Child adoptions are probably the best part of practicing family law. Parents act selflessly to help a child have a happier life. The aim of adoption is to bind parents and children together. Parents adopt because they can’t have children of their own, they want to help children who are disadvantaged, a stepparent wants to become an adoptive parent, and for many other reasons. In sad cases, the parents of a child dies and other relatives step in to adopt the child.
The process of adoption can be confusing and overwhelming. It can be hard to know when, how, and where you can adopt a child. Once you start the adoption process, you’re bound to have many questions. If you’re a foster parent, you need to know what steps to take to adopt your foster child. Once the adoption is officially approved, there are still many adjustments that need to be made to help your child feel part of the family, the local schools, and the community.
The best starting point is to speak with an experienced Maryville adoption lawyer. Experienced lawyers will answer all your questions and guide you through each stage of the adoption process. A skilled adoption lawyer addresses many issues, such as the rights of the biological parents. Your lawyer will review how you arrange for an adoption, will file the proper papers for you in court, and will be your advocate with the judge and with any social service organizations.
Adoption and the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services
The Tennessee Department of Children’ Services (DCS) helps people who want to adopt a child when the state of Tennessee is the guardian. They have a FAQ page that answers many questions about adoption. The TDCS primarily works with families who first sign up to become foster parents. If a child who is already in the foster care of a family becomes available for adoption, then the foster parents are given the first option for adopting their foster child. Placing a priority on adopting children who are already in foster families helps the children by arranging for prospective parents who already love and care for the child to adopt the children.
There are specific requirements for becoming an adoptive parent through DCS, such as that the adoptive parent must be at least 21 years old (parents who are 18 or older may be eligible to adopt through other agencies or services).
DCS recommends that anyone considering adopting a child through their agency think through the following questions:
- Am I happy with my current life and family?
- Do I have family and friends that can help me if I become an adoptive parent?
- Do I have the flexibility to cope with change?
- Am I prepared that a child may not return my love quickly?
- Am I okay with my child wanting to speak with me about their biological parents?
The adoption process that DCS uses includes:
- A formal “home study” review by a licensed child-placing agency is required for parents who have identified a child they want to adopt (but are not current DCS foster parents). The agency determines the home study process. Essentially, a home study is a review about the “realities of adoption.”
- The submission of the home study. The study includes numerous documents including medical and financial statements, references, and verifications.
- TN-Key Training. This is a “required education and self-assessment process.” It helps families (the parents seeking adoption and the child) cope with the grief and loss children experience and helps focus on family strengths.
DCS will then make a decision about whether you and the child are a good fit. The fitness determination is just the start of the adoption process. You can work with an experienced Maryville adoption lawyer to complete the adoption process.
There are 12 DCS regional offices in Tennessee. You can contact your regional office by accessing the DCS regional website.
What are some Tennessee adoption resources?
The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services provides help for parents after an adoption is approved. There are often many challenges that parents need to be ready for so their adopted child can adjust to their new family.
The Adoption Support and Preservation Program (ASAP) helps parents who adopt through DCS as well as those who adopt through out-of-state child welfare programs and then move to Tennessee. The organization also helps parents who adopt through “private, domestic, or intercountry channels” on a sliding scale fee basis.
ASAP helps adoptive parents with:
- Crisis intervention
- Determining who can help the parents and child
- Support groups
- Preparation for adoption
- Other adoption issues
A national adoption service that also focuses on Tennessee is The Adoption Network. This organization helps:
- Biological parents who want to place their child up for adoption
- Adopted children understand and discuss how it feels to be adopted
- The natural children of parents who adopt connect with their new siblings
- The benefits of adoption
- Birth fathers
The Adoption Network helps people who want to adopt understand:
- The adoption agencies and professionals that can help you adopt a child
- The things you need to know before you adopt
- The risks of adoption
- Adoption after infertility
- Many other issues
The Adoption Network has resources and information just for people in Tennessee. The Tennessee site discusses:
- The laws and requirements for adoption (including issues of consent) – though it’s best to speak with an experienced adoption lawyer about these laws and regulations
- The cost of adoption
- How you can become a foster parent
- How an “adoption facilitator” helps connect families with children
- The home study process
- The post-placement process
The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services recommends the following adoption resources, which focus on children who are already in foster care:
This Tennessee Adoption Network resource also lists some professionals who help with placement:
More Than My Hometown, a foundation started by Morgan Wallen, is another resource that helps “children, adolescents and teenagers” find families that can make a child feel loved forever, restore the child’s confidence, and provide a warm and loving home.
Experience matters. At Shepherd & Long, P.C., our Maryville adoption lawyers have been helping loving families adopt foster children, stepchildren, children with governmental guardians, and children through private placements for 30 years. We understand the legal process, but just as importantly, we understand the family and practical issues involved with adoptions.
We represent adoptive parents, children, and biological parents in Maryville, Blount County, and East Tennessee. To discuss how adoption works and your rights, call us 865-982-8060 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.