Understanding Adoptions in NC
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An adoption is the administrative process by which a legal parent-child relationship is created, usually between parties unrelated by blood. The adoption process also severs the legal relationship between the adoptee and his or her birth family, cutting off all rights and privileges that previously existed between the child and biological family. In turn, those rights and privileges are transferred to the adoptive family so that the adoptive family steps directly into the shoes of the biological family.
The Hardest Part
Many families find the hardest part of any adoption is locating a child to adopt. Families have a wide variety of options in looking for a child, although the cost and time involved varies widely depending on the type of adoption elected. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but possible avenues include international adoptions, private adoptions within the United States, and adoptions through the foster care system.
Once the prospective adoptive family has identified the means by which they wish to adopt, the next step is the completion of a Preplacement Assessment. Also known as a Homestudy, a Preplacement Assessment is an in-depth investigation of a prospective adoptive family to evaluate their suitability to adopt. Preplacement Assessments are generally completed by social workers after visiting the home, interviewing all household members, and reviewing documents submitted by the prospective adoptive parents. Generally, the process takes four to six weeks to complete. Upon successful completion, the Preplacement Assessment is valid for eighteen months and the prospective adoptive parents are eligible to have a child placed in their home.
The Petition for Adoption
After completion of the Preplacement Assessment and locating a child to be adopted, the adoptive process itself begins with the filing of a Petition. It is important to understand, adoptions are viewed from the perspective of the child's best interests, not those of the adoptive or biological parents. As a result, the court process focuses on gathering information about the adoptive and biological parents to ensure the adoption is in the best interests of the child. If one or more of the birth parents objects to the adoption, it is important to note, a separate termination of parental rights proceeding is generally required.
North Carolina state law requires the court to set a hearing date on the Petition within 90 days of the Petition being filed. This hearing is to determine whether or not the Petition will be granted and must take place within 6 months of filing. If the Petition is unopposed, a hearing is generally not necessary. If a Petition is opposed, a hearing is required and a court must find upon a preponderance of the evidence the adoption is in the best interests of the child, that the prospective adoptive parents are suitable and that all statutory procedural requirements for adoption have been met. If the court finds the prospective adoptive parents have met these elements, the adoption is granted.