Adoption laws have children’s needs in mind

Last week in the Legal Corner, we began a discussion on the adoption process regarding its purpose and some of North Carolina’s regulations. This week, we will delve deeper into to topic and explore the different types of adoption.

In North Carolina, there are three major types of adoption — agency adoption, relative adoption and step-parent adoption.

Agency adoptions generally involve children who are in the foster care system and in need of adoptive parents. In these cases, the biological parents of the child have terminated their parental rights. As a result, the child is placed in the state foster care system or relinquished to licensed private adoption agencies for placement with adoptive families.

The agency adoption process requires the adoptive parent to first pick an agency, whether county or private. Next, the parent must submit an application to the chosen agency. Once the parent has completed an application for adoption, the agency will review the application, assign the parent a social worker and then complete a pre-placement assessment or adoption home study.

Upon completion of the assessment, the assigned social worker will assist the parent with locating a child for adoption. When the social worker has identified a child for placement with the parent, the worker will assist in forming a bond between the parent and child and continue to supervise the relationship until the adoption process has been finalized.

Relative adoptions usually take place when the Department of Social Services has to intervene and remove the children from the biological parents’ custody. In these cases, the court will give the Department of Social Services the authority to place the children in permanent homes when the parents are unable or unwilling to exercise their parental rights.

In each of these cases, DSS will first make an effort to place the children with relatives such as grandparents, an aunt or an uncle. Once the child has been successfully placed in the home of a relative that has been approved by the department, additional effort is made to assist the relatives with adopting the child when necessary.

Step-parent adoption is one of the most common forms of adoption. This form of adoption permits the step-parent to have the same rights as the biological parents. Generally, these cases occur when a biological parent gets married or remarries and the spouse or step-parent chooses to formally adopt the child in order to legally obtain rights as a parent.

However, in order for a step-parent to have the opportunity to adopt their step-child, the following must occur. The step-parent must first obtain the consent of both their spouse and the child’s other biological parent or non-custodial parent. Furthermore, in most states, the law also requires the stepchild to consent to the adoption if he or she has reached a certain age during the adoption process.

Conversely, the consent of the non-custodial parent is not required if he or she has abandoned the child. In North Carolina, a child is considered abandoned by a parent when the parent willfully refuses or fails to provide adequate support for the child for at least six months.

Additionally, a parent has abandoned a child when he or she makes an effort to conceal or hide his or her whereabouts in order to avoid the lawful obligation to support the child physically and financially.

Once the other biological parent or non-custodial parent consents to the step-parent adoption, that biological parent abandons or gives up all rights and responsibilities as a parent to the child. In some cases, this may also mean that the non-custodial parent no longer has any future child support obligations.

As always, anything involving state law or regulation can be complex. If you or someone you know has a question concerning the adoption process or is interested in providing a home for a child in need, contact an attorney and find out your options or your local Department of Social Services. Be informed. Be prepared.