COVID-19 has had a major impact on how adoptions are conducted in the United States. The basic adoption process remains the same, following rules set by each state. But the need to keep birth parents, prospective parents and the child safe means some key details have changed.
Home Studies and post placement supervisory reports require new safety precautions. During a home study, a licensed social worker visits a household and meets with its members in anticipation of final approval in the adoption process. The goal of home study is to ensure there is a safe, healthy, and nurturing environment for a child to join. One critical part of the home study process is interviewing. The social worker must interview every adult member of the household, not just the prospective parent or parents. It is considered vital that this be done in person so the home environment can be observed. While some adjustments are being made in home study, it remains at the court’s discretion and each states licensing authority to insist that interviews be conducted in person. Social distancing and other safety measures may be required.
Adopting During COVID-19: Post-Placement Supervision
The same precautions are in place for post placement supervision. While one state may allow for a virtual visit, other states may still require in-person and thus a delay may be necessary to meet the differing demands of the state requirements. Patience is required right now!
Once you are home study approved and perhaps even have a child in the home, the process is different right now. Early in the course of the pandemic, many courts that would normally hear adoption petitions had to implement policies that prohibited in-person hearings. Adoption attorneys, agencies and other support organizations worked extra hard to advance adoption cases during this time and, when the courts provided for virtual hearings or were able to allow for in-person hearings, adoptions proceeded.
Virtually all courts throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC are working as hard as they can to keep adoptions moving through the system understanding the limitations with changing policies and requirements due to COVID-19.
Adopting During a Pandemic: Aspects to Consider
There are several aspects that are still being affected by the pandemic to be aware of if you are adopting:
- Adoption Hearings Are Moving Forward, But May Be Late
- Adoption hearings are back on the docket at some courts virtually and many of them are moving forward as planned. Still, it’s important for everyone in the process to be flexible.
- Agencies are unable to conduct home visits required for adoptions so the required reports may be delayed.
- Hospitals have shifting policies regarding who can be present for the birth and to care for a child after birth so you must be extremely flexible when it comes to the hospital plan.
- Due to quarantine requirements from different states, you may need to travel earlier than planned and quarantine before you can access a newborn or a court hearing.
The pandemic is also affecting adoption attorneys and nonprofit organizations that support adoption. When there is a delay with one part of the process, it often leaves the others waiting. However, your adoption team will do everything possible to use the time constructively in helping you reach your goals.
Note that there are cases where an in-person court appearance may be mandated. For example, if you are holding a hearing to revoke the parental rights of a non-custodial parent, he or she has the right to object to the teleconference format. It is up to the court to determine how to handle the issue.
An Adoption Attorney Remains an Essential Guide in Your Adoption Journey
At a time like this, it’s even more crucial to have the help of a qualified local adoption lawyer. Your adoption attorney helps you stay on track with filings, meet deadlines, and avoid mistakes that could lead to weeks or months of delay – especially if shelter-in-place orders are reinstated in the future.
For compassionate help from an experienced expert, contact Jennifer Fairfax today.