Adoptions come in many forms—domestic and international—and here in the U.S. require voluntary or involuntary termination of parental rights.
Before any adoption goes through, home studies are done, according to attorney Ellen Frantz, whose practice includes helping couples and agencies with adoptions. These detailed reports include evaluation of family background, neighborhood/community/schools, parents’ health, financial statements, criminal background checks, references and interviews.
Studies are completed both for domestic and international adoptions but are less extensive in cases where a stepparent or relative is seeking the adoption. In any case, a child must be in the home for six months before a final adoption decree.
Adoption is tougher when parents refuse to terminate parental rights. Then the parent or agency pursuing the adoption must seek involuntary termination of the other’s rights.
Sometimes, the state seeks termination of parental rights if parents are not capable of caring for their child or children. That, too, requires court action.
Common grounds for termination are abandonment (having no visits or communication with the child for six months) or failure to assume parental responsibility for the child.
“The parent(s) has significant legal rights, including the right to a jury trial regarding the termination, and he is entitled to a public defender if he cannot afford an attorney,” Frantz said. “It can be very expensive for the parent seeking the involuntary termination as that parent does not have the right to an attorney provided by the state.”
Frantz has worked with some adoptive parents who find they cannot care for the child they adopted, usually because of severe behavioral issues. Such disruptions are rare but are becoming more common with international adoptions. “It is devastating for everyone when that happens,” she said.
Open adoptions are more common, meaning adoptive parents agree to provide contact with or information about the child to the birth parents. Not all adoptive parents or birth parents want that kind of relationship.
When adoptions reach the time of final decree, there is great happiness, Frantz said. “Judges love to do adoptions because they are happy beginnings.”
Ellen Frantz is an attorney at Johns, Flaherty & Collins. For an adoption lawyer in La Crosse WI, contact Ellen at 608-784-5678.