You completed all the paperwork and finished your adoption home study. You finally got the call that you’d been waiting for and, when the time came, you rushed to the hospital to meet your baby. Now, your family finally feels complete… but what happens next in the adoption process?
Before you are officially finished with the adoption process, you will need to take some important steps to legally finalize your adoption in Tennessee. But what is involved in adoption finalization? And what can you expect when you finalize your adoption in TN?
Here are some of the final steps you’ll need to take before your adoption finalization in Tennessee:
After you return home with your baby, Tennessee requires that you complete a post-placement study, which includes a series of visits to your home by a licensed social worker. The Tennessee post-placement study requires at least one visit per quarter until the adoption is finalized.
These post-placement visits are very similar to the home study visits you completed prior to placement, and you will likely work with the same social worker who completed your adoption home study. He or she will be checking to make sure that everyone in your home is adjusting well to the placement and that your home has maintained the standards necessary to properly care for the child.
This is also your opportunity to ask any questions you might have about the Tennessee adoption finalization process and about raising an adopted child. During these visits, your post-placement worker may also recommend local resources, services and programs that could benefit you or your child.
In order to receive your final decree of adoption in Tennessee, the judge will need to determine that all applicable adoption laws were followed throughout the process. Your adoption attorney will work with you to make sure your adoption meets the following criteria:
Termination of Parental Rights. The parental rights of your baby’s birth parents must be legally terminated before the adoption can be finalized. In Tennessee, birth parents can consent to have their parental rights terminated three days after the birth of the baby.
Compliance with ICPC and ICWA. If you are adopting across state lines, your adoption must meet the standards of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). If you are adopting a child of Native American heritage, your adoption may also be subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Your adoption attorney will explain these processes and ensure your adoption meets the necessary requirements, if applicable.
Completion of Post-Placement Study. As explained above, you will need to complete the necessary post-placement home visits and meet any other post-placement requirements explained by the social worker completing the study.
Adherence to All Other Tennessee Laws. You should work closely with American Adoptions and your adoption attorney throughout the process to make sure each step is completed legally and ethically. Your local adoption attorney can help you understand any relevant Tennessee adoption laws.
When it is time to finalize your adoption in Tennessee, your adoption attorney will submit the necessary legal paperwork to the court for review and schedule your adoption finalization hearing.
Because the judge will review your case prior to your Tennessee adoption finalization hearing, proceedings are typically brief (around 30–60 minutes). Here’s what you can expect in court:
You and your attorney will be sworn in by the judge.
You may speak about your intention to adopt your child and provide him or her with a stable, nurturing home.
You may answer a few additional questions from the judge.
The judge will sign your Tennessee final decree of adoption, legally granting you parental rights for your child.
That’s it! Once your Tennessee adoption finalization hearing takes place, the adoption process — and your family — is legally complete.
Once the judge issues your final decree of adoption in Tennessee, you can apply for an amended birth certificate and social security card for your child. Your adoption attorney can help guide you through these legal steps.
After finalization, your child is now officially a legal and permanent member of your family, but your adoption process doesn’t end here. Adoption is a lifelong journey, and you should continue to openly discuss and celebrate your child’s adoption long after finalization, as well as continue open adoption contact with his or her birth family.
American Adoptions is always available to answer your post-placement questions and provide the support you may need. For more information about adoption finalization in Tennessee, call 1-800-ADOPTION to speak with an adoption specialist.
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