Adoptions vary widely, ranging from foster care adoptions to private domestic, international, step-parent, and even adult adoptions. This is a general overview of adoption in Iowa. For more specific information on the different types of adoption and the adoption process, contact an adoption attorney at The Law Shop by Skogerson McGinn LLC.
If you think you might have room in your heart and your home for an adopted child, it is essential to first do a deep dive on yourself and the potential realities of adoption. One great way to do this assessment is to enroll in a preparedness course such as a Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP) program. It is designed to help prospective foster and adoptive parents decide whether or not to pursue foster parenting and/or adoption. (These classes, often free to participants, are so good that all potential parents should have to take them!)
What to Know About Adoption in Iowa
Many adoptees are adopted through the foster care system. According to the National Council for Adoption website, the number of children in the U.S. in foster care awaiting adoption in 2021 was 113,589. Nearly half of those children are age four or under. Without question, the world needs more foster and adoptive families. You don’t need to be perfect to do the job. You do have to know that it’s the right fit for you.
A child in foster care typically enters that system through juvenile court proceedings in which the child was removed from a home where abuse or neglect was occurring within the family. The child is temporarily placed in the legal custody of the state and the physical care of either (in order of priority) a family member, a licensed foster parent, or another alternative placement that has been vetted by the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
While juvenile court proceedings are pending, the biological (or otherwise legal) parents of the child are provided with services geared toward helping improve the wellness of the family so the child and the parent(s) can be reunited. If, however, the parents are unable to meet certain benchmarks within a specific time frame set by law, parental rights may ultimately be terminated by the court. Only when BOTH of a child’s parents are deceased or have had their parental rights terminated, voluntarily or involuntarily, is the child then eligible for adoption. In other words, a minor child can have only two legal parents at a time.
Adoption in Iowa
Adoptions are governed by Iowa Code Chapter 600. Licensed foster parents usually have access to subsidy funds provided by the state to help pay fees associated with the adoption such as placement investigations, home studies, and legal fees. In contrast, private adoptions, whether foreign, domestic, step-parent, or adult, typically require all fees be paid by the adopting parent(s).
While the process for reaching adoption eligibility can seem lengthy at times, the adoption
proceeding itself is surprisingly simple. A court hearing is usually required. Depending on the preferences of the presiding judge and the background story of the family involved, the hearing is sometimes more celebratory in nature.
The Law Shop handles numerous adoptions each year. It’s easy to understand why adoption is our favorite kind of work as lawyers!
Author’s Note: My husband and I adopted our oldest of three daughters when she was 16 years old. She is now 30 and a married, busy, loving mom of three. I asked if she had any advice for potential adoptive parents and she shared this:
“Patience, understanding, a deep appreciation for therapy, and knowing that it takes a
village…Our brains form our life practices within the first few years of life. Trauma is engrained forever. You can learn coping skills, but you have to be willing to admit you can’t handle everything on your own sometimes. Know your adopted child and what they’ve gone through. This will help you properly provide for them the mental and emotional resources they may forever need.
Never stop learning and creating secure bonds with your adopted child. There will come a moment in every adopted child’s life when they think, “What if this had not happened? What if I had not been adopted? Where would I be?” Prepare your child for the fact
that you don’t have all the answers, but you’ll tell them what you can and you did your best to give them the love and security they deserve. Don’t hide who they are or where they came from.
The information may be hard and sad, so remember the resources available to help them find the right time, place, and way to talk about those hard truths with your child in a healthy way.”
For more information about adoption, go to www.lawshop.net and click on “Get Started.”
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