Starting an Adoptive Family:
Bright-Futures divides the adoption process into the following steps:
Learning about Adoption
As an adopting parent, the adoption process begins with learning about the different types of adoption available to you, analyzing your parenting strengths and considering what type of child you are comfortable parenting. Bright Futures will assist you in beginning this process with an Orientation Packet and an Initial Educational Consultation. The Orientation Packet will include information about different types of adoption, starting the adoption process, and an Adoptive Parent Application and Intake Form that will help you begin to consider and discuss your feelings about adoption. During the Initial Educational Consultation, we will talk with you about why you have decided to build your family through adoption, your specific needs, desires and concerns about adoption, and what type of adoption is right for you. We will also explain the services offered by Bright Futures, our policies and procedures, and how you can get started. top
The Home Study Process
Once you have decided to build your family through adoption and you have a sense of what type of child you are comfortable parenting, the next step is to begin the home study process. During the home study process, an independent social worker or agency (depending on your state of residence) will evaluate your ability to meet the physical, developmental, emotional and educational needs of a child and will write a written report stating the evaluator's conclusions as to the characteristics of children which your home can safely accommodate and which you can best serve. Home study requirements vary from state to state, but your home study will likely involve: (i) a series of meetings with the evaluator, some in your home, some elsewhere, (ii) a criminal record check, (iii) a child abuse and neglect report clearance, (iv) character references, (v) certification as to your health by your doctor, and (vi) analysis of your financial situation. Bright Futures is licensed to do your home study if you reside in Massachusetts. top
Networking/Connecting with Birth Families
When you have a completed home study, you are ready to begin the process of connecting with a pregnant woman or couple. This process is called networking. As part of the networking process, Bright Futures assists adopting parents in the preparation of a family profile that gives birth parents a sense of who you are and what you have to offer a child. Bright Futures then shares your profile with birth parents who most closely share your needs and expectations about the adoption (including expectations about the racial, cultural or religious identity of the child, ongoing contact, and financial ability/needs) so that they may select the adoptive family they wish to have parent their child. top
Making an Adoption Plan
Once you have been selected by a pregnant woman or couple, Bright Futures will notify you, provide you with certain non-identifying information about the pregnant woman or couple, and arrange a time for you to speak with the pregnant woman or couple. This is your opportunity to begin to build a relationship with the birth parents and assess whether you would feel comfortable parenting their child. If you and the birth parents feel comfortable with one another, Bright Futures will help you develop an adoption plan that is comfortable for you and for the birthparents. Making the adoption plan will include discussion of all of the details relating to the planned adoption, including what degree of openness is appropriate, what will happen when the baby is born, what birth parent expenses you will be expected (within your budget) to pay, whether you will accompany the birth mother to doctor's appointments prior to delivery, and what type of ongoing contact each of the parties wants to have after the baby is born. During this process, Bright Futures will be available to provide counsel, to assist you in assessing the risks associated with a particular situation, and to assist you in managing your relationship with the birth parents. top
Surrender of Parental Rights
When the baby is born, the birth parents will be asked to voluntarily surrender or terminate their parental rights. State laws vary greatly with respect to the process of surrendering a baby for adoption and terminating the birth parents' parental rights. If your baby is born outside of Massachusetts, you will be working with an agency or attorney in that state that should be able to provide you with information about the process of surrendering a baby for adoption and terminating parental rights. You should know that some states permit birth parents to place a baby in the custody of the adopting parents before the surrender becomes final and irrevocable. This means that the birth parents can change their mind and decide to parent their baby.
If your baby is born in Massachusetts, the birth parents may not sign the surrender until the fourth day after the baby is born. The surrender must say that it is final and cannot be revoked. This means that once the birth parents sign the surrender they may not change their mind and decide to parent.
If you live in a different state than the state where your baby is born, you will need to comply with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children in order to take your baby out of the state of birth and bring your baby into your state of residence. This compliance is typically handled by Bright Futures and the attorney or agency in the other state and takes approximately seven to ten days. top
Post-Placement and Legal Finalization
After your baby is placed with you there is generally a period of time between placement and legal finalization of the adoption. Again rules vary greatly from state to state with respect to this post-placement period and the process of legal finalization. In most cases, the law of the state where you reside will control the post-placement period and the legal finalization process.
If you reside in Massachusetts, there is a six-month post-placement waiting period (beginning on the date you return to Massachusetts with your baby). During that time, a social worker from Bright Futures will visit with you and your baby once a month to assess how the placement is working. Based on these visits, Bright Futures will complete a monthly report setting forth the developmental milestones of the baby, your and your family's adjustment to the role of parent and adoptive family, and the social worker's conclusions about the appropriateness of the placement. At the conclusion of the six-month period, Bright Futures' attorney will prepare and file a Petition of Adoption with the Probate and Family Court Department of the Trial Court. Once the Petition is filed, Bright Futures' attorney will obtain a court date for a hearing on the Petition of Adoption. The court date is usually at least 2 to 3 months from the date of the Petition. Bright Futures' attorney will accompany you to the hearing. At the hearing, the judge will confirm your commitment to parenting the child and execute the adoption decree finalizing the adoption of your child. top