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Legalizing an Adoption
After a child is placed with your family, the Court with jurisdiction over the child retains that jurisdiction until the adoption is legalized. A caseworker will visit you and your child at least once each 30 days between placement and legalization. The purpose of these visits is to assess with you how things are going and observe that you have and are using the resources required to provide for your child’s needs for safety, permanency, and well-being after the adoption is legalized and post-placement supervision ends.
The caseworker provides written progress reports to the Court that include information about these visits, making recommendations about your readiness, and your child’s, for legalization to occur. The time from placement to legalization varies according to the circumstances of each adoptive placement, but generally legalization will take place between three and nine months after placement.
Adoptions are legally binding agreements, and it’s very rare an adoption is challenged in court by a child’s birth relative. More than 98 percent of adoptions from foster care remain legally intact after this final step in the journey to adoption.
In many states, you will need an attorney to legalize your adoption. Your agency will be able to answer specific questions you have about legally finalizing your adoption, including who pays the costs, as each State and Tribe has its unique practices. You can also use the National Center for Adoption Law & Policy’s searchable database with plain language summaries of legal material related to adoption and foster care.
Something that you should consider with your adopted child and discuss with your caseworker and other adoptive families is how you want and are permitted by the Court to participate in the adoption legalization proceedings. Practices vary widely: from the issuance of a decree of adoption with no appearance in court by the child or family all the way to a birthday party-like celebration in the courtroom with balloons, cameras, and lots of guests all dressed up for the joyous occasion. In a way, the legalization of an adoption is like a birth because it’s the day your child becomes yours forever.
Being an Adoptive Parent
Adoption finalization is a legal process that is also analogous to a wedding; rather than being the end of the journey toward a new relationship, it marks the beginning of a lifetime commitment. Both while waiting for your adoption to be legalized and after, there are things you’ll need to know about being an adoptive parent.