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Adoptions- Things to Consider

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Adoptions- Things to Consider

Overview

Welcoming an adopted infant or child into your life can bring tremendous joy. And rest assured, though there is a small but significant risk that your child's birth parents might change their minds and decide to keep the child before the adoption becomes final, most adoption complete the process successfully. These days open adoption, which allows children to know their birth parents, is increasingly possible.

There are many different ways to adopt a child and many different public and private agencies nationally and internationally that can help you through the process. Whatever options you choose to pursue, be prepared to contend with what can be a wait of many months, or even years, and lots of paperwork, particularly in the case of international adoptions. These hurdles and delays can be a useful test of your commitment to completing an adoption.

Here are some helpful tips for how to adopt an infant or child and information on some of the options available.

Getting Started

The following adoption checklist, which can help ensure a successful adoption, was provided by Deb Harder, adoption information supervisor at Children's Home Society & Family Services, a not-for-profit organization based in Saint Paul, Minn.:

1. Examine what's motivating you to adopt. The first step for anyone considering adoption is to make sure you're firmly committed to rearing and nurturing a child. Look very carefully at your skills and strengths as a person, and how they translate to being an effective parent.

If you're dealing with infertility, it's important to acknowledge that you're unlikely to bear children. You should see adoption not as a second-best option, but as an alternative way to become a parent and create a family. You may also want to learn more about gestational surrogacy. But be aware that the field is still a maze of legal issues, which are being addressed through laws and regulations proposed by the American Bar Association and the American College of Pediatricians and Gynecologists.

2. Decide what kind of child you can effectively parent. Some families consider adopting only a healthy same-race infant, and seldom think of a child with special needs or one born in another country. Assess your strengths and decide what you are open to and can manage.

Consider whether you can integrate the rich yet different cultural background of a child from another country. You will need a plan to incorporate that heritage into your family's life.

3. Learn as much as you can about adoption and how it meets a child's need for a family. Find out about the children waiting for adoption in the United States and other countries. As you consider the types of adoption programs available, you will come to an understanding of how your desire to be a parent matches a child's need for a family.

You will also learn how your hopes for a particular kind of child affect your program options and wait times. Take advantage of educational opportunities that prepare you for adoptive parenting and set the stage for you to begin the process of adoption with good information and confidence.

4. Learn what your state law requires of agencies and families to complete an adoption. Also find out what is required by the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services for international adoption.

Among the first things a family should do is contact their state's department of social services and talk to an adoption supervisor to learn about legal requirements.

5. Choose the type of adoption that interests you. One of the first decisions is whether you'd like to adopt an older child, in which case you can also adopt through a public agency, which primarily works with foster care and group homes. Some infants are also placed in foster care.

If you want to adopt an infant or a child from another country, including older children, you will work with a private agency. You can also opt for an independent, or private, adoption (state law permitting), in which adoptive parents work with a lawyer or other non-agency adoption provider to find a birth parent or child. There are certain risks with private adoptions and more of a safety net with an agency.

6. Assess the costs. The cost of adopting a child ranges from several thousand dollars to upwards of $40,000, particularly for an adoption done with a private agency and/or an attorney. However, parents adopting a child through a state system do not pay for adoption expenses and actually receive adoption assistance after placement, including certain out-of-pocket expenses.

Private adoption has the reputation of being more expensive because the costs usually aren't set up front. Some agencies may charge on a sliding scale basis.

Different agencies have different fee structures, services and missions. Try to get details about the services they provide, and insist that they assign a service to each fee.

International adoptions also tend to be more expensive because of the costs for additional documents and travel.

It's not legal to buy a baby!

A court of common pleas may provide appropriate relief where it finds that the moneys or consideration reported or reportable on an itemized accounting, of moneys and considerations paid or to be paid or received by the intermediary or to or by any other person or persons to the knowledge of the intermediary by reason of the adoption placement, are excessive. This rule is intended to empower the court to provide appropriate relief where the fees reportable by an intermediary are unrelated to actual services rendered and thus constitute payment for a child.

Traditionally, allowable expenses charged to adoptive parents have been limited to reasonable un-reimbursed lying-in expenses, reasonable legal fees incident to the adoption proceedings, and costs of the proceeding. The reasons for the limitations on fees are to ensure that children will be placed in homes that promote their needs and welfare rather than making placement decisions based solely on the wealth of the adoptive parents. Furthermore, the limitations upon expenses ensure that children are not bought and sold like commodities. Where prospective adopting parents have incurred expenses for medical care that directly benefits a child and in no way inures to the benefit of the natural parent, such adopting parents may be able to seek reimbursement of such expenses on a contractual basis.

Illustration:

Prospective adoptive parents would be able to seek reimbursement of lying-in expenses from a natural mother where the adoptive parents' payment of the medical expenses was made on the condition that the natural parents execute a consent-to-adopt agreement and where the natural parents breached this agreement by petitioning for a writ of habeas corpus seeking the return of their child after the child was turned over to the prospective adoptive parents but before the adoption papers could be filed.

An intermediary may not charge a fee based upon the income of the adoptive parents since such a sliding scale would motivate intermediaries to place babies with adoptive parents who can afford to pay the highest fee and is per se illegal.

Illustration:

A fee of $5,000 paid by adopting parents to their attorney was excessive given that the adoption proceeding was routine, the petitions which were filed by the attorney were forms provided by the court, and the relinquishment and adoption hearing combined did not last more than one hour.

When considering adoption, it is important to know and understand all the details. You should contact an experienced attorney, such as Jeffrey B. Engle,  to help you deal with the legal formalities and questions that will arise as the process moves forward. Do not settle for an attorney with little or no adoption experience. Your prospective child will thank you. Visit our homepage videos /Family-Law/; or contact Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC at 717-695-8849.

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