The finalization hearing, sometimes held in the judge's chambers, usually lasts less than an hour, and is attended by the adoptive parents, the child, the family's attorney, and a social worker from the child's agency. The judge may review the family's homestudy, ask questions, and generally attempt to ensure that the child is being placed in a safe, loving home.
The law limits the amount of time a child may stay in foster care by establishing shorter timelines for determining when she or he must have a plan for permanency. The law states that permanency court hearings must be held for children no later than 12 months after they enter foster care and the law also states that termination of parental rights proceedings must begin for any child who has been in the care of a state agency for 15 out of the most recent 22 months. Exceptions may be made to this requirement if the child is in the care of a relative or for other compelling reasons.
An acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocate. CASA volunteers are trained community volunteers who speak for the best interests of a child in court. They are assigned by a judge to research an abuse or neglect case, and provide the judge with information to help in making a decision for the child's permanency. To learn more about CASA, visit its website at http://nationalcasa.org.
A judge's role in the adoption process is to make any needed changes in the child's legal status. While a waiting child is in foster care, the child's case is usually reviewed periodically in court, to determine whether the goal should be reunification with the birth family or adoption. If the goal is changed, it must be done by a judge. A family court judge will make the decision to terminate parental rights of the birthparents and will preside over the finalization hearing and issue the adoption decree.
There are three types of non-agency adoptions: adult adoptions, stepparent adoptions and parental placement adoptions. Adult adoptions typically do not result in the conflict and controversy that can be created in the latter two types of adoptions. The rights of the biological parents are implicated in both stepparent adoptions and parental placement adoptions. If these types are done with the consent of the biological parents then their parental rights must be terminated before the child can be placed with the adoptive family. Further, in almost all parental placement adoptions, an investigation must be completed as regards the child’s biological parents, the prospective adoptive parent(s) and the home situation of the child. There may be hearings as well to determine the best interests of the child in both stepparent and parental placement adoptions. There can even be a full trial where there are disputes over parental rights, the best interest of the child and/or the qualifications of the adoptive parents. Above all else in an adoption, the entire process is governed by a quest for determining the best interests of the child.
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