Adoption is a social and legal process that creates a new family, giving adopted children the same rights and benefits as those who are born into the family.
Many children in permanent state custody are waiting to find a stable, loving family. It's something they probably have never experienced because they were abused, neglected or abandoned. They need a safe and nurturing place they can call home. Some of these children have been in foster care their entire lives and have never had a family to call their own. Through adoption, these children become part of a new family.
Who are these children? Why are they being adopted?
At any given time there are thousands of children who are in the permanent legal custody of the Georgia Department of Human Resources due to unresolved family crises. Many of these children will become available for adoption. Some of the children's parents have voluntarily given up their parental rights. However, most have been removed from their birth parents' homes by the courts and their parents' parental rights have been terminated due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. Most of these children come from difficult situations and have been cared for in foster homes while waiting to be adopted.
The children needing homes are:
- African American heritage older than 1
- Brothers and sisters who need to be placed together
- Children ages 8 and older
- Children with physical, emotional or mental disabilities
Who handles adoptions?
Adoptions of children in state custody are handled by the DHR Office of Adoptions, the county Departments of Family and Children Services (DFCS), or through a licensed private, licensed, adoption agencies.
Can I adopt a child?
If you are single, you must be at least 25 years old and at least 10 years older than the child you wish to adopt. Married couples must be at least 10 years older than the child they wish to adopt. A family needs to make only enough money to cover their own living expenses.
What do I need to do to adopt?
You will need to have a family assessment (home study) done by DFCS or a licensed, private adoption agency. This is a chance for the caseworker to learn about you and your family while you learn about the children who need homes. If DFCS does your family assessment, you will also attend a 10-week training program called "Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting" (MAPP). MAPP consists of 30 hours of training and home visits by a caseworker.
Is there any financial assistance available?
Some assistance is available to help meet the costs of caring for children with special needs. The amount of the assistance depends on what the child's needs are. More money may be available to help pay for medical or psychological services. Some of the children with special needs will still be eligible for Medicaid after adoption.
How will I know if a child is right for me?
You can get a description of the child before you meet him or her. Often you can see a picture of the child. You will also get to know the child before you decide whether to adopt. If there are any problems after the adoption becomes final, you can contact your DFCS caseworker to discuss the situation. In a crisis, the worker can help the family find resources such as counseling, respite care or financial assistance.
Is adoption a long and complicated process?
The wait for a child with special needs can be as short as six to 10 months. You can shorten your waiting time by choosing a child from the "My Turn Now" book, which publishes photographs of children waiting to be adopted. "My Turn Now" is also available on the Office of Adoptions web site. The child must live in your home for some time before legal proceedings can begin. A caseworker will help you with any questions or problems you may have during that time. The adoption usually becomes final about six months after placement.
Can the birth parents or relatives come and legally take the child away?
No. Before a judge terminates parental rights, DFCS looks for any relatives who could take care of the child. Once the adoption is finalized, the child becomes a permanent member of your family.