Deciding to build your family through adoption is the beginning of a wonderful journey. Whether you choose to pursue private domestic adoption, adopt from foster care, or opt to adopt internationally, different rules and regulations apply. Because domestic adoption is ruled by state law rather than federal, where you live or choose to adopt a child from mandates who can adopt, how you can adopt, and what you can expect of the process. International adoption is governed by the country in which the child resides and U.S. federal law, but it is still it is good to know your state’s stance on re-adoption. Here is everything you need to know about adoption in SC (South Carolina).
Private Domestic Adoption
For families interested in private domestic adoption in South Carolina, you may be of any age and be married or single. That said, many adoption agencies have age limitations, such as applicants must be over 25, if you are married, you must have been married for at least two years. So if you choose to work with an agency, be sure to check if you qualify. Additionally, interested adoptive parents must be financially sound and stable, evidence of which will be shown in your home study. Thanks to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) law, applicants may live anywhere in the United States and adopt from South Carolina. Families interested in adoption in South Carolina may choose to work with either an agency or pursue independent adoption.
To begin, prospective adoptive parents will need to complete a home study with a certified home study adoption professional, such as a social worker. A home study is a compilation of documents designed to certify a family’s readiness to adopt and raise a child. Your home study will include a physical, background checks, employment records, financial statements, tax returns, and letters of reference from friends. A home study also includes several interviews conducted by your social worker on the family’s motivations for adoption, parenting styles, and philosophy, and if your home is prepared for a new child. The home study process can take anywhere from three to six months.
The process of matching with a birth mother varies from state to state. For adoption in SC, advertising is allowed by anyone given certain restrictions. Both child-placing agencies licensed in South Carolina and attorneys licensed in the state may advertise that a family is willing to accept a child for adoption. Advertising may be in the form of print ads, online, or flyers. Once a prospective adoptive family has been approved for preplacement (essentially the completion and approval of a valid home study) individuals are permitted to advertise to prospective birth mothers in the same way as agencies and attorneys.
Once a birth mother has been identified, prospective adoptive parents will work with either an agency or an adoption attorney to outline a contract on the proposed birth mother expenses, plans for the delivery room, and contact post-placement. In South Carolina, the law states that adoptive parents are responsible for medical costs and reasonable living expenses. Legal costs are not included under the statute of the law, but most adoptive parents can expect to pay these fees. Birth mother expenses are permitted any time during the pregnancy and through the delivery but no postpartum birth expenses are permitted. Any expenses must be approved by a judge and birth mothers are expected to keep and show receipts for all expenses incurred.
On the day the child is born, consent to adopt may be given at any time. Most families wait 24 hours, but consent may be immediate if the birth and adoptive parents choose to do so. For consent to be given, a sworn document must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, one of whom must be the birth mother’s attorney or a family court judge. Consent is irrevocable immediately unless a court finds the revocation to be in the best interest of the child. Finalization of the adoption takes place several months later, once the post-placement reports have been filed by your social worker. A post-placement report is essentially a chance for your social worker (and by extension the state) to check-in and assesses how you and your new family are adjusting. For families adopting across state lines, your agency can advise on how many meetings will be necessary to complete your post-placement report. Finalization of the adoption will occur in family court and will grant all legal parental rights to the adoptive parents. Following your court date, families can expect to receive a final adoption decree in a few weeks.
Adoption in SC ranges between $20,000-$40,000 for private domestic adoption. Adoption loans and grants are a great way to finance adoption as is taking advantage of the adoption tax credit (ATC). Unlike international adoption, with domestic adoption, the tax credit may be claimed while you are in the process of completing your adoption. If for some reason the adoption does not come to completion, families pursuing domestic adoption can still claim expenses through the ATC.
Foster Care Adoption
It has been estimated that there are roughly 13,000 children in the foster care system in the United States. In South Carolina, the Department of Social Services lists 4,000 children in the foster care system, 25% of whom are legally free for adoption. Prospective adoptive parents interested in adopting from foster care in South Carolina must be at least 21 years old, can be either single or married, and must be able to provide a safe and nurturing environment for a child. Adoption in South Carolina from foster care is limited to in-state residents unless the adoptive parent is an out-of-state relative, the child has special needs, or if the child has been in foster care for more than six months and is eligible for adoption during all of that time. The average age of children waiting to be adopted is 11 years old.
Adoption in South Carolina from foster care is run by Heartfelt Calling, who works with the Department of Social Services (DSS) to place children. Interested parents will begin with an initial three-page application, which Heartfelt Calling will use to screen interested foster-to-adopt parents for eligibility. Next prospective adoptive parents will be invited to attend a 14-hour training to learn what types of children are available and who may be a good fit for your family. Simultaneously, prospective parents will begin the process of conducting a home study. Much like a private domestic home study, you will compile a series of documents about your health, financial, and employment status as well as motivations for pursuing adoption through foster care. Criminal background checks and home fire and sanitation inspections will also be required.
A selection committee, run by DSS, evaluates each prospective parents’ home study and application then proposes a match to the prospective parents. Prospective parents will then meet with the child and begin a visitation. Once you and the child are ready, the child will be placed in your home. Following placement, your social worker will check in to evaluate how you and the child are adjusting and submit their findings to the state. In South Carolina, a Guardian ad Litem is appointed for the child, and they must complete an investigation before any adoption can be finalized. Once post-placement reports are filed, which can take up to a year, the adoption may be finalized in family court.
Adoption from foster care in South Carolina is free, but legal fees may be incurred. The state of South Carolina offers a $1,500 subsidy for all adoptive families to cover nonrecurring adoption fees such as legal expenses, and many state-licensed family law attorneys work directly with DSS to facilitate payment of this fee. Families who adopt from foster care are also eligible to receive the adoption tax credit even though they may have incurred little or no expenses.
Interested in adopting from foster care in South Carolina? Start by contacting your regional office, submit a DSS prospective parent application, or view available waiting children on the DSS website. Adoption.com also has a photo listing page for children who are ready for adoption.
Lastly, international adoption is another wonderful way to build your family. International adoption brings another culture and country into your heart and home. According to UNICEF, there are roughly 153 million orphans worldwide and thousands of children are available for intercounty adoption. Like private domestic and foster care adoption in South Carolina, the first step will be to complete a home study with both a state-licensed provider and a Hague accredited provider. Though you may choose to adopt from a non-Hague accredited country, as the United States is a signatory of the Hague Convention, you must use an accredited provider and complete your adoption through an agency.
Once you select a country, you will work to complete and submit your dossier, which is like a more in-depth home study, then await a match. Once you receive, evaluate, and accept a referral, you will begin the process to bring your child home to the United States. This entails filing with USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), passing court in your child’s country of origin, and receiving approval from the central adoption authority in your child’s country of origin. When you travel to pick up your child, in most countries, the adoption will be finalized in-country. For countries, such as South Korea (where the adoption is not finalized in-country), upon reentry to the United States, you will need to begin the process of readoption. Upon entry to the United States, your child will become a U.S. citizen, per the terms of the Hague Convention.
Whether your adoption was finalized in-country, re-adoption is a good idea as your child will be issued a South Carolina Certificate of Foreign Birth with his new legal name and his information will be registered with Vital Statistics. Regardless of intercountry adoption, South Carolina adoption law follows federal law, and upon entry to the United States, your child is both a U.S. citizen and is given the same rights and benefits as that of a biological child.
Have you experienced adoption in South Carolina? Did you choose private domestic, through foster care, or international? Any stories or tips you could share?