You’ve no doubt dreamt about the day you will finally bring your baby home. But have you thought about what happens next? Aside from beginning your life as a new family, there are a few important things you need to be aware of. Here is a look at what to expect after adoption placement.
Adoption Doesn’t End At Placement
In most states, there is a waiting period before your child’s birth parents go to court and sign a Termination of Parental Rights (or TPR as it is commonly called). The amount of time you’ll need to wait before this happens varies by state. When we brought our daughter home from the hospital, we had to wait about seven weeks before this important step happened. And believe me, it seemed like an eternity! During that time, we were considered our child’s legal guardians, but were not yet her legal parents — even though we felt like we were. After all, we had already been loving and caring for her since shortly after birth; we had begun bonding with our adopted child. In the eyes of the law, however, our child’s birth parents still retained all rights and could change their minds about the adoption at any time until officially relinquishing those rights. As you can imagine, this was a scary time for us. We already loved our daughter very much and knew there was a chance we would have to return her to her biological parents. That is a risk with adoption, one that will keep you on pins and needles. I’ll never forget the day our social worker called with the news. I had been anxiously waiting all morning to hear the outcome. When the phone rang, my heart raced. Would we receive good news? She told us it was a very emotional day for our daughter’s birth parents and their families. Sadness filled my heart as I thought about all they had endured. Our social worker continued, “They signed.” And with those words, I cried. Although nerve-wracking, adoption is definitely a risk worth taking. Not every adoption works out, of course, but many do. Sometimes you just have to put your heart on the line to achieve your dreams.
After relinquishment, you’ll have a series of post-placement visits in your home with a licensed social worker. Expect three or four visits over about a six- to nine-month period. During these meetings, the social worker will ask questions and observe you and your child to see how everyone is adjusting and adapting to their lives together. (No worries, though. It’s rare for an adoption to fall through at this point.) Although part of the legal process for adoption, post placements visits can also be fun too. They’re a great opportunity to ask questions and share your child’s milestones and adorable personality. I remember the pride I felt when we told our social worker the story how much our daughter loved music and was seen tapping her tiny hand to the beat at such a young age. I have a feeling that most social workers enjoy visiting with the babies as much as they enjoy their jobs. But with the socializing and sharing aside, the post-placement period also serves an important purpose, eventually culminating in your successful adoption. After each visit, your social worker will write a report with post-placement findings. These will be shared with the court to prove that everything is going well and the adoption is in the child’s best interests. Once the post-placement period has ended, which happened in about six months for us, your social worker will recommend to the court that the adoption be finalized and a court date will be scheduled.
Letter To The Court
Before going to court to finalize your child’s adoption, you’ll need to write a brief letter to the judge stating your desire to adopt your child. This is called a “Letter of Intent to Adopt” and is usually a short note that lists your child’s birth name, birth date and, if applicable, their new name. Basically, you tell the judge that you want to adopt the child and are willing and able to provide adequate care. Your letter will go along with your social worker’s letter that recommends the adoption be finalized. This is an exciting part of the adoption process — you’re almost there!
The last official step in your child’s adoption is to go to court for adoption finalization. For us, this took place when our daughter was approximately nine months old. Your hearing will typically be held in the county and state you live in and will include you, your spouse (if applicable), your social worker, the judge and any family members who are interested in attending. Often, your extended family will want to witness this exciting moment when your child becomes a part of your family forever. Although this is an important part of the legal process, most judges welcome family to the hearing and may even pose for a picture afterwards. I remember the judge we had said that adoptions are his favorite type of hearings because it is a happy, positive day for the new family. Some family members even bring cards and/or balloons to celebrate this special day. On our daughter’s adoption day, we went out to lunch at Applebee’s restaurant with our family and then took our daughter to the park, where she smiled and happily watched seagulls on the beach. It was the perfect beginning for our forever family!
Birth Parent Contact
After finalization, it’s important to remember and honor your child’s birth parents. They will always be a part of your child and without them, your adoption would not be possible. Whatever your post-adoption contact agreement was, it should be continued — letters and pictures, phone calls, visits, etc. This not only helps your child by always knowing how loved they are, but also provides a sense of reassurance to his or her birth parents. Many adoptive parents have great relationships with their child’s birth family, much like an extended family. No matter what your situation, family is truly at the heart of every adoption.