The moment that your child is placed in your arms for the first time is an incredible experience. Your life will change completely, and the joy that parents feel is almost difficult to describe. It might come as a surprise to families that this moment, as huge as it is, isn’t the end of the adoption process.
In fact, there’s one big step still waiting for you: the adoption finalization.
Fortunately, for those working with an adoption agency, they’ll help guide you through this step. In the meantime, to help you learn more, keep reading below for more information about the adoption finalization process, getting your Arkansas adoption birth certificate, and more.
What is Adoption Finalization?
Adoption finalization is the final step in the Arkansas adoption process. It’s such an exciting time — receiving the final decree of adoption and Arkansas adoption birth certificate that makes your child a permanent and legally recognized member of your family, forever.
But before the day your child is placed with you and legally become yours, a few conditions must be satisfied. These are required to certify the validity and legality of your child’s adoption. Keep in mind, your adoption specialist and attorney will walk you through each one of these processes to make sure your adoption finalization can move forward.
- Termination of Parental Rights: Before your child legally becomes yours, their birth parents must terminate their parental rights. In Arkansas, prospective birth parents can voluntarily consent to adoption at any point after a child is born. After consent is given, there will be a 10-day revocation period, during which they can legally withdraw consent. Your attorney will inform you of the prospective birth parents’ rights during this time period.
- Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) Clearance: If you don’t live in Arkansas but you’ve traveled to the state to adopt your child, you will have to comply with ICPC regulations. ICPC serves as a system between states to ensure that all adoptions are completed legally and ethically.
- Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Clearance: If your child has any Native American heritage, you will have to comply with ICWA regulations. ICWA was enacted to help preserve Native American tribes and families and requires additional steps of anyone adopting a Native American child.
- Post-Placement Visits: Before your Arkansas adoption finalization can occur, the social worker who completed your home study will also complete your post-placement visits. These are in place to make sure that the child is adjusting well in their new home.
How to File a Petition to Adopt in Arkansas
Any person who seeks to adopt a child in Arkansas must file a petition to adopt with the appropriate civil court. Keep in mind, this is where working with a good adoption agency will benefit you. The adoption agency you choose to work with along with an adoption attorney, will do all the filing and legal work for you — all you need to do is sign the papers where you need to. Here are some good adoption agencies you could consider working with:
What to Expect During an Adoption Finalization Hearing in Arkansas
Once all finalization requirements have been met, it’s time for the day that hopeful adoptive parents dream of. The adoption finalization hearing occurs in court, where a judge will issue the final Arkansas decree of adoption as the final step in the Arkansas adoption process. Most adoption hearings last 30-60 minutes and will take place in your county court. Many families invite family and friends, celebrating and taking pictures to document the big day. Typically, this is how adoption finalization hearings go:
Step 1: You and your spouse will stand in front of the judge with your child and your adoption attorney and you will be sworn in.
Step 2: Your attorney will ask you to introduce yourselves and they’ll advise the judge that the adoption should take place. Testimony will be provided. If your child is old enough, they may be asked to testify that the adoption should take place.
Step 3: You will verify for the judge that you intend to provide your child with a welcoming and safe home. The judge will then sign the final decree of adoption.
After the adoption finalization hearing, you’ll receive a new Arkansas birth certificate that names you as the “natural parents”. And, finally, your adoption is complete! It’s important to remember that adoption is a lifelong process. Of course, just because the legal process of adoption is technically over, doesn’t mean the emotional journey is.
Adoption is a lifelong commitment for all involved, and it’s your responsibility to maintain post-placement contact with the child’s birth parents in the years to come. Remember, you can always contact your adoption specialist for any concerns or questions you have about post-placement contact and maintaining communication with the birth parents.
If you’d like to be connected with an Arkansas adoption professional, you can contact us at any time.