Frequent Questions About Private Adoptions
1. What is private adoption? Adoption is the legal placement of a child with people who will raise the child as their own. Upon completion of the procedure, the child receives the same legal treatment as a natural born child of the adoptive parents. Private adoption is distinguished from agency adoption in that an attorney, rather than a social department or adoption agency, either brings the parties together or makes all the legal arrangements, or both.
2. Is private adoption legal? Yes. Private adoption is perfectly legal. Previous statutory language that appeared to prohibit private placements has been modified to state specifically that the law does not prohibit private independent adoption or the right to seek legal services relating to the private independent adoption.
3. Do birth parents and adoptive parents need separate legal counsel? Yes. The new Kentucky Adoption Law makes it clear that in both voluntary termination proceedings and adoption proceedings, an attorney shall not represent both the biological parents and the prospective adoptive parents.
4. Are adoptions confidential? Qualified yes. Kentucky law provides that the files and records of the Court during adoption proceedings shall not be open to inspection by persons other than the parties to the proceedings, their attorneys or representatives of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. However, Kentucky does have a provision for examination of records by adult adopted persons. In addition, if a voluntary informed consent is signed by a birth parent, the birth parent may request that the identity of the adoptive person be divulged.
5. What is open as opposed to closed adoption? In the traditional closed adoption the identities of biological parents and adoptive parents are not divulged to each other (although there may be face to face meetings), all matters remain confidential and there is no continuing contact between the birth parents and adopted child. On the other hand, an open adoption signifies some form of contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. The form of contact and the amount are a matter to be agreed upon by the parties involved. The extent of the "openness" of an adoption can involve many varied aspects such as pre-birth meetings, contact and assistance during pregnancy, phone calls, letters or continuing visitation. In both closed and open adoptions, the biological parent(s) have great freedom is choosing an adoptive couple.
6. Does the birth father need to be identified? Whenever possible, it is best to identify the birth father and to make him a party to the proceedings to terminate parental rights. The new Kentucky law contains several provisions dealing with the circumstance where the birth father is either unknown or not voluntarily identified by the birth mother. Generally, in circumstances where the birth father has not made an effort to make himself known, be identified as the father or provide any financial support, his parental rights may be terminated and the adoption can proceed without his consent.
7. What court proceedings are required? Most adoptions involve two separate court proceedings. The first is a termination of parental rights (TPR), such an action cannot be filed until three days after the birth of the child and it cannot be filed unless a written application has been made to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to approve placement of the child. Generally, only the birth parents and their legal representatives are present at this hearing. Alternatively, Kentucky law now allows birth parents to voluntarily terminate their parental rights and consent to the proposed adoption by a written form the become irrevocable 20 days after the placement is approved.
The next required court hearing would be the adoption hearing. This is a closed hearing involving only the adoptive parents, family members and their legal representative. This action cannot be filed until written approval of the placement is received from the Cabinet.
8. What expenses will adoptive parents be expected to pay? Generally, adoptive parents pay pre-natal and birth related medical expenses (not covered by existing insurance), legal expenses and other special expenses related to the pregnancy and delivery of the child. Kentucky law now provides that in every voluntary termination and adoption proceeding, a detailed affidavit must be submitted to the court listing for the court's approval or modification any expenses paid including legal fees, fees for placement services and the expenses of the birth parents. The court may modify any amount submitted.
9. Is counseling a good idea? Yes. Experience has shown that counseling for the birth mother, both before and after delivery of the child, increased the chances of a successful placement. Adoptive parents may pay for counseling services as they would other medical expenses.
10. Where does the baby go after it's released from the hospital? This depends on many factors. If the application to receive the child has been approved by the Cabinet, the adoptive parents may take the child directly from the hospital into their home. If the placement has not yet been approved, the Cabinet prefers that the child be placed in a neutral home where the adoptive parents may participate as caretakers. Provisions in the new Kentucky law also make it possible for the Circuit Court Judge to place care and custody of the child in the adoptive parents following the voluntary termination proceeding. Another new provision the law also provides that the Circuit Court may grant an adoptive parent temporary custody of the child pending the decision by the Cabinet on the application for placement of the child. In order for temporary custody to be granted, however, the adoptive parents must have completed significant portions of the home study, including criminal and sexual predator screenings.
11. When the baby grows up, can the baby contact its birth parents? Yes. Current Kentucky law allows an adoptive child to search for its birth parents at age 21. If the birth parents sign a consent agreeing to the release of the identifying data, this will be released, upon request, to the child at age 21.
12. How is a private adoption initiated? Once available birth parents and/or an available child are identified, the administrative and legal portions of a private adoption are initiated by filing a Form BSS-187 with the Cabinet. A non-refundable fee of $250 is required at this time, payable to the Kentucky State Treasurer.
13. Who can do the home studies required prior to approval of the placement? Most home studies are done by adoption workers employed by or under contract with child placing adoption agencies (other than the State) to perform the home studies. The new law also allows prospective adoptive parents to contract with private child placing adoption agencies for the home study prior to the identification of an available child. When prospective adoptive parents identify an available child and file a BSS-187, their application must state if the investigation is to be completed by a private child placing adoption agency. The final decision either approving or refusing the placement will be made by the Cabinet for Human Resources.
14. Can babies from out of state be adopted? Yes. Kentucky, Ohio and most states participate in the Interstate Compact for the Adoption of Children. This allows children to be brought in from another state and adopted in Kentucky. It does, however, involve the social welfare agencies of two states.
If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me either at my office at (859) 341-8400 or cell (859) 512-9499.
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