Adoption in Georgia 2023
Adoptions in Georgia
Adopting in Georgia are a collaborative effort of the Department of Family & Children’s Services, adoption lawyers, and adoption agencies. Read this article to learn more about how to adopt in Georgia.
The Adoption Processes
The steps and time frame of the adoption process in Georgia will vary based on several circumstances and conditions. The steps shown below will provide you with a general idea of what to expect when adopting children in Georgia.
Initial Inquiry The adoption process can begin with a phone call to the Georgia Department of Family and Childrens Services at 1-877-210-5437, or by completing a Homes for Georgia’s Kids form.
After initial contact, the prospective adoptive family will receive a packet of information from a local DFCS office containing details about upcoming information sessions.
The Information Session Prospective adoptive parents should attend an information session to explore the adoption process and the requirements. After attending a free session a state Resource Development Worker will make an in-person visit to the home of the prospective adoptive family.
Pre-Service Training Every prospective adoptive family will need to participate in the Adoption Preparation Program. Programs are available through DFCS and at private licensed adoption agency under contract with DFCS.
The DFCS Adoption Preparation Program or IMPACT (Initial Interest, Mutual Selection, Pre-Service Training, Assessment, Continuing Development, and Teamwork) consists of 23 classroom hours of training. As part of the IMPACT training, a Case Manager will meet with the prospective adoptive family to complete the assessment process and advance to the Family Evaluation.
The Family Evaluation After successful completion of an Adoption Preparation Program, the Family Evaluation of prospective adoptive parents will be forwarded to the Adoption Exchange. At this point, prospective adoptive parents are now considered an available resource for a child waiting to be adopted.
Pre-Placement Period The pre-placement period is the time between being approved to be adoptive parents and identifying a child available for adoption. The state encourages adoptive parents in this step to invest more time learning about support groups and resources.
Matching and Placement If a prospective adoptive family identifies a child of interest or a county DFCS office identifies a prospective adoptive family as a possible resource, all have the opportunity to review detailed information about the child, and then agree or disagree about the feasibility of the proposed match. If the proposed pairing is workable, DFCS will arrange a pre-placement visit.
After multiple, successful pre-placement visits, prospective parents will sign a Placement Agreementwhich formally places the child within the family. At this step, you are only one step away form being a true family.
Finalization of Adoption When you receive a formal release from DFCs, your attorney can then file an adoption petition. This will lead to a hearing in Superior Court where a judge will finalize the adoption procedure. The result is a wonderful and happy day for the parents and adopted child(ren).
Post Adoption Services
With the change to your family structure there will always be a process of settling in. It takes time for everyone to become familiar with each other, establish boundaries, routines, and rules. Sometimes this process can be a bit challenging and stressful.
To promote harmony and success in adoptions, DFCS offers post-adoption support services. Their website specifically states, “The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services/Social Services Administration Unit (SSAU) has established post-adoption services to assist adoptive families in meeting their needs and the needs of their adoptive child(ren). These services are designed to enhance the adoption experience and to prevent disruption or dissolution of the adoptive placement. Some post-adoption services are available only for families who have adopted special needs children through Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS).”1
Basic Requirements to Adopt in Georgia
Per the website FosterGeorgia.com, “The most important requirement for being an adoptive parent is the willingness and capacity to care for children. Adoptive parents make an unconditional commitment to meet the physical, emotional, medical, psychological and social needs of their children.”2
The website, owned and managed by The Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), cites the following as the formal requirements:
- Be at least 21 years of age or married and living with his/her spouse;
- Be at least ten years older than the child, except when the individual is a step-parent or relative of the child;
- Be a resident of Georgia at the time the petition for adoption is filed; or, be a resident of the receiving state when the child (adoptee) was either born in Georgia or is a resident of Georgia at the time of placement for adoption and was placed in another state in compliance with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC); and NOTE: A non-resident of Georgia is deemed to have complied with the ICPC if the compact does not apply or if the individual is a resident of another country.
- Be financially, physically, and mentally able to have permanent custody of the child. NOTE: If the individual seeking to adopt the child is married, the petition for adoption shall be filed in the name of both spouses. However, when the child is or was the stepchild of the individual seeking to adopt, the petition shall be filed by the stepparent alone.
Adoption Assistance Program & Subsidies
While the adoption of a child may be born of love, the realities of fulfilling the care of a child includes a financial factor. Families who adopt children from foster care may be eligible for financial subsidies. The website for the North American Council on Adoptable Children states the following, “Parents who are thinking about or are in the process of adopting a child with special needs from foster care should know about adoption assistance (also known as adoption subsidy). Federal (Title IV-E) and state (often called non-IV-E) adoption assistance programs are designed to help parents meet their adopted children’s varied, and often costly, needs. Children can qualify for federal adoption assistance or state assistance, depending on the child’s history. “3
The Georgia Legal Aid website provides additional information on adoption assistance in Georgia. Adoption assistance may be available for “special needs children” in limited circumstances. This assistance is provided through your local Department of Family & Children Services (DFCS).Their website states that there are four types of financial assistance which are:
- Monthly Maintenance Assistance This monthly benefit, often called an “adoption subsidy,”is designed to help you with meeting the child’s special needs. The money is intended to cover expenses such as: clothing, special dietary needs, ordinary medical and dental care, special education needs, and preschool daycare.
- Medicaid/Amerigroup You can get this important health insurance coverage if your child qualifies for the monthly subsidy. This coverage continues even if the child is placed in another state or moves to another state with his or her adoptive family.
- Nonrecurring Adoption Assistance Benefits You can get this important benefit to help pay for the adoption. It covers attorney’s fees, court costs, and other one-time expenses directly related to the adoption of a child with special needs. The maximum amount you can get is to $1,500 per child. The reimbursement amount cannot include any costs for the termination or surrender of parental rights. You will have to send your caseworker a copy of the bill from your attorney or ask your attorney to send the bill directly to your caseworker.
- Special Services Adoption Assistance This benefit is a one-time special benefit. It can cover expenses not covered by Medicaid or by the monthly subsidy or through other community resources. Expenses that might qualify include expenses for: orthodontics, prosthetics, psychological counseling, daycare, and respite care.
How Much Are Adoption Fees in Georgia?
The cost to adopt a child in Georgia, using a private agency, falls between $10,000 to $30,000 (for domestic adoptions). The cost for international adoptions, which require travel abroad and costs in multiple countries, can easily exceed $40,000.
Adoptive parents may be able to recoup some financial expenses. Specifically, an adoption tax credit may be available for you. This credit reflects money that you should not be required to pay when filing your income tax returns.
Per the Adoption.com website, the Adoption Tax Credit is “a nonrefundable credit that helps families offset adoption expenses. It applies to all types of adoptions, except step parent adoptions. Fees that you can include are adoption fees, attorney fees, court costs, and travel costs. For the current year, the maximum credit is $13,570 per child. It is also per child. For example, if you adopt two children in 2017, your maximum is $13,570 x 2 or $27,140. It is also non-refundable, meaning the credit cannot exceed your tax liability for the year. “5.
Types of Adoption Processes
Private Agency Adoptions
Private Agency Adoptions, working with your chosen private adoption agency and local adoption attorney often makes the process much easier. Popular reasons to work with adoption agencies are that they can tailor services to satisfy your personal adoption goals. while local agencies may deliver a more personalized experience, national adoptions agencies work from a larger pool of potential adoptive children. The cost of working with an agency is easy to accept when you’re able to walk away with a high-quality match for your family.
Independent Adoptions, working with social workers and an adoption lawyer, can be done for lower costs versus hiring a private adoption agency. What is an independent adoption? An independent adoption involves the adoption of a child who is not in state custody or the custody of a licensed adoption agency, to include the adoption of relatives, non-relatives, and stepchildren.
To pursue an independent adoption you need to consult with an experienced adoption lawyer in Georgia. In Georgia, the state appoints an agent to review private adoption petitions to ensure compliance with Georgia law and DFCS policy. The agent, without any DFCS oversight, will make recommendations regarding the appropriateness of the placement. Subsequently, the family court will make a final determination as to whether or not to approve the adoption.
Adopting Adult in Georgia
Adult adoption is commonly applicable for situations where a person of legal age is incapable of living an independent life. Adult adoption allows for the full physical and legal care of a person who otherwise would need to be institutionalized.
The state of Georgia has provided for the adoption of adult persons in 2010 Georgia Code, O.C.G.A. 19-8-21. The code reads as follows:
- (a) Adult persons may be adopted on giving written consent to the adoption. In such cases, adoption shall be by a petition duly verified and filed, together with two conformed copies, in the superior court in the county in which either any petitioner or the adult to be adopted resides, setting forth the name, age, and residence of each petitioner and of the adult to be adopted, the name by which the adult is to be known, and his written consent to the adoption. The court may assign the petition for hearing at any time. After examining each petitioner and the adult sought to be adopted, the court, if satisfied that there is no reason why the adoption should not be granted, shall enter a decree of adoption and, if requested, shall change the name of the adopted adult. Thereafter, the relation between each petitioner and the adopted adult shall be, as to their legal rights and liabilities, the relation of parent and child.
- (b) Code Section 19-8-19, relating to the effect of a decree of adoption, and Code Section 19-8-20, relating to notice of adoption, shall also apply to the adoption of adults.
Do I Need An Adoption Lawyer?
You’ve made one of the most important decisions of your life. You want to adopt a child. You know in your heart that you will raise and love this child as your own. You are financially, mentally and physically ready to take on this challenge. Becoming a parent is all you think about. This experience can be an exciting, exhilarating event that you will cherish forever. Unfortunately, adopting a baby can also be your worst nightmare if you do not take the time to hire the right adoption lawyer.
If you are pursuing an international adoption you definitely need to hire an adoption lawyer. Ideally, you can find an adoption lawyer who has previously worked with the adoption process in the country you choose.
The adoption process is a delicate endeavor that, if done correctly, will make each step toward parenthood as smooth and uncomplicated as possible. However, in order for things to proceed effortlessly, you cannot just hire any lawyer. You need to hire an adoption law firm well-versed in every nuance of your state’s private or public adoption proceedings to protect yourself from potential heartbreak and financial problems.
Lawyers Can Prevent Legal Problems
As a first-time adoptive parent, you might not be aware of the extent of legal problems that can arise throughout the process of adopting a child. For example, before you receive the child, the birth mother and father must sign a consent to adoption. If they both do not sign this, one or both of them could try to take the child away from you at a later date. This can obviously cause you inconsolable heartbreak.
Additionally, before the birth of the child, you might agree to pay all or part of the birth mother’s living and hospital expenses. The birth mother might try to take advantage of your generosity. An inexperienced lawyer can easily miss critical points or botch legal necessities. However, an experienced adoption lawyer can protect you from being held responsible for expenses outside of your agreement.
Lawyers Can Evaluate Your Proposed Adoption Agency
You might be impressed with your chosen adoption agency. They might dazzle you with good references, professional brochures, and knowledgeable employees. However, while things might begin well, they can often go sour quickly if you do not have the right adoption lawyer there to help you uncover important issues.
Critical adoption issues often overlooked include birth family mental and physical health history, and obvious indications that one or both of the birth parents will change their minds after the birth of the child. Some hospital staff member might try to change the mind of the birth parents. Well-meaning family members might also try to do the same.
Adopting vs. Foster Parenting
Although both adoption and foster parenting can make a huge difference in the life of a child, they are different in style and purpose. Foster care and adoption both involve direct care-taking for a child or children who are not biologically your own. The core difference between the two is that foster parenting is usually temporary while adoption is of a permanent nature.
The ChildWelfare.gov website explains it in this way, “As a foster parent, you have no legal parental rights, and decision-making is shared by the agency, you, and perhaps the birth parents. However, when you adopt, you acquire the same legal rights and responsibilities for your child as birth parents have for their biological children.”6
If you want to make huge difference in the life of a child, and you’re not yet sure about adoption, foster parenting may be an interesting foray into parenting. To learn more about becoming a foster parent you can visit the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate website. The website offers a wealth of information on How to Become a Foster Parent.
If you are considering becoming adoptive parents we can help you achieve great results. Our compassionate, experienced adoption lawyers can help you find a reputable adoption agency to fulfill your request for becoming a new adoptive parents.
FOOTNOTES & CREDITS
- 1 GA Division of Family and Children Services, “Post Adoption Services”, March 13, 2019, Available from Georgia Division of Family and Children Services
- 2 GA Division of Family and Children Services, “Prospective Adoptive Parents”, August 5, 2021, Available from FosterGeorgia.net
- 3 Staff Writer, “Georgia State Adoption Assistance Program”, June 4, 2021E, Available from North American Council on Adoptable Children
- 4 GeorgiaLegalAid, “What should I know about adoption assistance for children with special needs?”, March 27, 2022, Available from Georgia Legal Aid
- 5 Meghan Rivard, “What IS the Adoption Tax Credit?”, December 22, 2017, Available from Adoption.com
- 6 Staff Writers, “Families Considering Foster Care and Adoption”, June 27, 2019, Available from ChildWelfare.gov
- Photo by S Herman & F. Richter on Pixabay