An adoption is a happy time in the life of the adopting family and in the life of the child being adopted. However, adoption is a complex and intricate area of family law. Adoption in Virginia is solely the product of statutory law and therefore compliance with all of the statutory requirements is a must to make the process proceed as seamlessly as possible. Adoptions can be stressful even at the best of times because of the legal hoops an adopting family must jump through even when an adoption is not contested. When there is conflict in an adoption, the stress levels can go through the roof. For these reasons, adoption is an area of law where it is almost always recommended that a skilled and experienced family attorney be involved.
File the adoption petition. Once a child has been identified and the Home Study completed, your attorney will prepare and file the adoption petition with the court. The petition will identify you and your partner, the birth parents, consent to the adoption, and ask the court to grant the adoption. When the petition is filed, the court clerk will set it on the judge's calendar for an initial review.
You mentioned PA... so Im guessing thats where you are (Im in PA as well). We are adopting a child from foster care and recently went to the lawyer's office. The first step the lawyer told us about the process was to file an "intent to adopt" letter with the court. It was a formal letter that had detailed information about the child, us, bios, etc. Additionally, attached to the letter of intent had to be a copy of our child abuse clearances and a homestudy. Based on how the lawyer walked us through the paperwork, the clearances and homestudy was a must (not just b/c of foster care). He did explain all the law references to us that were in the letter, but I don't have a copy of the intent letter yet that he was filing. (It was a rough draft that we were going over). I really think you will need a lawyer. If you still want to try to do it without one, call the local court and find out what papers you need to submit to request an adoption.
Home visit: Expect a home visit from a DFPS caseworker to review your personal history, lifestyle, experience caring for children and many other factors designed to determine whether you are an appropriate candidate for adoption. Each member of your household, including other children, will be interviewed, so that a complete picture of the prospective family unit can be developed.
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.
There are many methods available for finding an adoption attorney that is best for your specific situation. If you know of anyone who has been in a similar situation, ask him or her for referrals and contact information for the adoption attorney he or she used. You can also contact local adoption agencies. They should have a list of adoption attorneys they’ve worked with before. Consider joining and actively participating in a support group. This is another great way to receive contact information or adoption attorney referrals. And one of the easiest ways to receive contact information is through our professional directory. Your search can be state-specific and professional type-specific.
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.
One point that Matt mentioned that I found interesting, and certainly gives the service credibility, is that they have lawyers that use their service as well. The lawyer will sell the service to a client for thousands of dollars and then pay RapidAdoption.com to prepare the paperwork for them. There are some that they work with regularly and have an agreement with and some that just purchase the service from their website and give the paperwork to their clients as if they had done it.