Hopeful parents adopting from foster care have a lot of choices when it comes to what they want their adoption experience to look like. But one thing they always have to consider is which foster care adoption attorney is right for them.
There are a lot of factors to consider before you hire an attorney, so we’re sure you have a lot of questions. To help you get started, here is everything you need to know about foster adoption lawyers before you hire one.
What Does an Adoption Attorney Do?
An adoption attorney is a professional who specializes in adoption-related legal services. While there are many things that an adoption agency is great for, an attorney is the only professional that can handle the legal side of an adoption. Their job is to make sure that every adoption is completed according to state and federal laws and to protect the rights of each individual in an adoption.
Because of this, their services are a great help in every type of adoption. In domestic infant adoptions, there are some families who choose to make an adoption attorney or an adoption law firm their one and only professional, and there are others who use them in addition to an adoption agency.
If you’re fostering to adopt and your foster child’s plan is changed from reunification to adoption, there will be a hearing set to terminate the parental rights, giving the biological parents the opportunity to regain custody. In this situation, a foster care adoption attorney can be a great resource.
Who Needs an Adoption Attorney?
Just about everyone in a foster care adoption has the right to an attorney. Below, you’ll find information about how an attorney can help each individual throughout the process:
Biological parents: The primary goal of foster care has been, and always will be, reunification. As such, biological parents have the right to legal representation, especially once they are trying to regain custody of their child. An attorney can also help clear up any confusion about the process or about any difficulties in their case plan.
Foster children: Foster children always have the right to an attorney. As you can imagine, moving from one home to another can be extremely stressful. An attorney can be there to speak on a foster child’s behalf and represent their best interests. Most foster children also have a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) or Guardian to speak on their behalf, but these individuals are not attorneys.
Foster Parents: Foster parents can hire an attorney to help them with the legal procedures and to advocate for their rights. They’re able to hire an attorney at different points, so it’s up to you to decide when exactly is right for you.
What Can an Adoption Attorney Do in a Foster Care Adoption?
There are many reasons to hire an adoption attorney for a foster care adoption. There are a few situations in which you might need the services of an attorney for a foster care adoption:
- To move a child to another foster home
- To file an adoption petition for a child whose biological parents’ parental rights have already been terminated
- To represent you at the termination of the biological parents’ parental rights
- To file an appeal for a foster child to stay with you
- To finalize your adoption
When you do hire an attorney, try to find one that’s worked in the system before. If you hire just anyone, they might not understand the intricacies of the children’s court system. And even worse, an inexperienced professional it can really hurt your case.
It’s important to note that, even with an adoption attorney, biological parents are always considered first before moving a child to a foster-adoptive home. The judge can still weigh what your home can offer vs, what the biological family can offer, but remember that the goal of the foster care system is reunification, and you as a foster parent will be expected to support that goal.
How Will I Pay for My Adoption Attorney?
As you can imagine, hiring an adoption attorney can be expensive. Many families worry if it’s really necessary and might think of putting it off. However, you do have some options available.
Foster and adoptive parents are eligible to receive adoption subsidies and reimbursements for any adoption-related costs, and that includes the cost of a foster care adoption attorney. While they may be some costs up front when you talk to a foster parent adoption attorney, it’s possible to receive some help later on. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask your caseworker about what kind of adoption assistance is available for you adoption.
If you don’t already know, adopting from foster care is one of the cheapest ways to build a family. A lot of the costs that are required in other types adoptions are already payed for by the state, including the costs of hiring an attorney in many cases.
If you’re ready to start looking for an adoption attorney today, take a look at the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys for a professional in your area.