On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Adoption on Friday November 8, 2013
November is National Adoption Month, and we thought we would recognize it by sharing two posts on adoption in Missouri. Last year, over 2,000 adoptions occurred in Missouri, roughly evenly split between stepparent or agency adoptions and private adoptions. Each procedure has its own set of legal issues.
In our previous post we discussed the stepparent adoption. In this post, we examine agency adoptions and private adoptions.
In this country, hundreds of thousands of children are currently in foster care as the result of abandonment or a finding by a court that their natural parents were unfit. Unfortunately, too many of these children remain in the foster care system, often bouncing from foster parent to a group home to a new foster parent. One way to provide these children with the necessary stability and nurturing environment is through adoption by a welcoming family. Alternatively, some couples wish to adopt an infant without the “red tape” associated with social service (agency) adoption; these private adoptions occur through some form of brokerage that matches the parents with the child, who may be in the United States or in another country.
With regard to private adoptions, particularly those that involve a foreign country, care must be taken to follow the protocols of the country of residence of the adoptive child and the protocols of the United States. An adoptive couple should be very wary of whom they choose to help broker the process, or they could face significant heartbreak and financial loss, if not legal trouble.
With social service agency adoptions where the child has been a ward of the state, the parents seeking to adopt must go through a vetting process that can be protracted and difficult – not everyone qualifies. Indeed, many social commentators and adoption experts have been critical of the system that seems to make it too difficult to place foster children in permanent homes. Parties seeking to choose this route should be aware of these pitfalls and have patience with the bureaucratic process.
With private agencies, the parties seeking to adopt generally pay a brokerage fee to the agency that matches the parents with children. While this process can move much more quickly than a social service agency adoption, it will be costly – particularly if the desired child is an infant and of a particularly sought after racial or ethnic background.
Once any of these various types of adoption procedures reaches the matching moment, the adopting parent or parents must petition the court. If the parties have proceeded through a private adoption, they have probably procured the consent of the birth mother or birth parents if both known and required. In that case, the remaining adoption proceeds very much like a stepparent adoption, with paperwork, a guardian ad litem and social service investigation, and a final court hearing. In a social service agency adoption, the consent usually follows through the vetting process itself – once the agency approves the match, it has also signed off on the background of the parents and the best interests of the child. So, after possibly a very long wait, after a successful match, the process to adopt will finally move quickly and also resemble the stepparent adoption process at this stage.
It should be noted that although Missouri does not recognize same sex marriage, Missouri law does not explicitly prohibit a same sex couple, or a single homosexual individual, from filing a petition to adopt.
Navigating the procedures to secure a stepparent adoption involves a great deal of complexity and requires the assistance of an attorney who has experience handling these matters.
If you have questions about agency or private adoptions, contact our St. Louis family law attorneys – we can help.