Adoption Finalization in Washington, D.C.
The day that you bring your child home from the hospital with you will be one you cherish for the rest of your lives, and it deserves to be celebrated. You’ve been waiting for so long, and the adoption process is rarely a simple or an easy one. It can be tempting to embrace this day as the end of a journey, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t quite the case. Your child already feels like a member of your family, but before that is legally and permanently the case, you’ll need to complete two additional steps: post-placement visits and the Washington, D.C., adoption finalization hearing.
What are post-placement visits?
Post-placement visits are an extension of the adoption home study you completed prior to finding an adoption opportunity. These will be completed by your adoption agency for at least six months after your child comes home with you. During this six-month period, your agency will complete at least three interviews with the child and parents and complete at least one home visit.
If, after six months have passed, you have not had your D.C. adoption finalization hearing, the post-placement visits will continue until the hearing takes place.
What other requirements does a family have to meet before receiving the Washington, D.C. final decree of adoption?
In addition to the post-placement visits within the first six months after placement, you may have other statutes to adhere to before you can finalize your child’s adoption. Of course, this will depend on the individual situation, but speak with your adoption specialist to see if you will need to focus on any of the following:
The Indian Child Welfare Act: This only applies if the child you have adopted is a member of a federally recognized Native American Tribe or would qualify for membership. If this is the case, you’ll need to comply with the ICWA, which was enacted to preserve the heritage and families of American Indian tribes.
The Termination of Parental Rights: No matter the situation, you cannot adopt a child until the biological parents no longer have parental rights. Whether they relinquish those rights voluntarily — which is usually the case for birth parents we work with — or a judge terminates them in the best interests of the child, you will not be able to move forward with adoption while the biological parents still have parental rights.
The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children: If you adopted a child from another state, you’ll be required to comply with ICPC regulations. Because adoption laws vary in all U.S. states and territories, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children was enacted to ensure all adoptions taking place between states adhere to the same standards.
What happens at the District of Columbia adoption finalization hearing?
After the above requirements have all been met, you’ll be able to schedule your family’s D.C. adoption finalization hearing. When the day arrives, you can expect to be with the judge for 30 minutes to an hour. Of course, the hearing will be individually tailored to your own adoption situation, but in general, you can expect it to go something like this:
Step One: Your family will stand alongside your adoption attorney before the judge.
Step Two: Your attorney will ask you to introduce yourselves to the judge before testifying that he or she believes that an adoption is in the child’s best interests.
Step Three: Chat with the judge a little so that he or she can get to know you and your family better. He or she will ask you to confirm that you intend to provide your child with a safe, loving home and ensure that you understand that adoption is permanent. We recommend taking a quick photo at this point!
Step Four: The judge will sign your Washington, D.C. final decree of adoption.
A few weeks after your Washington, D.C. adoption finalization hearing, you’ll receive a new birth certificate for your child in the mail that lists you and your spouse as the natural parents. After you receive this birth certificate, congratulations! You are officially done with the adoption process. Your child is legally and permanently yours, and nothing can change that. It’s important to remember, though, that the adoption process is never really over. Adoption is a journey that will continue for your child as he or she grows up and has questions. Make sure that you keep the lines of communication open, and ensure that your child knows how much love went into his or her adoption story. Adoption is something to be proud of!
To learn more about adoption finalization in the District of Columbia, please contact your adoption attorney. To begin the adoption process in D.C. today, don’t hesitate to contact us at 1-800-ADOPTION.
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