Adoption During COVID-19
By Jennifer Prizeman-Utara, Esquire
Whether you are adopting your foster child, adopting a partner’s child, or adopting through a private agency, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges for adoption. Many aspects of the adoption process – the paperwork, waiting, anticipation, and excitement – have stayed the same. However, many critical points in the process – from home visits to finalizing an adoption in court – look much different during the pandemic. Overall, adoption professionals emphasize the need for patience and flexibility.
Interest in Adoption Has Not Decreased
Adoptions have continued during the pandemic, and some adoption professionals have even noticed an increase in families beginning the adoption process. An unexpected silver lining of having our lives upended during the pandemic – some prospective parents suddenly found themselves with more time on their hands, and thus, more time to fill out paperwork and complete the administrative requirements necessary to get adoption moving.
Many international adoptions have stalled due to lockdowns, travel restrictions, and visa restrictions. International travel is still heavily restricted into and out of the United States. Many countries have suspended or implemented a moratorium on their adoption programs. Even domestic adoptions have been affected, as many prospective parents who are adopting children out of state are planning multi-day road trips rather than traveling by plane.
Differences in the Adoption Process
The vetting process, during which agencies meet with prospective adoptive parents and evaluate their fitness as parents, is crucial to any adoption. Typically during this process, a social worker will conduct at least one home study visit. During the pandemic, agencies must still meet with prospective families, but some are allowing social workers to do pre-adoption home visits virtually. Post-placement visits might also be conducted virtually.
Some agencies have still required in-person visits before a child could be released to adoptive parents, and these were often on hold for several months. Although certain in-person visits have resumed, further restrictions are possible as COVID-19 cases climb in many areas.
One of the biggest differences prospective parents may experience if they are adopting a newborn is building a relationship over video chat with the biological parents, rather than in person.
Depending on COVID-19 restrictions in your state and your particular hospital, if you are adopting a newborn, only one adoptive parent may be allowed in the hospital. Hospital policies are continually adapting to local conditions, as well as medical experts’ increased understanding of COVID-19.
Be sure to learn about the hospital policies where the birth mother is expected to give birth. Also understand that these may change as the COVID-19 situation in that community changes. The first time you meet your child might also be much different than you imagined – but it will be just as joyful.
Finalizing an adoption in court is a momentous and joyful occasion for everyone involved. It is often the end of a long journey for adoptive parents and children. Although Maryland adoption cases have resumed and courts have now returned to full operations, keep in mind the situation is still fluid. According to the Maryland Judiciary, remote proceedings will continue throughout the state at the discretion of the individual courts. Thus, it is still possible that adoption hearings will take place remotely.
Post-Adoption Contact Agreements
Md Family Law Code § 5-308 allows parties to enter into a written agreement allowing certain types of contact with the minor adoptee after adoption is complete. The pandemic situation may affect the language you include in any post-adoption agreement. Current post-adoption agreements could also be affected by COVID-19 restrictions and interruptions. It is best to consult with an experienced adoption attorney about the best approach to these types of agreements.
National Adoption Day
National Adoption Day is an annual celebration of foster care adoptions across the country on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This year, National Adoption Day will be observed on November 21, 2020. Due to safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, it will not be possible to hold in-person celebrations in most areas. However, virtual events are being held across the country to celebrate adoptive families and continue drawing attention to children in foster care who are waiting for permanent families.
No two adoptions are the same, and the path you’ve taken to decide on adoption is unique as well. Z Family Law understands there are many ways to grow your family and realize your dream of parenthood. Contact us today to discuss the best approach that meets your unique needs.