Are you a pregnant resident of North Carolina who is considering adoption for your child? Are you wondering what this process might look like? Are you having trouble finding resources about adoption in NC? If so, you are in the right place!
Like any other expectant parent in any other state, choosing adoption for your child is a decision that requires a lot of thought and is a very personal decision. While this article will provide a thorough overview of what adoption in NC is like, expectant parents are encouraged to do additional research on organizations near them or resources in their community.
Covering the Basics for Adoption in NC
Adoption, in layman’s terms, is where a child is born to one set of parents but then cared for by another.
According to FindLaw, a reputable source that provides state legal guidelines about adoption, any person in North Carolina with their, or a biological, parent’s consent can be adopted. If the child is above 12 years old, their own consent is required for the adoption to take place. However, if the child is under the age of 12, parental consent is required.
Additional legal guidelines state that the parent must consent in all situations, except for when their rights are terminated by the court; the child has a temporary guardian; if it is determined that “consent is being unreasonably withheld;” the birth father denies biological connection to the child; or the child is older than 12 and they do not consent to be adopted.
Consent of the birth father is usually not required unless he has acknowledged paternity of the child or is living with and/or supporting the child. A written acknowledgment of this is required by either the mother or father of a child. Consent of both parents is, of course, required if the birth parents are married.
After the child is born and until they are three months old, the birth parents can revoke their consent to the adoption within 21 days of when the consent was originally given. If the child is older than three months, the birth parents only have seven days to revoke consent. Therefore, birth parents do have options to regain parentship over the child after they give birth, with exceptions. Although this situation is rare, it is possible.
Seeking counseling prior to making your final decision about whether adoption is right for you and your child is a recommended step for birth parents. The process can wear on a person’s mental health since it is a difficult decision to make. Gladney Adoption Center offers a free counseling session and a workbook about the different options birth parents have. To take advantage of this offer, you can call 1-800-GLADNEY, text 1-800-452-3639, or email [email protected].
Many local communities also have pregnancy centers, which are places where you can go to get advice, access basic mental health care, and find resources about being pregnant and what options you have for your child. Connecting with other expectant birth parents in your community can also alleviate stress and provide you with useful advice during the adoption process.
If you are considering adoption for your child, the first thing you need to do is explore all the options for your child. Regardless of whether your pregnancy was planned or unplanned, there are multiple reasons why you might be considering adoption. Examples include debt or finances, a career, school, living situations, and more. However, no matter what your reason is, choosing adoption is not a wrong decision.
Beginning the Process of Adoption in NC
First, find a lawyer or an adoption agency to help ensure the adoption follows all legal requirements. FindLaw provides a user-friendly search engine for lawyers. A comprehensive list of child-placing agencies in North Carolina can be found here. Lawyers can assist birth parents by helping them navigate the legal system regarding adoption, which can often be complex and drawn-out.
Second, make your adoption plan. Remember, you are always in control of your adoption plan. You have the power to make changes to or withdraw from the adoption process at any point leading up to the birth of your child. The points that you make in this plan will help the adoption process flow much easier. It will also help to ensure that your requests are stated clearly,
Next, find an adoptive family. Important factors to consider are culture, geographic area, income, religion, family size, etc. Do you want your child to grow up in a rural or an urban area? Do you want to do an interstate adoption or an adoption in NC? Do you want your child to be raised by someone with values similar to your own, or does that not matter either way? Do you have specific cultural or religious beliefs that might influence the type of family you choose? Do you want your child to be the only child in the household or have many siblings? These are all questions you might ask yourself during the adoption process.
Usually, adoption agencies will have profiles of different families hoping to adopt; these profiles include a short biography of the family, pictures, and demographic information. In some cases, there may even be a video of the family talking directly to the expectant mother. It is important to remember that finding an adoptive family is a process that requires an immense amount of thought. Also, it is not something that will happen overnight. Take your time and think carefully about who you want to raise your child.
Also, you need to decide what type of contact you want to have with the adoptive family and your child after the adoption has taken place. There are three types of adoptions that you can choose from:
- Closed: the birth parents have no communication with the adoptive parents or the adoptee post-birth. Only select records are given from the birth family, such as a family health history or a letter.
- Semi-open: the birth and adoptive parents have minimal communication that could take place in many forms such as letters, social media, sending pictures, video chat, or phone calls. In-person meetings usually do not happen.
- Open: the birth parents play a significant role in the adoptee’s life along with the adoptive parents. In-person meetings and frequent communication are utilized.
Closed adoptions were more frequent when privacy for birth parents was placed as one of the top priorities for an adoption. Children were thought of as “blank slates” after being adopted, having no connection to their birth family. However, as the stigma around adoption and being a birth parent has evolved, open adoptions are becoming more common.
Allowing a birth parent to be a part of an adoptee’s life can help the child retain some sense of identity and concrete truth about their lives, all the while having two families that love and care for them. It is also healing for the birth parent, as it allows them to be a part of their child’s life in a healthy way. It also can take away the negativity that sometimes comes with placing a child for adoption.
Kinship adoptions are also an option for expectant parents. If you have a family member who is willing to adopt your child, you do not have to go through an adoption agency. Instead, you will simply seek a lawyer and file a petition through the court system for adoption. A home study is often not required for kinship adoptions, as long as the relatives are found able to raise a child. If the child is already living in the residence with the family member, the likelihood of a home study is even lower.
Lastly, specific relatives can qualify for kinship or family adoptions, including grandparents or great-grandparents, siblings, aunts or uncles, great-aunts or uncles, and first cousins. The benefits of this type of adoption are numerous and include keeping your child within their community and with a person they trust. It will also allow the birth parents, if possible, to have a role in their child’s life.
Set Communication Standards
Once you pick an adoptive family and decide what type of communication you want to have post-adoption, you have the opportunity to get to know them better. Depending on when you decide, you may have months to get to know them prior to finalizing the adoption. Be sure to discuss what method(s) of communication both of you prefer.
Financial Assistance for Birth Parents
Finances are another important aspect of adoption to consider when figuring out if it is the right choice for you and your child. In North Carolina, it is free to place a child for adoption. It is illegal to receive any sort of cash payment in exchange for a child; however, financial assistance is always provided to birth mothers during the adoption process.
This financial help can assist you with all aspects of the adoption process, including taking care of any legal or agency fees, physical or psychological medical costs, or even living or travel expenses. Receiving this much aid can alleviate the financial burdens that many birth parents worry about when exploring adoption in NC.
Placing a Child in the Foster Care System
The Department of Health and Human Services in North Carolina (NCDHHS) handles many adoptions of children who have been placed in the foster care system. If you decide to voluntarily relinquish your child or terminate your parental rights, you will need to contact the NCDHHS or a member of your local legal system to begin this process. This happens through court proceedings where a judge will determine if the request is feasible or not. If determined feasible, the case will be finalized and the child will be voluntarily placed into the foster care system.
Finalizing the Adoption
When you are due to give birth, it is important to have communicated exactly how you want the birth to go. Do you want to have time with your child before the adoptive family sees him or her? Do you want the adoptive family in the room or in a waiting room?
Once you have given birth to your child, the adoption is usually finalized 2-3 days after that. In essence, the birth parent(s) have to terminate their rights to the child. A court hearing will be held, and after that is complete, the adoptive parents will have full guardianship and parental rights over the child.
After the court proceedings are completed, the child will receive a new birth certificate with the adoptive parents listed instead of the birth parents. This will be counted as the legitimate birth certificate, but adoptees can obtain their original one by petitioning through the state if this process has been legalized.
Important Terms To Know
- Adoption Agency: an organization of adoption professionals (counselors, social workers, etc.) that helps facilitate the adoption process for both expectant parents and adoptive parents.
- Adoption Plan: how the birth parent wants the adoption to proceed; includes things such as the choice of an adoptive family, hospital procedures, and more.
About Adoptive Parents
Having a basic knowledge of what adoptive parents go through to become eligible to adopt a child will help you pick an adoptive family more effectively. Adoptive parents must be vetted for any possible problems or situations that would deem them unfit to bring a child into their home. All prospective individuals must undergo a background check and an intensive home study.
In some cases, there are a series of training courses adoptive parents must take. The ultimate goal, especially for birth parents, is to ensure their child is placed into a safe, loving home and the birth parent can know their child will be well taken care of throughout his or her life.
To adopt in North Carolina, you must be a legal resident for at least 90 days, or you must have been “domiciled” in the state and are adopting a child who has been a legal resident for at least 6 months. To place a child for adoption in NC, there is no requirement for residency. For a better idea of what the overall process would look like for parents looking to adopt, check out this article.
We wish you the best of luck with whatever choice you decide is right for you and your child!