November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Any month is a good time to recognize the life-changing impact of adoption and the love and support given by adoptive families. I have worked with countless families throughout the years and they are among the most loving and generous people I know.
For many families, fostering children is their calling. Those families will foster many children for a period of time before those children return to the custody of a biological parent or other family member. Other families foster for the purpose of adopting children themselves. Families interested in fostering in order to be an adoptive resource in the future for their foster child should always understand as much about the process as possible. Start by asking the caseworker questions. Here are my top ten:
- What is the likelihood that the biological parents will consent to the termination of their parental rights?
- If the biological parents won’t consent, what is the procedure to involuntarily terminate their parental rights? Approximately how long will the proceedings take? What is the likelihood of the biological parents appealing the Court’s decision? What is the likelihood that the Agency will be successful in terminating the parental rights of the biological parents?
- Are there any relatives or other adoptive resources who would potentially intervene in the adoption? If so, who are they, what is their likelihood of success and how will their intervention affect the proceedings? Will their intervention prolong the proceedings and increase our out-of-pocket expenses? Will their intervention lead to contact with the biological family?
- Will the agency be providing a subsidy for attorney’s fees? If yes, in what amount? If the amount exceeds the subsidy amount, who is responsible for the additional fees?
- What will I need to do in a contested adoption? Will I need to participate in a psychological evaluation or a bonding assessment? Will I need to testify and be subject to cross-examination?
- Will you provide a list of adoption attorneys I can consult who have experience in contested adoptions?
- What, if any, type of contact with the biological family should I agree to? Should any agreeable contact be memorialized into a formal Post-Adoption Contact Agreement (PACA)?
- How should I deal with the children’s questions about their biological family after they have had contact?
- What parameters do I set with regard to contact with the biological family?
- How do I handle unwanted contact with the biological family?
While many parents who foster to become adoptive resources are fortunate enough to not have to deal with a contested adoption after the termination of the biological parent’s parental rights, more and more family members are intervening in adoption proceedings after their relative’s parental rights have been terminated. It is important to understand the benefits and risks of fostering a child for the purpose of being an adoptive resource if there is a possibility that that child’s biological relatives would intervene in your eventual adoption of that child. Knowing the legal risks ahead of time and evaluating the pros and cons early on in your placement will allow you to be better prepared for an intervention in your adoption and a contested adoption proceeding, should that be necessary.
As an adoption attorney for 22 years who has handled many contested adoption proceedings, I find that my families who identify, discuss, and understand the liabilities associated with fostering to become an adoptive resource early on in their placements are better equipped to handle the difficulties associated with a contested adoption. All of the contested adoptions that I have handled over the years have resulted in a successful adoption for my adoptive families, but the families that asked important questions early in the process were glad they did. Whether or not an adoption is contested, all adoptive families deserve special recognition and gratitude. Thank you to all who have unconditionally welcomed one or more children into their lives through adoption.