By Michael S. Goldstein, Esq., L.C.S.W.
You know you cannot adopt without legal guidance, but have you ever wondered what, exactly, your adoption attorney does to facilitate the process? Here’s a step-by-step guide that explains the process.
Domestic Private Adoption
Approval – An adoption attorney assists with paperwork and court representation where required by state. Home study and clearances are performed by a social worker or adoption agency.
Finding – In most states attorneys are not allowed to find children or make matches, so the attorney’s role is to teach the pre-adoptive parents how to go about this process through word-of-mouth, online, and advertising outreach tactics. In states where the attorney is legally allowed to match, usually no fee can be charged for this service.
Information About The Child – Since most domestic private adoptions are of newborns, the attorney’s role is to interface with the prospective birth parents and the medical professionals to gather medical and social background information for the pre-adoptive parents and child.
Adoption – The attorney prepares and files all paperwork with the court, assures that birth parents’ rights are terminated, resolves any issues, including those associated with the Indian Child Welfare Act or absent birth fathers and attends the finalization hearing with the adoptive parents and child.
Domestic Private Agency Adoption
Approval – The attorney may review contracts between the pre-adoptive parents and the adoption agency. Home study and clearances are performed by the adoption agency.
Finding – The adoption agency finds and matches prospective birth parents with pre-adoptive parents. The attorney may be engaged to review legal issues surrounding the match, such as an absent and/or alleged birth father.
Information About The Child – The attorney is not involved with this aspect of an adoption, if a domestic, private agency is used.
Adoption – The attorney prepares and files all paperwork with the court, assures that the birth parents’ rights are terminated and resolves any issues, including those associated with the Indian Child Welfare Act and absent and/or alleged birth father plus attends finalization hearing with the adoptive parents and child.
Domestic Public Agency Adoption - Foster Care
Adoption - In a foster care adoption, the attorney is usually hired only to finalize the adoption. The public agency handles approval of the pre-adoptive parents, all paperwork and the termination of parental rights. The attorney will prepare paperwork for finalization and attend the final court hearing with the adoptive parents and child. If the child is with the foster parents for a period of time, some states will allow them to intervene in the court proceedings and an attorney is usually hired to represent their interests at that time.
Approval – The attorney prepares paperwork for pre-adoptive parents and files with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If the child’s country of origin has ratified the Hague Adoption Convention, form I-800 is filed. If not, form I-600 is used. The attorney also assists with paperwork and court representation where required by state. Home study and clearances are performed by a social worker or adoption agency.
Finding – The pre-adoptive parents may choose a country based upon the type of child (age, physical characteristics, special needs, etc.) they are hoping to adopt as well as the country’s restrictions and waiting periods. Pre-adoptive parents will choose the adoption agency or approved attorney that handles adoptions in that country.
Information About The Child – The adoption attorney is not involved. Information about the child is provided by an agency in the country where the child resides.
Adoption – After the child is placed with his or her adoptive parents, the adoption is usually finalized in the child’s country of origin. The attorney may assist the adoptive parents in obtaining the child’s visa to enter the country and USA citizenship, and will often represent the adoptive parents for the child’s re-adoption in their home state.
Michael S. Goldstein, Esq., LCSW, is an attorney admitted in New York and Florida and a licensed clinical social worker. Goldstein is an adoptive father of three children and one of only three approved USA attorneys under the Hague Adoption Convention. He is also a member of Path2Parenthood’s Adoption Advisory Council.