Adopting in Georgia
Georgia is more than just the land of southern belles and delicious peaches. Atlanta is full of cities, suburbs, and small towns where kids can ride bikes and play endlessly outside all day. Georgia boasts affordable housing, low crime, and plenty of low-cost vacation spots.
If you are thinking about adopting in Georgia, there is no better time to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Here’s where you can start.
Who Is Eligible for Adopting in Georgia?
If you live in Georgia, you must be at least 25 years old or married and living with a spouse. Married couples must file jointly for adoption.
You need to be at least ten years older than the child you are adopting. You will also need to supply proof that you are mentally, physically, and financially capable of supporting a child. This may include producing bank accounts, mortgage statements, and pay stubs. You will also need a basic medical exam.
Adopting in Georgia Through a Private Agency
If you wish to adopt an infant, the most straightforward way to adopt in Georgia is through a private agency. Some popular adoption agencies in Georgia are An Open Door Adoption Agency, the Georgia Agape-Adoption Agency Atlanta, and Nightlight Christian Adoptions.
Most agency adoptions are now open, meaning that at least some contact with the birth mother will occur after the adoption is finalized. The communication arrangement will be determined before the baby is born. Most situations involve sending texts, emails, or pictures on occasions like the child’s birthday or holidays. In other cases, there may be regular contact or in-person visits.
Adopting through an agency involves a home study. You can think of the home study process as a conversation between you and your social worker about your motivations to adopt, your parenting philosophy, and the type of child you see yourself adopting. Your social worker may ask about your own childhood memories and how that will influence your parenting style.
Remember that there are no perfect parents! A home study will get you thinking about the practical issues that will come up after you adopt. It will also help you to get matched with a child who you feel the most capable of raising.
A home study requires criminal background checks, a medical exam, and references from nonrelatives attesting to your character.
In Georgia, it involves at least three separate home visits on separate days. You will be asked to describe your finances, occupations, home, and community.
Many private agencies now require families to create online or physical photo galleries that can get shown to birth mothers. These may showcase your house, your family, and any special traditions that might allow a birth mother to identify with you. This could include favorite sports teams, pets, or family traditions.
It can take anywhere from a few months to three years to adopt a child through a private agency. In Georgia, the birth mother has a four-day revocation period after signing to change her mind regarding choosing an adoptive placement for her child.
The Cost of Private Agency Adoption
Private agency adoption can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $25,000. This total includes the home study fees, agency fees, and legal fees associated with the adoption.
There are, however, a number of different ways to make adoption affordable. A national adoption tax credit of $14,080 per child can be used to recoup any money you spent on your adoption after the adoption is finalized. This is money that you will not have to pay in income taxes, and you have up to five years to claim it. Any adoption-related expenses can be claimed.
You can speak to your employer about any money available for employee adoptions. There are also a number of adoption grants you can apply for.
Private Lawyer Adoption in Georgia
If you adopt privately, you will work one-on-one with a lawyer rather than an agency. The attorney can help you place ads in local papers and answer phone calls from prospective adoptive parents.
Private lawyer adoptions are more affordable and can be faster due to fewer requirements. Lawyers typically do not use waiting lists. You will need a basic home study.
Your attorney should come recommended and have a history of successful adoptions. Don’t be afraid to call references and ask about that lawyer’s experiences. Did former clients feel understood and listened to? What was the wait time like? Did they feel comfortable that all legal matters were handled professionally and expediently?
A great place to start is the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA.) These professionals have acted as counsel in at least 50 adoption proceedings, including ten interstate placements. They have high standards of ethics, competence, and professionalism. The state of Georgia currently has 19 attorneys who are members.
Adoption in Georgia Through Foster Care
Adopting through foster care is the least expensive option for adoption. There are nominal fees if you adopt or foster through the Division of Family and Children’s Services. These are reimbursable.
You can also work through a private agency to adopt through foster care. Private agencies that facilitate adoptions through foster care in Georgia include All God’s Children, Bethany Christian Services, and Families First. Here, you may be charged more fees, but the state of Georgia has a $2,000 tax credit that can be used toward any child that is adopted through foster care. The national tax credit will also cover any costs you may incur.
There is adoption assistance funding available for children with special needs. Special needs include children who are part of sibling groups, children with mental, physical, and emotional disabilities, and children who have been in the care of a public or private agency for more than 24 months. Adoption assistance benefits include ongoing monthly payments after adoption, medical coverage, and a payment of fees related to the adoption of the child (there is a cap on the amount of fees that are covered, so make sure to understand what that cap is).
Foster Care Adoption Process
The state of Georgia has a dual-licensing program, so becoming certified as a foster parent will make you eligible to adopt through foster care, and adopting through foster care makes you eligible to foster a child as long as the license is valid.
In order to be eligible, you must be at least 25 or married and living with your spouse. You will need to complete a medical exam, background checks, and other criminal record and screening checks. You must provide proof of your current residence and financial stability.
You will need to complete a two-hour orientation at your local county office or through the Internet. You must also complete a 24-hour preservice training on Initial Interest, Pre-Service Training, Assessment, Continuing Development, and Teamwork (IMPACT). You will learn about the effects of abuse and neglect on children. Home evaluations will also be made.
You can speed up the adoption-through-foster-care process by identifying a child or children available for adoption. Certified families are also welcome to attend adoption parties and match meetings. Your resource workers can also recommend support groups for adoptive parents.
If you identify a child of interest or a county Division of Family and Children’s Services (DCFS) office identifies you as a possible resource, you will be given the opportunity to review detailed information about the child. If you agree to the match, preplacement visits will be scheduled. After the visits are completed, you will sign a placement agreement. If the child has special needs, you will be assigned a Resource Development Worker who will help you apply for adoption assistance.
Once you are released from the DFCS, the attorney for prospective adoptive parents will file an adoption petition. You will then be scheduled for a hearing in front of a superior court judge to finalize the adoption. There is a nominal fee that is often reimbursable.
Adopting a Younger Child or Infant Through Foster Care
If you wish to adopt a younger child or infant through foster care, your best option may be to foster the child first. While this is more cost effective than adopting through an agency, it carries the risk that parental rights will not be terminated.
Currently, there is a subsidy of $523.47 per month to foster a child under six in Georgia. The monthly fee is slightly higher if the child is older. This money is to be used to meet the child’s basic needs such as food, clothing, and childcare.
If and when parental rights are terminated, subsidies may continue if the child meets the requirements for adoption assistance. Subsidies may also be available to help with special services such as counseling, tutoring, and other assistance—depending upon your child’s needs.
International Adoption in Georgia
Many parents favor international adoption over domestic adoption because they want to give a home to one of the millions of children all over the world who don’t have one. International adoption also gives you the opportunity to experience the culture of a country that may be a part of your history. Adopting parents who aren’t comfortable with an open or semi-open adoption may choose international adoption because most international adoptions are closed.
Some popular international adoption agencies in Georgia include An Open Door Adoption Agency, Tomorrow’s Parents International, and Nightlight Christian Adoptions. Some agencies serve parents interested in adopting from a variety of countries.
Currently, popular countries to adopt from include China, India, and Bulgaria. Children in these countries are available with a variety of ages and need ranges. Some have many sibling groups available, and others only adopt out single children.
If you are interested in adopting from a country, research as much as you can about it before you call agencies. What is the average age of children adopted from the country? How many trips are required? What is the length of the trips?
Next, you can find an international adoption agency that works in the country you want to adopt from. Ask for references and find out about the agency’s experience. Did they feel that information about the child was communicated clearly and openly? Were there any unexpected problems? Did the adoption facilitator manage all of the in-country details sufficiently?
You will want to let your employer know how long you will be traveling for and approximately when you can expect to leave. Find out if you will need to take family leave. Remember that some countries may only require a week of travel time. In others, you may be required to travel for a month or two. Some countries may require two or three trips that vary in length.
Join a social media group for parents who adopted from the country you are interested in. Ask about how they handled the referral process.
Once you have completed your home study and get approved by USCIS, you will send your dossier, or information packet, to the country you want to adopt from. After you are matched with a child, you will probably want to check the information with a medical clinic that specializes in international adoption to make sure you understand everything that is presented to you. Families who have been through the process can recommend clinics that were able to provide them with valuable information.
You can then travel to meet with your child, sometimes to complete the adoption. This is an exciting time that you will remember for a lifetime!
International adoption is the most expensive option, costing anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000. As with other adoptions, the national adoption tax credit, employer assistance, and grants can help you recoup the costs after the adoption is complete.
Your Georgia Adoption
Georgia families have so much to offer adopted children! Whether you choose a private agency, international agency, private attorney, or foster care adoption, get ready for an adventure that will bring a child into your home for a lifetime of love.