If you are considering adopting a child, you may be daunted at first by what can seem an overwhelming process. Although no two adoptions are exactly alike, every case follows certain basic steps.
Who can adopt a child?
The South Carolina Adoption Act governs adoptions in South Carolina. Under this law, any South Carolina resident can adopt a child.
Whose consent is required for adoption?
The adoption statute requires the following individuals to give written consent to adoption:
- Both parents of a child conceived or born during their marriage;
- The child’s legal guardian, if both parents are deceased or have had their parental rights terminated;
- The placement agency or person facilitating the adoption if the child has been relinquished for adoption to that agency or person;
- The mother, if she was not married when the child was conceived or born;
- The father, if he and the mother were not married when the child was conceived or born, under certain circumstances described in detail in the statute; and
- The child, if he or she is over 14 years old, unless the court waives this requirement.
Parents whose parental rights have been terminated need not give consent. Nor is consent required from a parent who has already relinquished the child to an adoption agency, or a parent determined to be mentally incapable of giving consent.
One of the first steps in an adoption is the home study, which must be performed by an investigator certified by the South Carolina Department of Social Services. The home study assesses your qualifications as an adoptive parent and helps determine which child will be the best fit for your home. The investigator will visit your home and consider a variety of personal information about you, including but not limited to:
- Your financial and medical records;
- Your experiences with children;
- Autobiographical statements you will be asked to complete;
- References from friends, family, employers and others;
- Any criminal records or records of child abuse and neglect;
- Your reasons for wanting to adopt;
- Child care arrangements and your plans for discipline; and
- How a child will fit with your immediate and extended family.
Once your home study is completed, you will be matched with a child awaiting a family. When the birth parents are involved, they will likely choose the qualified adoptive family they believe is best suited for their child.
Placement and post-placement review
Placement occurs when a child goes to live with the prospective adoptive parents. You will file your petition for adoption once a child has been placed in your home. After placement, the adoption statute requires a social worker to conduct an ongoing review to assess the progress of the child’s placement with you and whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child. The law orders a final report of this post-placement study with copies given to you and filed with the court.
The final hearing on your adoption petition is to be held no less than ninety days and no more than six months after the petition’s filing date. At this hearing, the court will examine the record and issue an order finalizing the adoption if all the statutory requirements have been met. The court must find that the adoption serves the child’s best interests, and must enter its findings in a written decree.
Contact an experienced Greenville family lawyer
Deciding to adopt a child is one of the most important decisions a family can make. If you are contemplating adoption, Robert Clark has the experience to guide you through this sometimes confusing and challenging procedure. Contact us today for a consultation in Greenville.