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Adoption Law

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What Happens During The Adoption Probationary Period?

After a child has been placed with the adoptive family, their social worker or court representative continues their investigation by monitoring the placement for a while, generally six months. During the period of supervision, the assessor will make regular visits to the adoptive home to observe the family and check on the child's wellbeing.

The adoption worker will talk to the family and child and check with the child's doctor and school to determine their progress and adjustment. After the six-­month period, the assessor generally submits a written report to the court that sets forth a recommendation on the pending adoption. The assessment could recommend granting the adoption or denying the adoption. Because adoption law is established by the state, we suggest consulting an adoption attorney in your area to give you the best advice on your adoption process.

Probationary Period in an Adoption

To be approved for adoption, some states require parents to be approved or licensed to foster children, even if they never intend to be foster parents. The approval process may be the same process to be certified for an adoptive home.

When the family has been selected as potential adoptive parents, a transitional plan helps introduce the child and transition into full-time placement in the home. In the introductory period, initial visits may involve a couple of hours and progress to overnight and weekends in the home. When an adoption agency or state division has placed a child in a certified adoptive home, pending the final adoption hearing, the child is still subject to additional investigation.

How Long Is the Probationary Period?

The probationary period is generally six months but can be longer or shorter, depending on the circumstances. In most cases, the court will hear the petition for adoption within 6 months of filing. However, if the child has already resided in the home of the prospective parents for six months or one year, the hearing can be conducted sooner.

The probationary period may also be shortened where:

  • The child is suffering from a debilitating disease
  • The parent is terminally ill
  • The adoptive parent has already successfully adopted another child
  • Other reasons based on the needs and welfare of the child

The probationary period may also be delayed based on a change in circumstances. This includes situations where criminal records results are still pending or for other good cause.

Visits to the Adoptive Home

During the probationary period, welfare workers will visit the home to inspect the home, talk to the parents, talk to the child, and conduct any other investigations. This is similar to the preplacement investigation conducted before the prospective adoptive parent is approved by the agency for adoption. The investigator will observe the adopted child and verify the information in the adoption petition. The purpose of the in-home visit is to determine if the parents are financially and physically able to care, supervise, and control the child,

School and Doctor Visits

The investigative agency may also visit the child's school to talk to teachers about the child. This may include looking for signs of abuse, lack of integration, or other problems. The investigation may also involve visits to the child's doctor, counselor, or health care providers to ask about the child's health condition and health plans. Your adoption attorney can offer guidance during this time when you are anxiously waiting for approval to finalize the adoption.

Can the State Waive the Probationary Period?

In some cases, the state can omit the probationary period and go straight to entering a final order of adoption if the court finds it is in the child's best interests. This may include where the child has lived with adoptive parents for some time and has already been visited by adoption agency representatives.

There may only be limited options to waive the probationary period. The court may lean towards requiring probation and visitation to ensure the child's best interests are represented. In states such as Virginia, there may also be exceptions to the six-month time frame when the adoption involves the biological parents, foster families, or stepparent adoptions. Talk to a qualified adoption lawyer about options in your case.

After the Probationary Period

After adoption probation is completed, the social worker, court investigator, or adoption service completes their post-placement reporting requirements. The investigation details the findings based on home visits and relevant evidence. If there were no violations or negative findings, the court can enter the final order of adoption and the adoptive parents will become the new legal parents of the child. The adoption decree is the final step of the adoption process.