Legal Services for Adoption
BIRTH PARENTS AND ADOPTIVE PARENTS
Some birth parents cannot raise a child for many valid reasons and appropriately choose to make an adoption plan. Private adoptions can be a wonderful option by which an individual or couple, who cannot have a child of their own, can create a family. For the numerous infertile couples of child-bearing age, adoption is a likely alternative for them, but locating children available for adoption can be frustrating.
Occasionally parents wishing to adopt learn about a child that may be placed for adoption though their community. Others work with the Commonwealth of Kentucky by fostering a child. Most work through an adoption agency to locate a child. The long waiting lists can be discouraging. In Kentucky, around 800 foster children are adopted each year but the State does not release the number of children that are adopted privately or through agencies. Too many prospective parents are unaware that many babies are placed for adoption by birth parents who wish to have some control in determining who raises their child. Birth parents can select that special family for their child.
PRIVATE V. AGENCY ADOPTION
A private or independent adoption is simply an adoption without the initial involvement of a licensed adoption agency. In a private adoption, the adopting parent usually is aware of a particular child that has been offered for adoption or a birth parent learns of a family wishing to adopt. In an agency adoption, that agency can match adopting parents with birth parents who are planning to place their child for adoption. Adoption agencies must be certified by state law and will provide valuable information and counseling as well as offer support throughout and after the adoption process. Adoption agencies must be certified by state law and will provide valuable information and counseling as well as offer support throughout and after the adoption process.
Adoption agencies screen and supervise the process and work with attorneys to facilitate the paperwork for the required legal adoption process. Agency and private adoptions are similar in three respects: the biological parents must relinquish their rights to the child; a licensed social worker must visit and evaluate the adoption parents’ environment; and a judge must review the case to make certain all state law requirements have been met and enter a Judgment of adoption. Those wishing to adopt privately and those working with an adoption agency partner with an attorney to ensure all legal requirements for the adoption are met.
A licensed adoption agency works with birth parents to place children for adoption. The birth parents select prospective adoptive parents from waiting families who are also working with that adoption agency. Agencies are certified and regulated by Kentucky law and provide services to both birth parents and a waiting family to facilitate the adoption. Adoption agencies provide information, counseling, the required home studies and forms and placement visits necessary for an adoption to be legally approved. Caseworkers for the adoption agency draft adoption plans tailored to specific needs and screens medical histories. The birth parent legally places the child with the adoption agency which then places the child with the family selected by the birth parents. Attorneys partner with adoption agencies to facilitate and finalize the adoption process. Melissa A. Wilson, Esq. partners with Heart To Home Adoption Agency who can be contacted at (859) 489-3055.
BIRTH PARENTS AND ADOPTIVE PARENTS
The adoption process can allow birth parents to have input into the selection of the prospective adoptive parents. This enables birth parents to enter into an adoption plan that they consider to be best for the child’s future well-being as well as their own. This process provides comfort to the birth parents who wish their child be raised by a new family they select and who has more resources along with an enthusiastic love for the child.
An ideal adoption allows both the birth parents and the adopting parents more control in establishing an adoption plan that is agreeable to all. Respect and dignity, rather than an impersonal process, can be fostered. Privacy is strictly maintained. An opportunity can be provided for a complete recording of pertinent medical histories, and the potential for completing the adoption within a reasonable time period. Collaboration between an adoption attorney and an adoption agency results in security that comes with competent legal counseling and emotional guidance.
CHANGE OF MIND BY BIRTH PARENT
It is important for those who wish to adopt to know that the birth parents can change his or her mind up to twenty days after signing the consent forms for adoption. It is rare, but some birth parents can even contest the adoption on the basis of undue influence or duress after it has been completed. In those very unusual situations, those cases that do go to court are frequently decided in favor of the adopting parents.
ADOPTION IN KENTUCKY
Kentucky has laws that provide waiting periods for the completion of private adoptions and adoption agency adoptions. These statues are designed to give the biological parents sufficient time to make a final decision. Some adoption agencies give the biological parent or parents sufficient input and control so that it is less likely that they will change their minds later. This approach provides an important family option that is not always recognized or considered since most adoptions come through referral sources and informal networking. The birth parents are represented by their own attorney.
Adoptive parents are represented by their own different attorney as well. An adoption attorney must have the ability to handle the case to the complete satisfaction of the biological parents if representing them in placing their child. Similarly, an adoption attorney must have the full confidence of the adopting parents if instead representing them in adopting a child. So that the adoption will be granted by a judge, it is imperative that the attorney follow all legal requirements for adoptions in Kentucky regardless of which parent is being represented. As a result, attorneys must research each case carefully, obtain all required documents, comply fully with the mandatory process, and submit the correct court papers as set out by Kentucky law.
TIMELINE FOR ADOPTION
- Adoptive parents must reside in Kentucky for 12 months.
- Birth parents cannot sign a written consent for adoption until 72 hours following the child’s birth.
- In most cases birth parents have 20 days to revoke the consent for the adoption. If the adoption requires approval by The Cabinet For Family Services then the 20 days does not begin until the Cabinet issues an approval letter.
- Birth parents who have signed a consent for adoption usually voluntarily terminate their parental rights and do not typically revoke their consent.
- If a birth father has not been identified by the birth mother or if the birth father is aware of the child and over time the birth father has had no contact with the birth mother and child, then a Judge will typically terminate the birth father’s parental rights when the legal requirements to do so are met.
- A child must reside with the parents for 3 months before the final adoption hearing can take place (although there are exceptions).
- Certain limited expenses of the birth parents, such as medical care, food and legal expenses can be paid by the adoptive parents, subject to the court approval.
- Adoption attorneys usually charge by the hour starting at $200.00 per hour.
- Local Adoption agencies typically charge from $15,000 to $25,000.
- The adopting parents pay all attorney fees for the birth parents related to the court proceedings to terminate the birth parents’ parental rights. This cost varies from attorney to attorney based on flat fees or hourly rates.
- Court costs average at $250.00 for filing and serving the Petition To Adopt.
- The cost for the Guardian Ad Litem (a court appointed attorney) required to represent the child is a maximum of $500.00 but could be less.
- All costs must be approved by the Judge assigned to the adoption.
- Some costs relative to the adoption may be tax deductible.
- There are small grants available to assist in underwriting adoption costs.
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