One of the biggest decisions families face when they decide to build their family through adoption is which adoption avenue to pursue. Will you choose to adopt from foster care or from another country? Will you choose to adopt domestically, and if so, will you do so independently or with an adoption agency? For families interested in Michigan adoption, here’s everything you need to know.
Private Domestic Adoption
Because domestic adoption is conducted on the state level rather than the federal level, every state has different laws pertaining to who can adopt and how they can adopt. Both adoption agencies and independent adoptions are permitted in Michigan, and to adopt privately, prospective parents must at least be 18 years old and can be any marital status. To begin, prospective parents will need to complete a home study with a state-licensed provider. The home study is essentially an overview of your lives. It involves questions about your family history, your reasons for pursuing adoption, references from friends and employers, physical and mental health information, education and employment history, financial history and assets, criminal background checks, and fingerprinting. The process can be daunting, but with a little patience and a lot of organization, you can survive the home study process.
Once your home study is approved, prospective adoptive parents can begin to search for a birth mother, if she has not already been identified. In Michigan, advertising to prospective birth mothers is allowed, provided it is done through an “adoption facilitator.” An adoption facilitator may be either a child-placing agency or an adoption attorney but not an individual family. Once contact with the birth mother is made, the adoption facilitator must provide the prospective birth mother with a pamphlet on adoption produced by the Michigan Department of Human Services. The adoption facilitator will also outline the procedures for the adoption, a fee schedule, and the terms of contact between the birth mother and the prospective adoptive parents.
Every state varies in terms of their adoption expense laws. In Michigan adoption, prospective adoptive parents can expect to pay counseling services for the birth mother, reasonable expense related to medical and health care of the birth mother, and child leading up to and including the birth. Payment for medical expenses may not include items already covered by the birth mother’s insurance or Medicaid. Other payments may include incurred travel expenses related directly to the adoption and living expenses during the pregnancy and up to six weeks after the birth. Unlike other states which have specific language as to what “living expenses” is defined as, Michigan state law has no such language. Each prospective adoptive parent and their adoption facilitator will decide the terms of the birth mother expenses and foster an agreement with the birth mother. All expenses must be filed in court at least seven days prior to the formal placement of the child along with a verified statement of the adoption attorney or child-placing agency’s fees.
Leading up to and through the delivery of the child, it is up to the birth mother and adoptive parents to decide how much contact to have before delivery, if they wish to have prenatal visits, if the adoptive parents can be in the delivery room, and how much contact birth and adoptive parents wish to have after the child is born. When the child is born, the birth mother may sign an “out-of-court” consent after a 72-hour waiting period terminating her parental rights. If the birth mother chooses to give her consent in court, a court hearing must be scheduled. Following an out-of-court consent, the birth mother has five working days (excluding weekends and holidays) to revoke her decision. Additionally, whether the consent was filed in or out-of-court, the birth mother has 21 days after terminating her parental rights to file an appeal of her decision. The birth father’s consent is also needed for termination of parental rights. If the father is not known, a man claiming to be the father, may file a paternity claim in court. There is no putative father registry in Michigan adoption.
Following the termination of parental rights by the birth parents, the adoptive parents will become the legal guardians of the child. The child-placing agency or a state-licensed adoption provider will follow-up with the family for the next three months for post-placement supervision. The purpose of the post-placement visits is to assess and document how the child and new family are adjusting. Once the three months have passed, a post-placement report will be provided to the courts and a final order of adoption will be entered.
For families who reside in another state but are interested in private Michigan adoption, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is in effect. The ICPC allows for smoother, more effective communication between the sending and receiving states in interstate adoption. In Michigan, the child cannot be sent to the state where the adoptive parents reside until the proper paperwork is filed and if moving to a new state with the adoptive parents is in the best interest of the child. Once home, the adoptive parents must follow their own state guidelines for post-placement supervision and reporting.
Foster Care Adoption
Around the country, there are roughly 13,000 children currently in the foster care system. In Michigan alone, the number is approximately 3,000. For families interested in adoption through foster care, 90% of all children placed for adoption by the Department of Human Services are adopted by their relatives or current foster parents. Children in the Michigan foster care system are typically older children and/or sibling groups of two or more. To become a foster parent, you must be 18 years of age and be able to provide a stable, loving, home environment. Interested foster parents may be single or married, though if you are married, both parents will need to apply.
The first step to pursuing Michigan adoption through foster care is to attend an orientation through the Department of Human Services (DHS). DHS uses a site called Foster Care Navigator to list all upcoming orientations throughout the state so visit the site to find a data and location close to you. Once your orientation is complete, the next step is to complete your licensing process. The state of Michigan maintains partnerships between private and public agencies and many counties have private agencies which are contracted to provide foster care services to families. There is a difference between county and private agencies so be sure to ask the right questions to find which is right for you.
Like domestic adoption, if you are adopting through foster care you will need to complete a home study with your licensed provider. Your home study will include a family assessment, your reason for fostering and adopting, a complete medical history for every member of your family, a criminal background check, and fingerprinting for every member of your household over the age of 18. Concurrent with the home study, interested families will need to complete 12 hours of Parent Resources for Information Development and Education (PRIDE) training. Once your home study and first 12 hours of PRIDE training are complete, families will be eligible to become licensed foster family placements. Families will still need to complete 12 more hours of PRIDE training after becoming licensed, but they have 18 months to do so.
Timelines for placement of foster to adopt children varies, but a complete list of waiting children can be found on the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange; Adoption.com has a photolisting page for waiting children as well that you can visit.
Concerned about the costs of fostering to adopt? Michigan maintains three adoption subsidy programs: Adoption Support Subsidy, which provides monthly payments until the child is 18 years of age; Adoption Medical Subsidy, which helps offset the costs of preexisting conditions not covered by insurance; and the Nonrecurring Adoption Expenses program, which provides up to $2,000 in reimbursement for specific expenses associated with the adoption of the child from foster care.
Another wonderful way to build your family is through intercountry adoption. Intercountry adoption provides a way to bring a whole country into your family while providing a child with a forever home. Like in other Michigan adoption, the first step will be to complete a home study by a state-licensed provider, then you must choose which country you are interested in adopting from. Your choice of country may dictate your adoption agency, but it is important to note that because the United States is a signatory of the Hague Convention, no independent or private adoptions may be conducted internationally. Upon choosing a country, families will complete a dossier (which will include your home study along with other country-specific documentation), wait for a referral, and then travel to meet their child. Once home, the child will automatically become a U.S. citizen.
Unlike private or foster care adoption, intercountry adoption is completed on the national level, so once the adoption is complete in-country, the child is legally a member of your family. For those countries, such as South Korea, where the adoption is not finalized in-country, the adoption may be finalized through the process of readoption. Michigan adoption law permits courts to certify an adoption completed in another country through the process of delayed registration of birth. Once complete, your new child will be issued a Michigan Certificate of Foreign Birth with their new legal name.
Have you experienced Michigan adoption? Did you adopt privately, through foster care, or through intercountry? Any advice or tips you can share
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