A Guide to Adoption in Georgia
The Basics of Adoption
Adoption is a wonderful experience that can have a positive impact on the life of children, parents, families, and communities. By adding to your family, you can offer a better life to a child while also enhancing your own. That is not to say that adoption is easy; it is a confusing and often overwhelming process. There are many complex misconceptions and myths surrounding adoption in Georgia.
At Mitchell & Crunk, our compassionate family law attorneys have extensive experience handling the full range of adoption cases. Whether you are looking for an adoption lawyer in Commerce, GA, an adoption lawyer in Winder, GA, or an adoption lawyer to help you in any other community in North Georgia, we are here for you. To get you started, our family law team has put together a comprehensive guide to the adoption process. We want to make sure that you have all of the information you need.
Adoption is complex and varied. Each adoption case deserves individualized attention from a qualified legal professional.
As a specialized law firm handling only family law cases, we understand and are experienced with the many different challenges that families and individuals can face in life and we are dedicated to providing clients with straightforward, sound strategies for meeting your specific challenges in a way that works for you.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Understanding the Process
- What type of adoption to pursue
- Finding an Agency
- Applying for a Program
- Complete Your Home Study
- Accept a referral or placement
- Parent your child
- How to fund an adoption
II. Questions to ask yourself
III. How to Prepare
I. Understanding the Process
If you are considering adoption in Georgia, you need to understand the ins and outs of how the process actually works. Adoption is a varied, highly complicated legal process. While every adoption truly is unique, there are common characteristics and steps that all prospective adoptive parents should carefully consider before they move forward. With a comprehensive understanding of the process of adoption, Georgia families will have a far easier time getting successful results.
When considering adoption, it is impossible to overstate the importance of proper preparation. You should make use of all of the available information and resources so that you can protect your rights and best meet the needs of your new child.
If you are making the choice to add a new member to your family through adoption, you are putting yourself on a wonderful path to provide a child (and yourself) with a more fulfilling life. There is a huge adoption gap in the United States. According to data provided by the National Council for Adoption, there are more than 450,000 kids currently in foster care — and that number is growing each year.
As important as adoption is and as positive as it can be, it is not something that you can take lightly. Before you really consider moving forward in the adoption process in Georgia, it is crucial that you have properly prepared yourself and your family. Here, our Georgia adoption lawyers highlight some of the most important things that families need to think about when preparing for adoption.
Consider the Impact on Your Marriage and Your Family
When preparing for adoption, one of the first things that you need to consider is the impact that adoption will have on you, your family members, and your marriage. Adoption is a life-changing decision. That is not an overstatement. You need to be sure that you are not acting on impulse and that you are ready to provide an excellent home for a child.
Be Ready to Deal With Attachment issues
‘Attachment’ is a biological and psychological term. In essence, it refers to the deep emotional bond that develops between a parent and a child. With biological children, attachment is almost natural. It begins while the child is still in utero. Adoptive children can sometimes have more difficulty attaching to their new parents. You need to be ready to take quick but compassionate action should an adopted child struggle with attachment.
Understand Your Strengths and Flaws as a Parent
No parent is perfect. Parenting is almost inconceivably difficult. There are so many different challenges that parents must deal with after adopting a kid. One of the key characteristics that truly makes a great parent is self-awareness. You should know your own strengths and weaknesses as a parent. With this information, you can better care for your adopted child.
Get Yourself Familiar With All of the Available Resources
One of the most effective ways to prepare for adoption is getting yourself familiar with all of the available resources ahead of time. It is important to build a strong, effective support structure for yourself and your child. This includes both professional support and informal support. Should a problem arise, you need to be ready to know where to turn for help. This may include a professional child therapist, a close loved one, a family member, a reference guide of useful information on parenting, other parents who have adopted children in Georgia, or any other type of useful resource.
Prepare Your Home for an Adopted Child
Finally, your home must be properly prepared for a child. This is especially important if you are adopting your first child. Beyond setting up the best environment for your adopted kid, Georgia families must complete a home study before an adoption can be finalized. You will be required to prove that you and your family can provide a healthy happy environment for a child.
What Type of Adoption to Pursue:
Early on in the process, you must determine what type of adoption program you will be pursuing. You may choose to adopt internationally or domestically, and you may decide to go through the state, through an adoption agency, or privately with guidance from a Georgia adoption lawyer.
Adoptions come in many different forms. Once you and your family are sure that you are ready to go through with the adoption process in Georgia, you should develop an in-depth understanding of the different types of adoption that are available to families in the state. Each type of adoption offers certain benefits and certain drawbacks. It is crucial that you select the path that is truly best for your family.
International Adoption vs. Domestic Adoption
When considering types of adoption, one of the very first questions that Georgia families must answer is the following: Do we want to pursue a domestic adoption or international adoption? While American adoptions and global adoptions do have many commonalities, there are also some very important differences. Specifically, some of the most notable difference between them include:
- The requirements: With international adoptions, you must consider the Hague Process as well as the local adoption laws in the other country.
- The available children: International adoptions are almost exclusively of on non-infants. While most children are still young (one to five years old), very few infants are adopted internationally. Further, in many cases, only minimal information is known about the child’s early history.
- Travel: International adoption requires a considerable amount of travel. This can be both costly and time-consuming. It also has the potential to be frustrating should any obstacles arise.
Finding an Agency:
If you want to adopt through a licensed agency, you need to determine exactly what agency is best for you and your family. It is crucial that you work with an agency that is worthy of your trust. Consider what you need to know how to locate the agency that is best for your family for the adoption process in Georgia. The Georgia Association of Licensed Adoption Agencies (GALAA)provides useful information on the agencies that are actively operating in our state.
To be clear, you do not need to find an adoption agency. You can instead choose a private, independent adoption by working directly with an experienced adoption attorney in Georgia. Over the past several years, private adoptions have become increasingly popular in our region.
Still, many families prefer to work with an adoption agency. If you are considering an adoption agency, you need to be able to find the best agency for your specific needs. Here, we highlight five of the most important things that you and your family need to consider when looking for an adoption agency.
How Long Will It Take to Adopt?
Different adoption agencies have different timelines for adoption. When considering working with an adoption agency, you should understand how long it takes them to actually place a child. Make sure that you select an agency that typically has a timeline that is well-suited for your individual needs and desires. Of course, there is always some degree of unpredictability when working with adoption agencies.
What Will the Total Cost of Adoption Be?
Cost matters. The cost of working with different adoption agencies can vary dramatically. Some estimates put the range at somewhere between $7,000 and $40,000. Before you start seriously consider an agency, please be sure to determine your family’s budget. This way, you can look for adoption agencies that are financially viable for your situation.
Is the Adoption Agency Reputable?
Selecting an adoption agency is an incredibly important choice. This is not a decision to be taken lightly. You need to do as much research as you possibly can on the agency. While the State of Georgia licenses and regulates adoption agencies, they are not all equally successful or reputable. The more information you have on the agency’s background and past result, the better off you will be.
What Benefits Does the Adoption Agency Offer?
Different adoption agencies have different programs available. You should ask the representatives of any adoption agencies what benefits their organization offers to your family. Why should you choose them over another adoption agency? With these types of questions, you can determine what is truly important to you and your family and which adoption agency is actually best suited to provide for your needs.
Are You Sure that You Want to Go Through an Adoption Agency?
Remember, you do not have to work with an adoption agency. There are other options available. After looking for a Georgia adoption agency, you may not find one that you truly feel comfortable working with. You can still select one of the other types of adoptions. Perhaps your family is better suited for international adoption, or, alternatively, you may want to pursue an independent adoption through an experienced Georgia adoption lawyer.
Applying for a Program:
When you have selected a path for adoption, you will be required to fill out the initial paperwork to apply for a specific program. The National Council for Adoption (NCFA) reports that approximately 120,000 adoptions are finalized in the United States every year. Adoptions occur in many different ways. The NCFA estimates that 63 percent of all U.S. adoptions are ‘unrelated’ — the adoptive parents have no pre-existing relationship with the child. In many cases, unrelated adoptions are completed through a state-licensed agency. If you and your family choose to go through an adoption agency, it is imperative that you do your research. You need to be sure that you are working with a reputable, reliable adoption agency. Further, you need to be sure that you have selected an agency that offers a specific program that is right for you. When you find an adoption agency, you will be required to apply (and be approved) for one of their adoption programs. Some Georgia adoption agencies offer multiple types of programs, while others offer one single adoption program. Before the adoption process in Georgia can be finalized, you will need to complete all of the paperwork, undergo a review, and be approved for placement. Consider when applying for an adoption program.
1. Find the Program that is Best Suited for Your Family
When you begin to look into adoption programs, the overall process can seem long, daunting, and even intimidating. Different adoption agencies offer different programs. These adoption programs vary based on many criteria. There are benefits and drawbacks to virtually every adoption program. It is crucial that you take the time and energy to find an adoption program that is best for the needs and desires of you and your family.
2. Prepare and Organize All Relevant Background Information
When applying for an adoption program, you and your family will be required to present a wide range of different background information to the agency. Among other things, you may be required to submit:
- The full biographical information for each parent;
- Details about your current family situation, including your current children;
- The result of a criminal background check;
- Information about your housing status;
- The results of a home study;
- Answers to a comprehensive set of family questions;
- Certain financial documents and records; and
- The personal and health history of each parent.
Complete Your Home Study:
Under Georgia state regulations, you must complete a home study before your adoption can be finalized. The home study is designed to make sure that applicants have the ability to provide a healthy, safe environment for a new child.
If you have already submitted your application to begin the adoption process in Georgia, you will be required to complete a home study before you can be approved for the placement of a child. Going through the home study process can be confusing, stressful, intimidating, and all-around exhausting for applicants. Few people are truly comfortable having their life — and their home — put under the microscope.
While it is normal to be worried about the adoption home study, there are many things that prospective adoptive parents can do to dramatically improve their chances of success. One of the first things that all applicants should know is that the purpose of the home study is not to keep you from adopting a child. Instead, it is simply to ensure that all children are being placed in healthy, safe environments.
Be Prepared for the Paperwork
When you go through the home study process, you are going to get an enormous amount of paperwork. A non-exhaustive list of documents forms that you can expect to complete as part of the process include:
- Criminal background check forms;
- Home study questionnaires;
- Personal references;
- Employment references;
- Financial documents and records;
- Health and medical requirements; and
- Proof that you meet all relevant Georgia adoption education and training requirements.
- Your reasons for adopting a child;
- Your relationship with your partner and other family members;
- Your financial status;
- Your parenting style; and
- Much more.
Accept a Referral or Placement:
The adoption process in Georgia can be daunting and stressful. While the average waiting time can vary dramatically based on a number of different factors, it tends to be a slow process. For example, the National Adoption Center reports that the ordinary wait to adopt a healthy infant is somewhere between two and seven years.
With such a long wait being the norm, receiving an adoption referral or an adoption placement can be incredibly exciting. For future parents, it is normal to feel overwhelmed and to want to accept right away. While this is completely understandable, at this moment it is crucial that future adoptive parents take a minute to catch their breath. You need to carefully evaluate the situation to ensure that you are the right family for the child or children in question.
Proceed With Care and Caution: Be Sure that You Ready to Move Forward
You should never rush into finalizing an adoption. Even if you have been waiting for months or years to receive a referral or a placement, you need to proceed with a lot of caution and care. Be sure that the child in question is absolutely the right child for your family. If you have any reservations or any uneasy feelings, there is nothing wrong with slowing the process down. You have a right to get as much information as you can get your hands on.
Important Issues to Consider Before Accepting an Adoption Referral or Adoption Placement
Before accepting a referral or placement, there are many different issues that you should consider. Remember, this is a big decision and you want to make sure that you get it right — for both your family and the child. Among other things, you should consider:
- The age and gender of the child;
- The medical history and current health status of the child;
- The full personal history and background of the child;
- Whether your family is truly ready to move forward; and
- Any other relevant legal or personal issues.
Parent Your Child:
Once the adoption has been finalized, the real work is just beginning! While adoption can be a long road, it is truly only the start of a journey.
Finalizing the adoption process in Georgia is a wonderful feeling. Though it can be challenging at times, most adoptive parents have a good experience with the overall adoption process. According to data provided by the Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation, approximately 90 percent of adoptive parents report that they were satisfied with how their adoption went. That being said, finalizing an adoption is truly only the beginning.
You are at the start of the journey, not the end.
The real work — and the real joy — that comes from an adoption comes from building and growing a new family. Parenting your child and helping them create a happy, successful, and meaningful life is one of the most rewarding things that anyone can experience. This is not to say that there are no challenges involved in parenting an adoptive child — there certainly are challenges. There are also resources available to help new parents handle any issues that might arise.
Four Things Adoptive Parents Should Do When Bringing Home a New Child:
Get Their Bedroom Ready
For adoptive children, especially for children who are not infants at the time of their adoption, moving into a new home can be hard. For parents who want to make this transition as smooth and as problem-free as possible, creating a living space that is just for the child is often the best starting point. Putting a bedroom together that offers the child comfort and a real place to call their own will help to give them a much-needed sense of security and stability.
Early Quality Bonding Time is Important
Adoption professionals recommend that parents focus on getting as much quality bonding time with their new child as soon as they possibly can. This early bonding time can provide incredible, lifelong value. It can start to build that strong parent-child relationship that everyone desires. Many adoption professionals even recommend a therapeutic parenting strategy referred to as cocooning. During this time, the family puts their whole focus on bonding with the new child — even taking some leave from work, if it is possible to do so.
Be Ready to Deal With Attachment Issues
Transitioning to an adoptive home is not easy for every child. If your new child has some struggles, it does not mean that anything is wrong with them, and it does not mean that anything is wrong with you or wrong with your parenting. Attachment issues are normal. You should be ready to address them with sensitivity and care.
Each Child Deserves Unique Attention
In the long run, parenting an adopted child is not dramatically different than parenting a biological child. While there are certainly some additional issues that will need to be considered and dealt with, ultimately, every child needs fully individualized attention. What is good parenting for one child may not work as well for another? The most effective parents are the ones that put the time and energy into truly understanding their children.
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