Whether you are wanting to adopt or are considering placing a child for adoption, you will need help in navigating the legal proceedings. Your path will be filled with many emotions, including joy, sadness, uncertainty, gratitude, and love.
If you are a birth parent, the decision to place a child for adoption is one of the most unselfish and loving acts a parent can do for his/her child. An adoption service provider (a licensed attorney or an agency) can assist in your search for adoptive parent(s). Your choice of prospective adoptive parent(s) is highly personal and emotional. For that reason, counseling is highly recommended and encouraged.
Under court approval, Iowa law allows for the costs of certain expenses to be paid through the adoption service provider. Those expenses include:
- Birth expenses for the baby;
- Placement of the child by the adoption service provider;
- Legal expenses related to the termination of parental rights and adoption process;
- Pregnancy-related medical care;
- Ordinary and necessary living expenses of the birth mother (for no longer than 30 days after the birth);
- Counseling for the birth parents in connection with the adoption (for up to 60 days after the birth); and/or
- Living expenses or care of the child during the pendency of the termination of parental rights proceedings.
A child cannot be adopted until the birth parents’ parental rights have been terminated. A birth mother (with the assistance of her attorney) initiates the termination proceedings by signing a Release of Custody when the baby is seventy-two (72) hours old. Legal documents are then filed with the court, a hearing date is obtained, and notice of termination of parental rights is provided to all necessary parties. The court also appoints an attorney to represent the best interests of the child during the proceedings. At the termination hearing, relevant information is provided to the court, including the details of the Release of Custody, abandonment, best interests of the child, and notice. Upon proper proof, the court may then find grounds for termination have been proven and grant the petition to terminate parental rights.
Once the termination of parental rights proceeding has been completed, the adoption process begins. The best interests of the child are the paramount consideration in the adoption process. Prior to placement of a child with the adoptive parents, background and placement investigations are done by a certified adoption investigator. The law requires the child to be with the adoptive parents for at least 180 days prior to completion of the adoption. During that time, the adoptive parents and child shall have post-placement investigation reports completed. This consists of no fewer than three (3) face-to-face visits with the child and adoptive parents. The adoption investigator makes a recommendation to the court whether to approve the prospective adoption. An adoption decree is then entered at the hearing upon proper proof to the court. The termination of parental rights and adoption records are then sealed and shall not be subject to inspection except under court order.
Step-parent adoptions do not necessitate many of the above requirements. If the adoption process involves an Indian child, special requirements of the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act are always applicable. An attorney familiar with the termination of parental rights and/or adoption process will be invaluable in helping you navigate the laws, answer your questions, and assist with the paperwork.
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