Adoption is one of the most rewarding experiences as a parent. Giving a child the gift of a family is a life-long reward that has a positive impact on a child their whole life.
Georgia, like most states, has many requirements for adoption, and rightly so. Making sure a child is entering a safe and healthy home is crucial. Before you adopt, you will have to go through something called a “home study.” There is a checklist that families must complete, as well as provide references and meet other criteria.
A home study is done by a state-licensed adoption professional. It includes three separate visits on different days. One visit is in the home where family members are interviewed. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, the study includes the following information:
- Motivation to adopt
- Physical description and social background of each family member
- Evaluation of parenting practices
- Summary of health history and condition of each family member
- Informal assessment of the emotional and mental health of each family member
- Evaluation of the understanding of and adjustment to adoptive parenting
- Evaluation of the prospective adoptive parents’ finances and occupation
- Description of the home and community, including the following:
- Whether all firearms in the home are locked away from children
- Whether smoke alarms are present and functioning on each level in the home
- Availability of community resources, including the accessibility of schools, religious institutions, recreation, and medical facilities.
- Statements regarding the results of a criminal records check and check of the child abuse and neglect registry
- Minimum of three character references, as follows:
- At least one reference must be from an extended family member not residing with the prospective adoptive family.
- If a prospective adoptive parent(s) has worked with children in the past 5 years, a reference must be obtained from the former employer(s) for that work experience.
In Georgia, an individual may petition to adopt a child if he or she meets the following criteria:
- Is at least age 25, is married and living with his or her spouse, or is at least age 21 and is a relative of the child
- Is at least 10 years older than the child, except when the petitioner is a stepparent or relative
- Is a bona fide resident of this State at the filing of the petition for adoption or is a bona fide resident of the receiving State when the adoptee was born in this State and was placed in compliance with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children
- Is financially, physically, and mentally able to have permanent custody of the child
When preparing to adopt, you will be required to present several documents, including but not limited to:
- Autobiographical statement
- Parenting plan statement
- Driver’s license
- Birth certificate
- Social security card
- Marriage certificate if applicable
- Divorce decree if applicable
- Military discharges if applicable
- Past adoption decree if available
- Green card if applicable
- Financial information
- Physician statement of health status for applicants and everyone living in the home
- Immunization records
- Passports if adopting internationally
- Pet vaccination records if applicable
The Adoption Process
The adoption process depends on many of different variables. According to the Department of Human Services, there are about 7 steps involved.
- Families looking to make an initial inquiry should contact DFCS or fill out the Homes for Georgia’s Kids inquiry form. The prospective adoptive family will receive a packet of information from their local DFCS office following initial contact.
- Information session
- Prospective families should attend an information session to gain insight into the adoption process in addition to requirements. A Resource Development Worker will visit the home to conduct an initial visit and make sure that the family is aware of the requirements.
- Pre-Service Training
- If a family has decided that adoption is the route they want to take, the prospective adoptive family will need to participate in the Adoption Preparation Program. This program consists of 23 classroom hours of training, in addition to other meetings with case managers.
- Family Evaluation
- At this step, the prospective family will have completed the Adoption Preparation Program. They will then proceed to the Adoption Exchange. At this point in the adoption process, the family will be considered an available resource for a child waiting to be adopted.
- This step is where patience comes in. The timeline of a child being placed with a family is unpredictable, but adoptive parents can attend adoption parties and match meetings in the interim.
- If a family or DFCS office identifies a child of interest, the family will then agree or disagree about the match. If the family decides to move forward, they will sign a Placement Agreement, making the child part of that family.
- The adopting family will attend a hearing where a Superior Court Judge will finalize the adoption.
Adoption is a rewarding life change and can impact lives drastically. Although the process is lengthy and at times stressful, the benefits far outweigh the negative. If you are considering adoption, the attorneys at Brown & Dutton would love to stand by your side. We can help clarify, simplify, explain, and ease some of the stress that comes with this process.
The attorneys at Brown & Dutton would be honored to stand by your side during time. Jenni, Lance, and Tracy are experienced, transparent, and compassionate Georgia family lawyers that have been practicing for more than 30 years. Call us today to schedule a consultation and begin taking steps toward your better future!