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What is Adoption?

What Is Adoption?
Adoption is the legal and emotional acceptance into your family of a child not born to you. The child will have your name and the same legal rights as a child by birth.

After the adoption is approved by the court, you will receive an official decree and a birth certificate with your name listed as the parent.

It is your responsibility to feed, clothe, house, and educate your adopted child. The adopted child should receive the same love and understanding as a child born to you.

Who Are The Children?
There are children of all ages and races waiting for families. These children are in custody of local departments of social services.

Waiting children are often of school age and emotionally, physically, and/or mentally challenged. Over 90 percent of the children are African-American. Some are brothers and sisters who need a home together. The children may currently live in foster homes, group homes or residential treatment facilities. All deserve a family.

Infants and children from other countries can be adopted through private agencies.

Who Can Help?
Public agencies: Each county, and Baltimore City, has a local department of social services. They are supported by tax money and charge no fees to prospective adoptive parents. The main task of these agencies is to find families for children in their care who need adoptive families.

Private and church-sponsored agencies: These agencies charge fees on a sliding scale, based on your income and ability to pay. Each agency has rules for applicants and may have special programs for placing infants or children from other counties. These agencies may be contacted for information about their requirements and services.

Other: There are also several adoptive parent groups which provide information and support. Some offer classes that examine and address various aspects of the adoption experience.

Public and private agencies, and parent support groups may be found in your telephone directory or by calling 1-800-39-ADOPT.

What Is A Home Study?
A home study is a joint effort between you and an assignment social worker to determine if adoption is right for your family. You will attend meetings with your social worker and with other families wishing to adopt. You will be given information about children, parenting, adoption issues, and requirements. You will be asked to consider your expectations for a child, the reasons you wish to adopt, your financial situation, the reaction of friends and family, and many other factors that may affect your decision to adopt.

How Do You Learn About The Child?
Prior to meeting the child, the social worker will tell you in detail about the child being considered for placement with you. The information will include medical and family history and as much as is known about the child’s growth and development. You should ask lots of questions, and perhaps, ask the advice of your doctor and other professionals.

If you and the worker decide to proceed, arrangements will be made for you to observe the child without the child’s awareness of your presence.

The next step may be to meet the child and spend some time together. There may be numerous visits, including some overnight and weekends, before the child comes to live with you permanently.

Is Financial Help Available?
Financial and medical help to support a child’s placement is called a subsidy. Regardless of your income, if you adopt a child with special needs, you may receive monthly payments and/or medical assistance for the child. These arrangements are made when the child is placed with you and will continue after the adoption is finalized.

What Is Risk Placement?
Some children who are in custody of departments of social services are placed “at risk” which means the child is not yet legally free to be adopted but steps are being taken to achieve termination of parental rights. Therefore, the foster parents (prospective adoptive parents) take the risk of having the child removed from their home, but the child does not face the risk of living in many foster homes before the court makes a decision. If the child becomes legally free, the foster parents (prospective adoptive parents) may adopt the child. Your worker can explain the policy of your agency and the commitment and skill needed to participate in risk placement.

What Happens After The Child Is Placed?
During the time before the adoption decree is issued by the court (usually at least six months), the social worker will visit with the family. These visits will be scheduled. The social worker will help you with problems of adjustment or family life, and with long-term needs. If necessary, your social worker will refer you to other professionals.

A child is not legally adopted until a judge says so. A court hearing will be held before a final decree of adoption is entered. Your social worker can tell you the specific procedures in your jurisdiction.

What About The Future?
The legal responsibility of the agency ends when the court approves the adoption. However, both public and private agencies will provide direct assistance or referral services when asked, even after the adoption is finalized.