Adoption is the legal process that transfers the rights and responsibilities of parenting a child to the adoptive individual or family. Adoption often involves families who are unable to have children of their own, single individuals who want to have a child, or families looking to provide a loving home to a child in need.
Every year, thousands of children are adopted by families in North Carolina. The process of adopting a child can be complicated and involves a number of hurdles for families to go through to make sure they will be providing a safe home for the child. In some cases, the process can unpredictable, where the birth parent changes their mind partway through the adoption process. It is highly recommended to seek a family law attorney who can help you with an adoption to protect your interests and your family.
Types of Adoption
There are many types of adoption available in North Carolina. This includes private adoptions and adoption through government or non-profit agencies. Adoptions include:
- Infant adoption
- Independent adoption
- Agency adoption
- Foster child adoption
- Adopting a relative
- Stepparent adoption
- International adoption
- Adult adoption
Independent Adoption vs. Agency Adoption
One of the most common questions involves whether to go through an agency to adopt a child or independent option. Adoption through an agency generally has additional restrictions beyond state law requirements. This may include training for adopting parents, a home study, and counseling. Some newly adopting parents may appreciate the extra support provided through an agency adoption.
Independent adoption or private adoption, usually involves a direct agreement between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. This is usually done through the use of an attorney to facilitate the adoption. Independent adoption can be faster than going through an agency and allows for more flexibility. Private adoption may have fewer requirements; however, even with independent adoption, families may still require a home study.
Foster Child Adoption
Foster child adoption involves adopting a child in the state foster care system. There are many children in foster care in North Carolina awaiting adoption, with an increased need to adopt children with special needs, sibling groups, and teenagers. NC Kids, through the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), has a database of children available for adoption and provides matching services for children with pre-approved families.
Public or Private Adoption Agency
Each county in North Carolina has a state agency that provides adoption services to residents. Public agencies provide adoption services at no cost to the adopting parents who are looking to adopt a child in foster care.
Private adoption agencies are licensed by the state and generally provide services for a fee. Private adoption agencies include both for-profit and nonprofit agencies. Each private agency may have their own requirements and restrictions for adopting parents.
Adoption Process in North Carolina
The adoption process requires approval by the courts to ensure the child will be placed in a safe environment and the adopting parents understand their responsibility to care for the child. Adoption can take anywhere from a few months in a simple adoption, up to several years waiting for a healthy infant.
- Choose an adoption agency (including public or private licensed adoption agencies)
- Submit an adoption application. This includes providing information about the adopting family and the what the family is looking for in a child to adopt.
- Complete a Pre-Placement Assessment. This involves meetings with a social worker to discuss the responsibilities of adopting a child, attending special classes, and a home visit to assess the family's ability to provide a home for the child.
- Work with a social worker to find the right children available for adoption. This can take some time, depending on the types of children the family is looking to adopt. There may be multiple families interested in adopting an available child.
- Submit the home study to child's agency for consideration. The agency will review your assessment to determine if your family is a potential match with the child.
- Visit with the child. This is the first real opportunity for the child and the family to get to know each other.
- Bring the child home. The child and family will have an adjustment period during this time of transition for the child and the family. Social workers are generally available to provide support during this period.
- Complete the required supervisory period. In most cases, the supervisory period for adopted children in North Carolina is 6 months; however, the adjustment period could be longer if the social worker determines the family needs additional support and assistance.
- Finalize the legal adoption process through the court. The last step of adoption is the legal court process. This usually involves having an attorney to file the legal documents and go through the adoption legal proceedings.
The pre-placement assessment (PPA) is also called a home study. Any adult can adopt a child in North Carolina provided they pass the PPA. Once completed, a home study is valid for 18 months. After 18 months, the family will have to undergo an updated PPA. A PPA includes:
- Personal interview with the prospective adoptive parent
- Background check on all adults in the home
- Information on the family, including age, race, nationality, and religion
- Marital and family history
- Physical and mental health evaluation
- Education and employment history
- Reasons for adoption
- Criminal history
- Evaluation of other children in the home
Legal Filing for Adoption in North Carolina
The legal process to complete an adoption in North Carolina requires filing paperwork and making a court appearance. The petition for adoption is signed by the adoptive parents and filed in the county court. This includes:
- Affidavit of Parentage
- Legal Clearance Documents
- Pre-Placement Assessment
- Non-identifying background information and health history
- Other applicable documents
After the petition is filed, a report on the proposed may be required and filed with the court of adoptions. This includes the family background and history of the child, birth parents, and adoptive parents. It also includes a final recommendation by the child-placing agency on whether the adoption should be finalized.
The Decree of Adoption is the legal document that makes the adoptive child legally a child of the adopting family. The child is also issued a new birth certificate to show the adoptive parent's as the child's legal parents.
Birth Parents Consent to Adoption
In order to place a child for adoption, consent is required from the birth parents. This includes the birth mother, and a man who meets certain requirements, including the birth mother's husband, a man who has acknowledged paternity or legally legitimated the child.
The birth parent(s) can revoke consent within seven (7) days of signing adoption consent. At any time within 7 days of signing to consent to adoption, the birth parent can change their mind about placing their child for adoption. However, any consent is void if it was obtained by fraud or duress to the birth parent.
International adoption involves adopting a child from a foreign country and requires dealing with state and federal regulations, as well as the regulations of the foreign nation. This may require multiple overseas trips, physical tests, and fees paid to foreign agencies. Adoption of a child from another country may also be subject to approval from the U.S. State Department.
Jerkins Family Law
If you are looking to adopt a child in North Carolina, Jerkins Family Law is here to help. We can help you through the adoption process to avoid any unforeseen complications and make sure your best interests are being served. Located in Raleigh, North Carolina, Jerkins Family Law is committed to helping our clients in their time of need. Contact us today and see how we can help your family with the adoption process.