The legal process is similar whether you adopt a child from foster care or from a private agency. Typically, the agency handles the termination of parental rights and maintains guardianship of the child until the adoption is finalized. The agency will also conduct the home study and post-placement supervision for the required six-month waiting period. If you adopt through an out-of-state agency, you’ll partner with a Tennessee licensed child-placing agency to conduct the home study and post-placement supervision.
Private Agency Adoptions
When families use a private agency for placement, the agency is licensed by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services or the comparable licensing agency in the state in which the child is born. The agency identifies the birth mother and provides her counseling and support throughout her pregnancy. They coordinate services, prenatal care, communication with the prospective adoptive parents, and identify any legal risks, such as an unidentified birth father. If the child is born outside the State of Tennessee, the agency prepares the packet to submit to the administrators of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). Both the sending state and the receiving state must approve travel before the family can return home.
ICPC cases can be complex and usually require an attorney in both states. The attorneys will strategize to determine which state law to apply and to ensure compliance with both ICPC offices. We frequently coordinate with out-of-state attorneys and ICPC offices to determine the quickest, most painless method of obtaining permission to travel. Some states have specific forms or additional requirements that are unique to that state. Other states are relatively flexible, but they may have special requirements regarding certain medical records from the hospital, FBI background checks, or procedures for submitting the application.
We have excellent relationships with Tennessee agencies, and we are happy to speak with families about which agency will be the best fit for you. Keep in mind that not all organizations that match families with birth parents are licensed agencies. We encourage our clients to be diligent on the front end to protect yourself from wasting precious time and resources working with a marketing company or advertising agency that may not be a good fit for your family.
Typically, finalization of the adoption occurs in the state where the family lives. Tennessee, unlike many states, has a provision that grants jurisdiction to the court that presides over the surrender hearing. Some families choose to return to Tennessee to finalize the adoption.
Foster care adoptions are a beautiful gift to the child, the adoptive family, and our community. Often a child has lived with their foster family for years before the family is able to finalize the adoption. When a child enters foster care, the Department of Children’s Services is required to attempt to reunify the child with the biological parents. When reunification is successful, biological parents remedy the problems that brought the child into DCS custody through drug and alcohol treatment, mental health treatment, individual and/or family counseling, obtaining stable housing, etc.
When efforts at reunification are not successful, DCS files the Petition to Terminate Parental Rights. Sometimes the birth parents agree to voluntarily terminate their parental rights. Once the child is in the full guardianship of the State, DCS can give consent for the foster parent(s) to adopt the child or children.
The State pays a stipend to compensate the attorney for legal fees and expenses through the Adoption Assistance program. The Adoption Law Center does not charge any additional fees for families adopting through foster care. If you are looking to adopt, there are many children waiting. You connect with them at adoptuskids.org.
If you have questions about finalizing a foster care adoption, deciding which agency to work with, or how the ICPC process works, we would love to hear from you! Call us today at 615-543-8640. We look forward to speaking with you!