gather all adoption-related paperwork for your taxes. You will want to show proof of all adoption-related expenses to receive the federal adoption tax credit.
To locate the court in your county where your finalization hearing will take place, visit the official website of the Missouri court system. To speak with a social worker about the specifics of preparing for your hearing, call 1-800-ADOPTION.
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