David especially enjoys helping adoptive parents to provide children with “forever families,” and David will help you determine whether there are barriers to adoption and will help with necessary legal measures.
To adopt a child in Iowa, you must meet the following conditions:
- You must reside in Iowa for at least six (6) months.
- You must be an unmarried adult, spouses together, or spouses separately in cases of a stepparent adoption or where the other spouses is absent or unavailable.
- You must have had the child living and residing with you for at least 180 days.
- You must have the financial, physical and mental ability to take care of the child.
- Adoptions by third parties – someone who is not a stepparent or a relative adopts the child. These adoptions do not involve an adoption agency.
- Stepparent Adoption – a stepparent adopts the child.
- Adoptions by relatives – a grandparent, great-grandparent, aunt, uncle, great aunt, great uncle or a sister or brother of the child adopts the child. The child may be related to the person adopting the child either by blood or by marriage.
- Private agency or DHS adoptions – the State of Iowa or a private agency places the child with the adoptive parents. There are many children in Iowa who need to be adopted by loving parents.
- Domestication of Foreign Adoption – if an adoption is finalized in the country of birth, many families choose to domesticate the adoption, or “re-adopt” the child, when they return home to the United States. This step will permit the child and adoptive family to easily obtain a Iowa adoption decree and a birth certificate from the Iowa Department of Public Health office. In today’s world, it is essential that adopted children be able to prove their U.S. citizenship before they reach age 18.
- There is always the possibility that the foreign country will challenge the adoption at some later date, either because of suspected corruption in the process, i.e. baby-trafficking, or because some major political instability in the country has created new policy. When you complete a re-adoption in Iowa, you get an adoption decree from a valid U.S. court as concrete evidence of the adoption, evidence that cannot be overturned by a foreign government.
- The re-adoption gives your child an English language adoption decree and an English language birth certificate that may make it easier for your child throughout his or her life. Even though foreign adoption decrees and birth certificates are accompanied by an English translation, many parents prefer to have a document which doesn’t require extensive explanation.
- Certified copy of the child’s birth certificate
- Consent of the child’s guardian as to your adoption of the minor child
- Copy of the termination of parental rights order, and
- Homestudy (see discussion above)
Of course, in order to adopt a child, the parental rights of the biological parents of the child must first be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily. You may change any of the child’s first, middle, and/or last name as part of the adoption process. Once the adoption is finalized, we will assist you in applying for a new birth certificate for your child. This certificate will have the child’s new name, if changed, and list the adoptive parent(s) as his or her legal parent.
David handles the following types of adoptions:
David represents many blended families who protect the parent-child relationships through stepparent adoption. As a non-adoptive stepparent, you have no legal parental rights. If your spouse became incapacitated, dies, or you are divorced, the court could award custody of your stepchild to anyone — possibly a relative who has not ever been part of his or her life. You could be prevented from ever seeing the child again. Through stepparent adoption, your legal relationship with your stepchild will become identical to that of birth parent and child.
If you are the person your stepchild considers to be a parent, if you are you the one who helps with homework, goes to teacher conferences, talks to the doctor, and claps at games and school performances, then you may wish to solidify your legal rights. Adopting a stepchild is the most common form of adoption. A stepparent who adopts agrees to be completely and legally responsible for his or her spouse’s child. If the child is 14 years old or older, he or she must agree to the adoption.
Adoptive parents must realize that a child may feel conflicting loyalties between his adoptive parent and his or her biological parent, and this may be hard for some children to handle. However, in many cases, this course of action can represent the best possible resolution as it allows the child to experience permanency. Before you can proceed with adoption as a stepparent, you will need to determine whether the birth parent is either: willing to waive his or her parental rights voluntarily, or whether the birth parent has “abandoned” the minor child pursuant to the requirements of Iowa law. If either of these two conditions can be proven, the court will issue an order terminating such biological parent’s parental rights.
Termination of Parental Rights as a Precondition to Adoption
Termination of parental rights is the most serious and solemn proceeding in juvenile court because it permanently severs the parent-child relationship. If the non-custodial parent is living and does not consent, before an adoptive parent may adopt, the non-custodial parent’s parental rights must be terminated.
Keep in mind that adoption not only severs the legal relationship with one biological parent but also with members of that parent’s family, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Grandparent visitation is a consideration for adoptions, and in many cases, families can work out a mutually-agreeable communication arrangement. However, no termination of parental rights action may be conditioned on the promise of post-adoption communication between the biological parent and/or his or her family.
Adoptions (and the prerequisite that the parental rights of both biological parents must be terminated) can be complicated when the non-custodial biological parent is still alive and in contact with the child. If the child has been removed from the biological parents and has been placed in foster care by the State of Iowa, the State of Iowa can petition for the termination of the parental rights of the parents. If the State of Iowa is not involved with the child, the petitioners must complete a “private termination” action against the parents. A termination of parental rights can either be with the consent of the biological parent (i.e., voluntary) or without such parent’s consent (i.e., involuntary). In order for an adoption to happen without the biological parent’s consent in a private adoption (including stepparent) adoption, you must be able to prove that (1) the adoption is in the best interests of the child, AND that (2) any of the following is true: (a) the parent has “abandoned” the child; OR (b) the parent cannot be found after a careful search; OR (c) the parent does not object after being served notice of the termination of parental rights.
Domestication of Foreign Adoptions (sometimes called a “Re-Adoption”)
Iowa law provides for the domestication of a foreign decree of adoption. Although Iowa law grants full faith and credit to any adoption decree issued by a court pursuant to due process of law outside of the United States, many families choose to domesticate the adoption, or “re-adopt” the child, when they return home to the United States for citizenship and other purposes.
Children born in another country who have been adopted by U.S. citizens are entitled to automatic U.S. citizenship. These children are able to obtain a U.S. passport, which is one of the routes to proving U.S. citizenship.
Typically, a foreign adoption is finalized in the child’s country of origin. The adoption decree and new birth certificate are issued by the foreign country, and the U.S. Department of State and gives approval for the child to return to the U.S. on a valid visa that is then taken as part of the process of making your child a U.S. citizen.
The United States, as well as the state of Iowa, recognize the foreign decree of adoption as valid, so in most cases, it is not required that you “domesticate” the adoption in the Iowa court. Your child, provided at least one of the parents is a U.S. citizen, automatically becomes a U.S. citizen as a result of the adoption. However, some adoptive families choose to “re-adopt” the child in state court for reasons including:
Many parents, regardless of how remote the chance of problems, still prefer to undergo a “re-adoption” to ensure that their child will have the best start in life possible.
Iowa law requires that three separate studies/reports be done as part of the adoption process: the pre-placement report, the background report (i.e., the social and medical history form), and the post-placement report. The most significant report is the pre-placement report, also known as the “homestudy.” A licensed provider must issue a homestudy after thoroughly reviewing the potential adoptive family, such review which include personal interviews, criminal and child abuse background checks, and reference checks. The cost of a homestudy can be significant and there may be waiting list at the agency issuing such a homestudy. For this reason, it is advisable to “order” the homestudy as soon as possible after the child begins residing with you. Additionally, the procedures for stepparent adoptions are simplified, and the court will waive the homestudy requirement in many cases.
Adopting a Child in Foster Care
It is a sad fact that birth families are not always able to provide the best care for children. Unfortunately, sometimes they cannot even keep children safe, and the State of Iowa is forced to intervene. Everyone agrees that these children should not grow up in foster care, but too few people make the commitment to become a foster parent or adoptive parent. In Iowa, there are many children who are languishing in foster care, and many of these children are adoptable right now. No one would ever say that parenting or adoption is easy, but for many folks, it is the single most rewarding part of their lives. If you are interested in adopting a child in foster care, you should contact the Iowa Department of Human Services and find out how you can become a foster parent. You will need to take some classes, complete a number of forms, and undergo a homestudy (see above). Many children in state care who become eligible for adoption are adopted by their foster parents.
It is common for adoptive families, particularly those involving children adopted through State of Iowa foster care, to need financial support and services after the adoption is finalized. Many adoptive parents who are going through the process of adopting a child who has been in foster care do not realize the financial costs of meeting their child’s needs until it is too late. It is critical that they obtain appropriate benefits during the short window of time, and the assistance of an attorney familiar with the complexities of these benefits may be invaluable.
The government may provide financial assistance, called a “subsidy,” if the child you adopt has “special needs” as defined by Iowa law. The Department of Human Services may be able to provide you the following benefits to adoptive parents who adopt children in foster care: (1) a monthly subsidy (a payment that the adoptive family receives each month and usually lasts until the child turns 18), (2) Medicaid (State of Iowa health insurance granted if the child meets the same conditions as for the monthly subsidy), and (3) adoption assistance (a one time payment of $500.00 per child which helps to cover attorney fees and court costs associated with the adoption).
Timing is critical. If you want to apply for this adoption assistance, you must have all assistance finalized and in place BEFORE the court finalizes the adoption. Parents apply for these benefits at the appropriate Department of Human Services office. David can review and assist you with the documentation necessary to obtain such adoption assistance.
Attachments to the Petition
You must secure the following documents prior to filing your petition for adoption:
The petition for termination of parental rights is filed in the Iowa county of domicile/residence of you, the child’s guardian, or an adult person to be adopted.