People who don’t understand adoption assume that once you bring the baby home, the adoption is complete. But domestic adoption doesn’t work that way. Depending on where the adoptive parents or birth parents live, and those particular state’s laws, adoptive parents only have what is called “legal-risk placement” of the baby for the first six months. Essentially, the baby is not officially or legally part of your family yet, but rather, is “placed” with you pending legalities and more paperwork. Just when you think you’re done with filling out forms, there are more!
Because Miles was born in Texas, his birthmother was able to voluntarily and irrevocably relinquish her rights 48 hours after he was born. So, thankfully, we haven’t had to worry about her changing her mind about the adoption. (I don’t think I could have handled that particular stress for six months.) But the agency we worked with then became the legal guardian of Miles–not us–and said agency then “placed” him with us for six months until the required amount of time and post-placement visits with social workers have been completed and we can finalize the adoption.
I guess it’s like a trial period, designed to ensure that we aren’t totally inept at this parenthood thing. The time when birth parents can officially relinquish rights varies from state to state, but to my knowledge most states have the 6-month waiting period before finalization.
We are fortunate to have the BEST social workers here in Virginia. We love our caseworkers and our agency. We’ve had such a great experience with them–a far cry from the Texas agency we are working with. They are really lovely people, sincere, and genuinely care about the three of us. We’ve had two post-placement visits with them thus far, and will have three more before we can finalize. They made our home study a positive experience, and they have made our post-placement work just as pleasant.
Each post-placement visit is about an hour, in which our caseworker asks questions about how Miles is doing, how we are doing, what new things he is up to, how much sleep we’re getting, etc. It doesn’t feel like an invasion of our privacy at all, as I’ve heard some other adoptive parents say. Rather, I think it’s fun to talk about Miles for an hour. I’ll talk about him to anyone who will listen, and for one whole hour each month, I have the undivided attention of a woman who is paid to listen to me blabber on about how amazing he is. It’s great.
After each visit, our Virginia caseworker mails a written report to the Texas agency. We also have to provide our own written reports to the Texas agency each month, and we had to send some paperwork that wasn’t required for our home study in Virginia but apparently is in Texas. A handsketch of our house, which was kind of strange. And they asked us to send them photos of Miles every month along with the update. We also have to notify them if we are traveling out of Virginia and gain their “permission” to take him anywhere.
We are looking forward to finalizing the adoption, in October or November, so that we can officially be a family in the eyes of the law. This week, we need to make a final decision whether we will finalize the adoption in front of a judge in Virginia or in Texas. I’m waiting on a call back from a lawyer here in town who can advise me what is needed to finalize in Virginia. We would much rather do that than travel back to Texas, so I’m hoping that works out. We’d really love to be able to finalize our family here at home.
Not that I’ve had any time to think about it, but I know that finalizing Miles’ adoption will be such a special day. Not to mention a huge relief. No more paperwork, no more limbo… just a regular family, like everybody else’s. Though I will miss having someone to brag about Miles to for an entire hour each month. I guess I’ll just have to call one of you. 🙂