Your Guide to Adoption Finalization in Maryland
In all the excitement and revelry that comes when you take your baby home from the hospital, it can be easy to feel like the adoption process is finally over. You’ve waited and worked for this for so long, and now your child is finally in your arms and in your home. However, there is one last step in the road to making sure your child is a legal member of your family: your Maryland adoption finalization process.
Here’s what you need to know about the process to finalize your adoption after you bring your new child home.
The Legal Adoption Finalization Process
In order to finalize your adoption, all steps must be completed legally according to federal and state adoption laws. Your adoption attorney will walk you through all of the legal steps of the adoption process and ensure your adoption complies with the appropriate laws at all times.
Your exact requirements may vary based on your individual situation but, at minimum, you should meet the following requirements before finalizing your adoption in Maryland:
The birth parents’ rights must be legally terminated
You must complete all necessary post-placement visits
What are Maryland’s postplacement requirements?
Before your adoption can legally be finalized, you must meet certain post-placement visit requirements. The state of Maryland requires that a social worker with a child placing adoption agency visit an adoptive family at least three times after they bring a baby home with them. The social worker that visits will:
Evaluate, support and educate the parents about adoption
Emphasize that continuing the child’s heritage and cultural traditions is important
Ensure any complaints of abuse or neglect are reported immediately
Assess the child’s safety in the new home
Remove a child if the child’s safety is in jeopardy
In many ways, the post-placement study is similar to the adoption home study you completed prior to placement. Your adoption specialist can explain these post-placement requirements in more detail and help you prepare for what to expect.
What to Expect at the Maryland Adoption Finalization Hearing
At this hearing, a judge will grant you your final decree of adoption in Maryland. Here’s how you can expect the day to go:
You will gather at the courthouse in your county with your immediate family, your adopted child and your attorney. When the judge is ready, the hearing will begin. The judge should have already reviewed your case by this point, so the adoption finalization hearing itself should only take between 30 and 60 minutes.
When your attorney indicates that you should do so, you’ll introduce yourselves. He or she will then explain to the judge why this adoption should take place — in other words, that it is indeed in the child’s best interests to be placed with your family. If you are adopting an older child, they may be able to speak for themselves to let the judge know they agree with the adoption plan.
At this point, you’ll be asked to indicate to the judge that it is your intent to love and care for this child as your own. The judge may ask you some easy questions after this, but these are only intended to get to know you, not to stress you out! If you brought a camera, now is the time for an adoption finalization day photo with the judge.
If there are any outstanding orders pertaining to the adoption, like outstanding birth parent expenses or any special circumstances related to the termination of the birth father’s rights, the judge will review those at this point. He or she will also ensure that all postplacement study requirements were met (see below). As long as all parental rights were terminated correctly and any other applicable laws were followed, he or she will sign the Maryland final decree of adoption.
Along with receiving your child’s final decree of adoption in Maryland, he or she will also be issued a new birth certificate that lists you, the adoptive parents, as his or her “natural parents.” If the baby you adopt was born in a state other than Maryland, the state of Maryland will coordinate the arrival of a new birth certificate. Of course, in this case it may take a little longer for your child’s birth certificate to arrive.
For more information about adoption finalization in Maryland or starting the adoption process, please call American Adoptions at 1-800-ADOPTION.
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