Deciding to adopt a child is probably the most consequential series of choices that you will ever make in your life. Bringing a child into your family takes a leap of faith in terms of your ability to parent a child but it also takes some degree of financial wherewithal and planning to pull off successfully. At first glance, the world of adoption can seem confusing and difficult. However, with assistance from an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, you will be able to navigate these waters with precision.
In today’s blog post we are going to focus our attention on private adoptions. When it comes to adopting a child, you can choose to go through the State of Texas to do so or you can work with a private adoption agency or group that is licensed through the State of Texas. Either method can allow you to adopt a child. There are benefits and drawbacks to each method that you can inquire about. However, in today’s blog post I would like us to look at private adoptions specifically in terms of how they work and what you need to know before beginning the process.
How do you know if adoption is right for you?
This is a very common and extremely reasonable question to ask. After all, you may have heard great things about adoption but have no specific knowledge of the process and whether adoption makes sense for you. The last thing you want to do is become involved in the process to adopt a child only to find out that you are uncomfortable with some aspect of the process. Bringing a child into your home when you are not ready is certainly not in the child’s best interests or your own. For that reason, I think it is wise to learn more about adoption in Texas.
Various adoption agencies operate in Texas which can provide you with information about the adoption process and what it all entails. These groups will speak to you at no charge (typically) and can help you to determine what your next steps are. A short conversation with a person who devotes their life to the well-being of children is a great way for you to become more comfortable with adoption and what it means to you and what it would mean to the child that you would be adopting.
Once you are comfortable with the idea of adopting a child you will need to determine whether you will be going through the State of Texas directly to adopt a child or if you will be proceeding through an adoption agency. The State of Texas offers services designed to help people adopt children who are in their direct care and for whom the state holds conservatorship rights and duties. Private adoption agencies are licensed by the State of Texas and would help you to locate a child for you to adapt to based on whatever circumstances are relevant in your life.
How to choose the right adoption agency for you
This is a difficult question to approach given that you probably have very little experience in working with adoption agencies. While you may have some degree of understanding about how adoption agencies work you may have questions about their purpose throughout the case and how to interact with them. The last thing that you want to do is make a mistake in some regard that may cost you the opportunity to adopt a child. Fortunately for you, there are protocols and best practices that you can employ when interacting with these agencies. Additionally, you have the ability and option to hire an attorney to help guide you through these issues, as well.
Private adoption is also known as domestic adoption in the world of Texas adoptions. In a private adoption scenario, a newborn baby is placed in your care through the assistance of a private adoption agency. Mothers who seek to give up their child through adoption will work with private adoption agencies to develop a plan where they would give birth and the mechanisms would already be in place to allow for the newborn child to be adopted by you or another prospective adoptive family. If you are seeking to adopt an infant, then private adoption is probably the best method to employ. On the other hand, if you seek to adopt an older child then a foster car adoption or another type may work better for your goals.
What are some qualities that you should be looking for in an adoption agency?
The agency that you work with during the adoption process can change your entire perspective, for better or worse, on adoption. Just like when you are hiring an attorney, looking for a doctor, or even hiring a contractor to work on your home it is important to have some qualities in mind when hiring someone. This will help you fine-tune your search and keep important characteristics at the front of your mind. Having a game plan is important when it comes to accomplishing goals.
The level of experience that the adoption agency has is very important and is a good place to start this specific discussion. You should ask how long the agency has been open and how many placements they help facilitate each year. Does the agency employ a large enough team of people to be available for questions or will your phone calls and emails go unanswered for extended periods? There are many reputable adoption agencies in Texas with years of experience.
You should aim to work with an adoption agency that is fully licensed by the state of Texas. Being licensed by the state is probably the best indicator that the adoption process will be efficient, ethical, safe, and will comply with all the state laws on adoption. You want the process to honor your rights, those of the child, and at the end of the day be successful in helping you to adapt to your future child.
What resources are available for you through the adoption agency? Do they provide home study services? What about education and resources for you as a prospective adoptive parent? You are sure to have questions come up from time to time about the adoption. Does the agency that you are working with have resources available to help you answer those questions? Are their employees patient and knowledgeable? Find this out in advance before you begin working with an agency that is not what you need to complete the adoption successfully.
What you need to know about private adoptions
The best resource available for information about private adoptions is to speak with an experienced family law attorney who helps people just like you with adoptions. Today’s blog post is not intended to act as a substitute for the sort of individualized advice and perspective that an experienced family law attorney can provide you with. While I will do my best to walk you through private adoptions there is no way that I Can accurately convey all the information that you need to know. As such, contact our office today to schedule a free of charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys. There, you can ask questions and receive individualized feedback about your circumstances.
When going through a private adoption it is necessary to have all the legal steps locked in place so there are no delays or missteps taken regarding the adoption itself. A petition for extermination and adoption needs to be filed with the county where you reside. This is the legal document that initiates the adoption process. Note that the child that you plan on adopting with has a mother and possibly a father, legally speaking. You will need to terminate the parent’s parental rights to legally adopt the child. This is usually done with the cooperation of the parents, mind you. These two actions, adoption, and termination will be handled concurrently and simultaneously. There is no need to break the two actions up.
What we see regarding this type of case is that termination and adoption together are especially important when it comes to adopting a stepchild or a child who is a relative of yours. In your petition, you should ask for an amicus attorney to be appointed and for a social study to be conducted. Before we go any further, I want to talk with you about what each of these things is and how they will impact the adoption case that you plan on filing. That way you can become familiar with the terminology that we use and the role that each will play in your case.
An amicus attorney is a friend of the court, meaning that this lawyer will not represent a specific party but will act as the eyes and ears of the court in all things related to your adoption case. The amicus can conduct interviews. Expect that this attorney will speak with you, your spouse, immediate family members, the child (if possible), the agency helping you with the adoption (if any) as well as the child’s biological parent(s). The amicus attorney will attend courtroom hearings, file documents into the case, and make recommendations to the court about the best interests of the child whom you are seeking to adopt.
A social study will be conducted by a social worker, counselor, or other person appointed by the court. The social study seeks to determine how conducive your home environment would potentially be when it comes to raising children. A home evaluation will be conducted where the person comes into the home and looks around. You may not get much notice before the person comes so you need to always keep the house tidy. Are there any repairs you need to make or preparations for a child that needs to be undertaken? This would be a great time to attend to those matters before a person comes into your home. The result of the social study is a written report that will be submitted to the court while including recommendations and the findings made by the person who conducted the social study.
Along with the petition for adoption and termination, various affidavits will need to be filed, as well. An affidavit is a sworn statement under oath. Essentially the person who submits to an affidavit will have written statements of theirs included where he or she tells the court that what they are saying is completely true as if they were testifying in court in front of the judge. There are usually multiple affidavits that must be completed.
Check with your attorney to make sure that each is included with the petition. Your understanding of the relationship between the parents of the child, their willingness to voluntarily relinquish their parental rights, and jurisdictional affidavits establishing that the court has the authority to make decisions and issue orders regarding adoption are all examples of the type of affidavits required to be included. You should be working with the biological parents through this stage of your case.
If the child’s biological parents agree to sign an affidavit that relinquishes their parental rights, then you are in a good position to just file the documents with the court. Otherwise, if the parents refuse to sign the affidavit or their whereabouts are unknown you would need to have formal service of process steps followed. This means filing your petition, asking the court for a citation, including any necessary information about upcoming court dates, and then having the documents served upon the parents. This would not be the end of the world by any means but can take additional time.
Attorney ad litem may need to be appointed to the case if the biological parents cannot be located. The attorney ad litem would be appointed by the court and formally given the task to research the whereabouts of the parents and the efforts utilized to locate them. An adoption cannot proceed until the court is satisfied that all reasonable steps have been taken to locate the parents and provide them with sufficient notice of the adoption proceedings and your efforts to terminate their parental rights. This is a very serious matter and one the court will not bypass without a great deal of consideration. You will be paying the fees for any ad litem or amicus attorneys that are appointed to the case.
If traditional methods of service are not effective and the biological parents still cannot be located, then the court should be petitioned to allow for an alternative method of service. The most common is called service by publication. Service by publication entails providing notice of the adoption suit in a publication like a newspaper or other printed material that is wide circulation in the area where the parent(s) were last known to have resided. This at least provides them with an opportunity to learn about the pending case even if personal service upon them was not workable.
Background checks on you and your spouse
During all these legal formalities you will also need to undergo a formal look into your life by law enforcement. You will need to be fingerprinted by law enforcement in your area. Check with the court to determine the appropriate law enforcement authorities that you need to contact to get your fingerprints taken care of. Once you are fingerprinted you should submit those prints to the Texas Department of Public Safety along with important information about your cases like your cause number, court number, the physical address of the court, and/or their mailing address. You will receive guidance from the adoption agency that you are working with as well as the court itself.
Once you have followed these steps you will be much closer to getting your private adoption completed. A Decree to Terminate and Grant Adoption must be drafted along with a Statement of Evidence. These are legal documents that you would be well served to have an attorney draft. If the termination is not agreed to by the parents, then you would need to specify the specific grounds on which you believe the court should base its termination of parental rights.
After the adoption has proceeded through the court you will need to request a certified copy of the Decree for Adoption. It would make sense for you to request a copy on the same day of your final hearing. This document is important for purposes of ensuring that you can update your child’s Social Security card, enroll him or her in school, add him or her to your health insurance and many of the typical parent-child endeavors that you will find yourself undertaking now that your child is finally home with you.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of adoption, child custody, and divorce as well as how your family may be impacted by the filing of a family law case.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Adoption in Texas: Essential information that you need to know
- How can a step-parent adopt their stepchild in Texas?
- How can parental rights be terminated in Texas?
- Termination of Parental Rights and an MSA in Texas
- Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights in Texas
- Relinquishment and Termination of Parental Rights in Texas
- Terminating Parental Rights in Texas on the Absent Parent
- Voluntarily Relinquishing Your Parental Rights in Texas
- What rights does a father have in Texas?
- Fathers’ Rights: Children Born Out of Wedlock in Texas?
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Texas Adoption Lawyers
The adoption process can be daunting at times. You don’t have to face it alone. The attorneys at The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC can help you navigate the process and create your perfect family. If you are in the greater Houston area and are interested in learning more, contact us today to speak directly with one of our adoption attorneys about your case.
Our Spring, Texas Adoption Lawyers are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Texas Adoption Cases in Spring, Texas or surrounding areas, including Harris County, including Cypress, Klein, Humble, Tomball, the FM 1960 area, North Houston; and Montgomery County, including Conroe and The Woodlands; as well as the surrounding counties of Fort Bend, Grimes, Waller, and Washington, contact us today to speak directly with one of our family law attorneys about your case.