As family law attorneys, we have the distinct pleasure of working with families of all shapes and sizes to help them create their own unique story – whether that be through adoption, surrogacy, or IVF. Just as every family is unique, so is every adoption. When it comes to adoptions, there are a variety of things parents should consider. Below is a preliminary guide to the adoption in South Carolina if you are considering taking the next steps to create or add to your unique family story.
1. What Type of Adoption?
Determine what type of adoption is right for you and your family. Whether you are the biological parent of the child, or the adoptive family who is soon to welcome the new bundle of joy, it is pertinent that you ensure you are emotionally and financially ready for the adoption journey that is ahead. Individuals can start preparing by attending adoption counseling or courses offered in their area, consulting with a knowledgeable attorney, and researching their options. At the end of the day, whether it’s a private domestic adoption, international adoption, foster care adoption, agency adoption, step-parent, or relative adoption, each option plan has different requirements and steps. An experienced family lawyer and other professionals involved in the adoption process can help walk you through your options and determine what is best for you and your family.
2. Screening Process for Adoptive Parents
Generally, most prospective adoptive parents undergo a pre-placement investigation, commonly known as a “home study”. In South Carolina, a home study is conducted by a licensed CAI (certified adoption investigator) and includes background checks, as well as an in-home visit. The CAI’s goal is to get a complete picture of your family and network of support. They may ask you to provide some documents, which may include: vital records (such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce petitions, social security cards, drivers’ licenses), verification of financial information (like tax returns, W2s), medical information confirming your mental and physical health, and other personal or professional references.
The mission of the in-home visit is to help determine the suitability of your home and the environment you would provide an adoptive child. Adoptive parents should be prepared to discuss why they chose to adopt, as well as their expectations and preferences in an adopted child. This is also a great chance for adoptive parents to ask any questions about the adoption process and preparing for a child that may need a home. A frank and open discussion will assist you in finding the right match for your family.
If you are pursuing a step-parent or relative placement adoption, you may be exempt from completing a home study. Such decision, however, will be in the Court’s discretion.
3. Background Information on the Child
Before an adoptive child is placed with a family, a detailed and comprehensive report is compiled about the child’s background. While the names of the birth parents are not revealed in this background information in a closed or private adoption, this report does include a medical history of the biological family, including parents, siblings, and other family members, and any known medical disorders. It also includes a medical and developmental history of the adoptee. These background reports are vital as a detailed and comprehensive report to ensure appropriate placement for the child, inform adoptive parents as to the child’s needs, allow for early treatment for medical or psychological conditions, and permit adoptive parents to determine eligibility for financial subsidies.
4. Adoption Opportunities
Once the background screening process has been cleared, the next step is working with an adoption attorney and/or agency to find the best adoption opportunity. Depending on the adoption plan you have created, that may involve matching you with a prospective birth mother or a child waiting in foster care.
Individuals who are pursuing a foster care adoption plan should be aware of a development in South Carolina’s adoption laws. As of January 23, 2019, federally funded faith-based foster care agencies are permitted to discriminate against prospective foster parents on the basis of religion, provided that they refer the prospective foster parents to another agency who can assist them. This newly permitted screening could potentially impact not only LGBTQ families, but also Jewish, Muslim, and non-same faith families.
5. Post-Placement Investigation
After an adoptive child is placed in your care, but before the adoption is finalized, the CAI will conduct a post-placement investigation to ensure everything is going well. In South Carolina, only one in-home visit is required. The CIA’s report is intended to address whether the placement is a suitable fit and how the adoptive parents and the child are adjusting to their new life together. In some cases, those pursuing a step-parent or relative placement adoption, may be exempt from a post-placement investigation.
6. Finalizing the Adoption
Depending on your adoption plan, you make need to take additional legal steps before you can finalize your adoption. These steps may include terminating parental rights, obtaining consents for adoption, or complying with certain regulations and laws, such as the Interstate Compact on Placement of Children, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, the Indian Child Welfare Act, or the Hague Convention. Ultimately, a judge will review your case to ensure all legal requirements have been completed before approving an adoption.
Making the decision to adopt a child can be both beautiful and scary. Doing your research and working with knowledgeable professionals can help ease the anxiety that adoptive parents can often experience. In the end, the journey will seem small compared to the unique story your family is just beginning to write together. Contact us to learn more. Contact us to learn more.