Much of the adoption process is focused on what happens before your child is placed with you: completing the home study, creating an adoptive family profile and waiting for an adoption opportunity, for example. But some of the most important parts of every adoption journey take place after placement. In fact, the majority of the legal adoption process is completed after your baby is born.
While there are certain Iowa adoption laws you will need to follow throughout the entire adoption process, there are also some specific legal requirements you will need to meet after placement. Here, learn more about four common legal requirements to finalize an adoption in Iowa.
- Termination of Parental Rights
By definition, adoption grants parental rights of a child to his or her adoptive parents. But before an adoptive family can gain those rights for a child, the child’s birth parents must have their rights legally terminated.
There are two ways for termination of parental rights to occur:
- Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights: When birth parents choose to make a voluntary adoption plan for their child in Iowa (as in domestic infant adoption), they must petition the court to terminate their rights and also sign a release of custody. By signing these documents, they are choosing to voluntarily terminate their parental rights.
- Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights: In some cases, a parent’s rights may be terminated involuntarily by the court. This type of termination is common when a child cannot safely remain in the care of his or her legal parents and is often associated with foster care adoption. The Iowa Department of Human Services and the state initiate such actions.
Only after your child’s birth parents’ rights have been legally terminated can the post-placement and finalization process move forward.
- Federal Adoption Requirements
Another common legal adoption requirement is Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) compliance. ICPC is an agreement between all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands that helps regulate adoption placements between the state of birth and the adoptive parent’s home state.
ICPC allows both the adoptive parents’ and the birth parents’ states to review and approve the placement before the adopted child crosses state lines. It is designed to help ensure all children placed across state lines are going to safe, suitable homes.
If you do not live in the same state as your child’s birth parents, ICPC will apply to your adoption. This means that when you travel to your child’s birth state when he or she is born, you will need to remain there during the ICPC process.
Nelson Law Firm will coordinate the ICPC process for you, submitting the necessary paperwork to the correct state ICPC authorities and communicating with them on your behalf. You will be notified as soon as you have received ICPC approval to return to your home state with your new child.
Depending on a number of factors, ICPC may take several weeks to complete. On average, adoptive parents should plan to stay in their birth parents’ state for two or three weeks while the ICPC process is completed.
Additionally, any adoption involving a child of Native American heritage is subject to another federal adoption law called the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). If your child meets the law’s definition of an “Indian child,” you will need to ensure all federal ICWA requirements are met before your adoption can be finalized.
If ICPC or ICWA apply to your adoption, Nelson Law Firm will provide additional information to help guide you through these processes.
- Post-Placement Visits
If your adoption required a pre-placement adoption home study, you will also need to complete a post-placement study after you have returned home with your child to ensure you and your child are adjusting well to the placement.
In Iowa, the post-placement study includes three visits to your home by a licensed agency or certified adoption investigator, often around one, three and five months after placement. During these visits, the investigator will likely observe you and your child together, give you the opportunity to ask questions and refer you to any additional services your family may need during your adjustment period.
Similar to the home study report, the investigator will then complete and submit the post-placement reports to the court recommending whether the adoption appears to be in the child’s best interest.
Once the post-placement requirements have been satisfied and the child has been in the adoptive home for 180 days, the adoptive family can move on to the final step of the legal adoption process: finalization.
- Finalization Hearing
Once all other steps of the legal adoption process are complete, Nelson Law Firm will file the necessary paperwork with the court and schedule your final adoption hearing.
Because most of the legal work is complete prior to your court date, the finalization hearing is typically a relatively brief, ceremonious celebration of your new family. While exact proceedings may vary, most adoptive families can expect to:
- be sworn in before the judge.
- answer some questions from their attorney about the adoption process and the type of life they hope to provide for their child.
- answer some similar questions from the judge.
- take some pictures with their family and the judge.
- receive the final adoption decree granting them permanent, legal custody of their child.
The legal adoption process can seem overwhelming at times, and many adoptive parents are nervous about satisfying post-placement requirements. However, by working with an experienced Iowa adoption attorney like Ken Nelson, you will have a guide through every step of the adoption process, and you can feel confident that all aspects of your adoption have been handled safely and legally.
To learn more about legal adoption requirements and the services provided by Nelson Law Firm, contact us today to schedule a consultation.