Want to Adopt?
One of the most rewarding things about adoption law is the opportunity to help build new families. If you are considering adoption, I can help. I am happy to share with you the knowledge and information I have gained from handling adoptions for decades and from being an adoptive parent. Contacting me with your questions about adoption does not cost you anything and it does not commit you to using my services in the future. Some of your questions may be answered by referring to the “Questions About Adoption” below. Also feel free to us the “Contact” form or call the number listed. I will respond personally to your inquiry.
There are many terms that are used to describe the various ways that adoptions can occur and the components of the adoption process. Some of these terms are defined and described below:
Adoptions through the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) or through a licensed child-placing agency are considered agency adoptions. In these adoptions, the biological parent(s) relinquish their rights to the child-placing agency. The child can be placed with the adoptive parents without an application to receive a child, but the adoptive parents are still evaluated to determine their suitability for adoption.
Step Parent/Relative Adoptions
A child can be placed for adoption with certain family members by the biological parents without filing an application to place or receive a child with the CHFS. Similarly, a stepparent can adopt a child with the parents’ permission without filing an application to place or receive a child. CHFS must approve this, but no home study is required.
Private or Independent Adoptions
A private or independent adoption is an adoption where the biological parents select the adoptive parents and either give their consent to the adoption or allow their parental rights to the child to be terminated by a separate proceeding. An application to place or receive a child must be filed with CHFS for approval. After receiving an application, CHFS requires that most adoptive parents provide their own home study and complete all of the necessary pre-approval paperwork. This must be done by a licensed child placement agency. The purpose of the investigation is to determine suitability of the applicants to receive the child, considering the best interest of the child at all times. Home studies can be done in advance of identifying an adoptive child and are good for a period of one year.
After the investigation is completed a written report is filed by the Secretary of CHFS or licensed agency with the Court. The Secretary is charged with granting or refusing permission for the applicants to receive the child.
It is possible for a couple living in one state to adopt a child born in another state. If either the biological parents or the prospective adoptive parents live in a state other than Kentucky, it is usually necessary to comply with all of the requirements of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, K.R.S. 6150.030, before the placement can be approved by the Secretary.
Foster Parent Adoptions
When foster parents wish to adopt the child, the placing agency will handle the termination of parent rights of the biological parents. After that termination is completed, the adoptive couple can file a petition to adopt the child in the county of their residence. In these cases, legal fees are often paid by the state.
Same Sex Couple Adoptions
The historic decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2015, recognizing same sex marriages has also had the effect of allowing same sex couples to adopt. Adoptions for same married same sex couples should now proceed in the same manner as all other married couple adoptions. In addition, if one partner has previously adopted a child, the other partner can now adopt that child under a proceeding similar to the existing step-parent adoption action.
What is private adoption?
Private adoption is distinguished from agency adoption in that an attorney, rather than a social service or adoption agency, brings the parties together and/or makes all the legal arrangements.
Is private adoption legal?
Yes. Private adoption is perfectly legal.
Do birth parents and adoptive parents need separate legal counsel?
Yes. Kentucky Adoption Law makes it clear an attorney shall not represent both the biological parents and the prospective adoptive parents in voluntary termination proceedings or adoption proceedings.
Are adoptions confidential?
A qualified yes. Kentucky law provides that the files and records of the Court during adoption proceedings shall not be open to inspection by persons other than the parties to the proceedings, their attorneys, or representatives of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. However, Kentucky does have a provision for examination of records by adult adopted persons. In addition, if a voluntary informed consent is signed by a birth parent, the birth parent may request that the identity of the adoptive person be divulged.
What is the difference between an open and closed adoption?
In the traditional closed adoption, the identities of the biological parents and adoptive parents are not known to each other (although there may be face-to-face meetings). All matters remain confidential and there is no continuing contact between the birth parents and adopted child. On the other hand, an open adoption signifies some form of contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. The form and amount of contact are agreed upon by the parties involved. The extent of the openness of an adoption can involve many varied aspects, such as pre-birth meetings, contact and assistance during pregnancy, phone calls, letters, or continuing visitation. In both closed and open adoptions, the biological parent(s) have great freedom in choosing an adoptive couple or parent.
Does the birth father need to be identified?
Whenever possible, it is best to identify the birth father and to make him a party to the proceedings to terminate parental rights. Kentucky law contains several provisions dealing with the circumstance where the birth father is either unknown or not voluntarily identified by the birth mother. Generally, in circumstances where the birth father has not made himself known as the father or is not willing to provide financial support, his parental rights may be terminated and the adoption can proceed without his consent.
What court proceedings are required?
Most adoptions involve two separate court proceedings. The first is a termination of parental rights (TPR). Such an action cannot be filed until three days after the birth of the child and it cannot be filed unless a written application has been made to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to approve placement of the child. Generally, only the birth parents and their legal representatives are present at this hearing. Alternatively, Kentucky law now allows birth parents to voluntarily terminate their parental rights and consent to the proposed adoption by a written form that becomes irrevocable 20 days after the placement is approved.
The next required court proceeding is the adoption hearing. This is a closed hearing involving only the adoptive parents, family members, and their legal representative. This action cannot be filed until written approval of the placement is received from the Cabinet.
What expenses will adoptive parents be expected to pay?
Generally, adoptive parents pay pre-natal and birth related medical expenses (not covered by existing insurance), other expenses related to the pregnancy and delivery of the child and legal expenses.. Kentucky law now provides that in every voluntary termination and adoption proceeding, a detailed affidavit must be submitted to the court listing all expenses, paid. for the court’s approval. The court may modify any amount submitted.
Is counseling for the birth mother a good idea?
Yes. Experience has shown that counseling for the birth mother, both before and after delivery of the child, increases the chances of a successful placement. Adoptive parents may pay for counseling services as they would other medical expenses.
Where does the baby go after being released from the hospital?
Usually temporary custody is arranged prior to the baby being released from the hospital. Kentucky law provides that the Circuit Court may grant an adoptive parent temporary custody of the child, pending the decision by the Cabinet on the application for placement of the child. In order for temporary custody to be granted, however, the adoptive parents must have completed significant portions of the home study, including criminal and sexual predator screenings.
When the baby grows up, can the baby contact his or her birth parents?
Yes. Current Kentucky law allows an adoptive child to search for his or her birth parents at age 21. If the birth parents signed a consent agreeing to the release of the identifying when the child turns 21, this data will be released to the child upon request.
How is a private adoption initiated?
Once available birth parents and/or an available child are identified, the administrative and legal portions of a private adoption are initiated by filing a Form DSS-187 with the Cabinet. A non-refundable fee of $250 is required at this time, payable to the Kentucky State Treasurer.
Who can do the home studies required prior to approval of the placement?
Most home studies are done by adoption workers employed by or under contract with child placing adoption agencies. . The law also allows prospective adoptive parents to contract with private child placing adoption agencies for the home study prior to the identification of an available child. When prospective adoptive parents identify an available child and file a DSS-187, their application must state if the investigation is to be completed by a private adoption agency. The final decision either approving or refusing the placement will be made by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Can babies from out-of-state be adopted?
Yes. Kentucky, Ohio, and most other states participate in the Interstate Compact for the Adoption of Children. This allows children to be brought in from another state and adopted in Kentucky. It does, however, involve the social welfare agencies of two states.