Sunday, October 29, 2017

Step Parent Adoption Interview

Marie* talks about step parent adoption, revealing how her husband's adoption of her daughter made them feel more like a family:
1.      What made you want to adopt?
"We chose to do a step parent adoption as the final legal detail in an already established father/daughter relationship. My husband and I were married when my daughter was 2 and she has never known anyone else but him as her father and we felt it was important for all of us to be a cohesive family sharing one last name." 

2. What was your process like when going through the steps of adoption?

"A bit nerve racking, but we had faith and confidence that we were doing the right thing"


3.      How long had the child been a part of your family before making the adoption final?

"She is my birth daughter and my husband came into our lives right after her 2nd birthday".

4. How did you come to the decision to adopt? Did your daughter get a vote?

"Our daughter does not know she is adopted. Someday when she is old enough to understand, we will casually address it, but she is at a tender age and all she needs to know is that she has a mom, dad and three siblings that love her unconditionally and forever".


5. What does it mean to you now that your daughter has become a part of your family?

"To us it was simply the final step that confirmed we are all one family unit"


6. How has your life been different since the adoption has been finalized?

"Not different at all. We do all the same things together that we always have. She still has homework and a bedtime. :) "


 7. Any advice for people looking to step parent adopt in the future?" It's a wonderful thing to unite a family with unconditional love. It's kind of a second chance for the family and more importantly for the child to experience all that may have not been possible with their birth parent. Step parent adoption is not for everyone and it's a decision that should not be taken lightly. My husband and I are committed to the ups and downs not only of parenting, but also in our marriage, we want to ensure that we are Godly parents to our children and we are responsible for showing them a loving environment and Christian morals". 

8. Anything special you would like to share about what your experience has been like and how your family and life has changed or not changed?  

"I feel so very blessed to have such a wonderful family and a husband who unconditionally loves and supports us. There was a time in my life I did not make the best choices, but with God we have been given forgiveness and he has turned these trials into a beautiful and complete family. It takes anyone to be a biological donor, but it takes a lot of hard work and commitment to be a parent. Those who are willing to do the job should be able to become not only emotionally, physically and financially responsible, but also legally and we are thankful my husband is able to now share all of these with our daughter".

*This is a pseudonym for an actual client of Karen S. Law, Esquire. Interview conducted by Brittany Alness, July 2013.

Disclaimer

This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this web-site are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2017

Monday, October 9, 2017

Disciplining your Adopted Teen

Image result for adoption love
A common fear for parents that have adopted is they are afraid to discipline their child too harshly.  The fear comes from the feeling that their child has already been through so much that the child needs more love than boundaries.  Another common feeling is the fear of further damaging their ego.  While these fears are understandable you still have a child to raise and hopefully, send out to the world as a healthy adult. You have to set boundaries, rules and guidelines as you do with any other child.

The teenage years are already a mess of hormones and peer pressure and trying to figure out identity, especially as an adopted child.  However, limits need to be set and they increase the child's sense of security and belonging in the family if done in the correct way.  Parents often fear the word “no” but if your answer to something really is “no” then you should say it.

In a recent podcast interview, Dawn Davenport talked with Katie Naftzer  about the different skills needed to help your adopted child through their teen years. Their overall tips were:

1. Learn to not rescue your kid
2. Setting adoption sensitive limits
Image result for adopt a teen3. Having "connected conversation"
4. Helping your teen envision their future


1. Don’t backtrack or apologize
2. Don’t negotiate
3. Don’t send mixed messages
4. Convey guidelines and consequences ahead of time
5. Improve your awareness of what is happening in their world

Remember, your teen doesn’t have to agree with you all of the time.  Sometimes you and your teen will make a decision together and other time it will be completely your call.  

Book Recommendation from Dawn Davenport: "Parenting in the Eye of the Storm"

Drafted by Brittany Alness, staff member of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.

Disclaimer

This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this web-site are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2017.

Step Parent Adoption



Step Parent Adoption: What are the steps? Are there specific rules to follow? There are really practical reasons to pursue a step parent adoption, such as everyone in the family having the same name.  Or allowing the new parent to authorize medical care, help a teen obtain a driver's license, or to interact with the child's school.  In some instances, the child's biological parent is not available and it just makes sense to have both parents in the home have legal recognition as the child's parent.

Step Parent Adoption is the most common form of adoption.  Often times when a parent remarries, the new spouse will become more of a parent to the child than the child’s birth parent.  If the child’s birth parent has had little to no contact with the child or is willing to sign a consent, then the process for the step parent adoption is relatively easy. Other scenarios which are fairly straightforward are when the identity of the biological parent is unknown or that parent is deceased.

However, not all step parent adoptions are uncomplicated.  The biological parent's rights must be taken into account. If a biological parent is involved in the child's life and refuses to consent to the adoption, the step parent adoption may be a highly litigated proceeding.  To avoid this outcome, the parties could agree to visitation by the biological parent and this agreement could be incorporated into the adoption decree. Often, an objecting biological parent is most concerned about maintaining contact with the child and the post adoption contact agreement satisfies the concern. 

The steps you will need to take when going through a step parent adoption:

1.       Consult an adoption attorney


2.       Consider whether the biological parent must consent to adoption


3.       Attorney gathers and submits legal forms


4.       Attend the hearing--usually not required

5.       Obtain the final order of adoption--usually a month after the case is filed
6.       Obtain a second birth certificate for the child with the child's new name and the new parent listed as the parent


 Growing up, there was a family down the street from me that had recently lost the father of the house to a severe illness.  The kids at the time were so young, around the ages of 5 and 8.  It was a hard time for everyone, all the neighbors were really close and we were all there supporting each other.  After some time had passed, the mom fell in love and decided to get remarried.  She wasn’t getting remarried to just anyone, she was getting married to one of their close family friends that had been there for her through it all.  He was there helping with the kids while her husband was ill, and continued to take care of her and the two children after he had passed.  At the wedding, they announced that the step parent would be adopting her two children, but that they were still going to honor the kid’s birth father by not changing their last names.  A step parent adoption can provide legal recognition for the new family in a way that still honors the biological parent.


Drafted by Brittany Alness, staff member of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.

Disclaimer

This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this web-site are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2017.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Creating an Adoption Profile

Image result for child and heartAfter you have decided you want to adopt domestically, you must create an adoption profile.  An adoption profile is a book that an expectant mother can go through in order to learn about you and your family to see if she wants to place her child into your home.  For some, this could be a stressful process: what do I put in it? Do I mention I am a hockey fan? How about pictures?  There are so many different questions that could be running through your mind.  Here are a few helpful tips for you and your family when putting together a great adoption profile.
One: It is all in your tone.  While waiting to be chosen to be adoptive parents, you will come across  different expecting mothers looking through your profile.  One may be a 15 year old girl just starting high school, another may be a single mom in her 30s that already has 3 kids; there are many reasons why expectant mothers turn to adoption.  Due to the fact that you don’t know every situation an expectant mother is coming from, you want to be careful not to talk down to her.  You want to be respectful.  This is a difficult time for her and you want to be sensitive to the difficulties she faces, such as lack of support from the father of the child, family pressure, lack of finances to parent.
Also, while writing the introductory letter to your profile you don’t want to use the word “Birth Mother”.  That is implying that the expectant mother has already made up her mind to place the child for adoption.  It is also eliminating the other people that may be helping with the decision, such as the birth father or the birth mother’s mom.  A better term would be “Expectant Parent” or “Mother to Be”. 
Two: Stay true to you.  Your adoption profile is supposed to represent who you are and what you are like on a daily basis.  Expecting mothers sometimes choose a family for an extremely random reason, such as; the type of dog you have, what your favorite football team is, or the fact that you have a big tree in your front yard.  You may never know the reason for someone’s decision.  Don’t hide the fact that you are a die-hard Penguins fan just because someone may not choose you; someone else may choose you just for that very reason.
Image result for scrapbookThree:   Be descriptive in your writing and use more pictures than words. You want the reader to be able to visualize what their baby’s home will be like and the life they might enter into.  Choose the pictures of your home and family that best show off your personality and what you would be like as parents. Include also how you will be willing to keep in contact after the placement is made.  Since this may depend on the situation, you might be general here and express openness for more or less contact depending on the desires of the birth parent.
Four: Don’t include identifying information, but use your first names and the general area where you live.  This is to protect your privacy and because not all placements are “open”.  Instead, prepare a cover letter that will be sent with the profile to the adoption agency and adoption attorneys who will show your profile to birth mothers.  The cover letter should have your full names, addresses, best email and phone numbers, the type of child you feel comfortable parenting (age, ethnicity, special needs), the name of your attorney, and any other parameters that are important to you in terms of birth parents.
We talked to a family that had a very limited time frame in order to put together their adoption profile because the expectant mother was going to pick a family the next day.  We asked them how they pulled this together in such  a limited amount of time.  Here was the outline they used:
1.       Very first page you want to put an introductory/ Dear Mother to be/ To someone special letter.
2.       How you and your spouse met (or just about you if you are adopting alone)
3.       Two family pages, one page from wife’s side of the family  and the other from husbands side
Image result for bear hug4.       If you have a personal connection to someone who has adopted, you can explain why you are drawn to adoption because of that connection. This particular couple had other family members that had gone through the adoption process so they added a page that told a little bit about them, with pictures and explaining why adoption was important to them.
5.       An interest page of the things you enjoy doing, as a couple, as individuals.
6.       The couple wrote a page for each other.  The wife wrote a page on what her husband was like and what she thought he would be like as a dad and her husband did the same for her.
7.       They included a page for their dog and included pictures of him with children so it was easy to see that he relates well to children
8.       The last page was a conclusion letter
Costs:  Some people may think that it costs a lot of money to put together an adoption profile, but this is not the case. The couple we spoke with used Microsoft Publisher to create their profile.  It was easy for them because the expectant mother wanted an electronic copy so they didn’t have to print it but even then, it doesn’t cost much to send it to a local drug store to print it out for you. Another little helpful inexpensive website to use to create your profile  is www.shutterfly.com.  If you have not yet located your birth mother, be sure to print out 5 to 10 hard copies of the profile in addition to the online version.  You will want to give one to your adoption attorney and to other professionals who will share your profile with interested birth mothers. You may also want to post it online on a Facebook page or a parent profile type listing.
Remember to stay true to you and trust that there is a birth mother out there who will be a perfect fit.  She is waiting for someone exactly like you and all that you have to offer.





Drafted by Brittany Alness, staff member of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.

Disclaimer

This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this web-site are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2017

Monday, October 2, 2017

Coping with a failed adoption

https://www.adoptivefamilies.com/adoption-process/coping-failed-adoption-match/


Adoptive Families has highlighted several personal stories of prospective parents and their grief of when a birth mother has a "change of heart" and decides to parent the child instead of going through the adoption process.  They put together a system of how to cope with the loss. Here are some insights from this valuable article:



.
Take time to grieve- Allow yourself to go through the stages of grief.  If you can take time off work and if you don't want to answer the many questions people will ask, share with a friend and have them get the word out before you return.

Accept help-  This is an extremely emotional time, open up to your trusted friends and family. 

Talk to a mental health professional-  Make sure to find someone that specializes in grief, loss, infertility etc.

Realize that people grieve in different ways-  It's okay if you feel like you can't go back to work yet,but your spouse may be able to.  Everyone has their own time and way to deal with the loss and the healing process.

Don't try to figure it out- You can never know the exact reasons for things that happen, so don't exhaust yourself trying to figure out why.

Deal with the child's room in your own way- There is no right or wrong way; if you choose to sit in the room everyday or if you pick to keep the door closed and not go in, you do what you need to do to cope and heal.

Get out of the house-  Getting out of the house and doing things is therapeutic, such as going to see a movie, going on a walk, finding a hobby, or getting back to an activity you once enjoyed.

Express your feelings-  Writing in a journal can help you deal more effectively with your feelings.

Have a closing conversation with your agency or attorney-  They will be able to help you with any residual questions you might have.

Go slow in resuming the adoption process- If this is something you truly want, give yourself the time to heal before starting up the process again.


Know that if this has happened to you that you are not the only one.  There are prospective adoptive parents out there that are also coping and trying to heal from the experience of being so close to having a child placed with them.  It is not unusual to experience a "fall-through" or "disruption" prior to the placement of your child. 





All information from this blog was taken directly from the Adoptive Families website.
Drafted by Brittany Alness, staff member of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.
Disclaimer
This blog and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this blog are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Step Parent Adoption Fact Sheet

How much does a Step Parent Adoption cost?

The usual legal fees are $1500, with the consent, abandonment, or death of the non-custodial parent. If the case is actively contested by a nonconsenting birth parent, the legal fees will be much higher. 

For every case, there also will be additional out of pocket fees depending on the particular case, i.e. printing costs, mailing costs, publication, filing fees, birth certificate fees etc.

How long will a Step Parent Adoption take in Virginia?

Between one to four months once the legal pleadings are filed with the Court.

Can you describe the process?
Image result for dna doesn't make you family love does
  1. Informational meeting with Adoption attorney.
  2. Consider whether the biological parent must consent to adoption or has abandoned the child or is deceased
  3. Attorney gathers information and Clients sign notarized pleadings
  4. Attorney files the pleadings with the Court
  5. Newspaper publication (required for nonconsenting birth parent)
  6. Possible brief investigation by Social Services, a two month process
  7. Obtain the Final Order of Adoption—Court appearance is sometimes required
  8. Obtain a new Birth Certificate with the child’s new name and the new parent listed as the parent - arrives in two to four months.
  9. Client changes name of child on social security card
Image result for step parentWhere do you serve clients?
We work with families within 60 minute travel distance from our office.  If you are outside this area, we may be able to provide a referral to another attorney. 



Drafted by Karen S. Law with assistance from Bernadette Miller and Amanda Wong, staff members of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.

Disclaimer

This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this web-site are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2017.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Virginia Court of Appeals Considers SIJ cases in June

The federal program, Special Immigrant Juvenile Visa Program, is a current path to lawful permanent residency for children who have experienced neglect, abuse or abandonment by a parent and who cannot return to their home countries. To obtain lawful permanent residency requires the child to obtain an Order in his state court prior to filing with USCIS. The Order typically places the child in the custody or adoptive placement of another parent or a third party. Additionally, the Order makes findings of fact (SIJ Findings of Fact) which permit the child to then file for a green card with USCIS.

There is great disparity among states, and even among counties within a state, as to whether to issue the SIJ Order. The Virginia Court of Appeals is considering these questions this month and the outcome of the two cases on appeal will determine the availability of SIJ status for children in Virginia.

The core issue currently plaguing the Virginia courts is a debate surrounding whether local judges have the jurisdiction to making rulings on cases that ultimately will become federal immigration cases. As of now, there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the situation. Inconsistency has sprung up, stemming from differences in experiences between local judges in dealing with visa/immigration cases. In areas which have a large unaccompanied minor population, such as Fairfax County, judges are fairly confident in determining whether the SIJ Order should be issued in a particular case. In contrast, judges who come from localities where visa/ immigration cases are rare, may feel that the decision is outside of their expertise.

Advocates have argued that local courts are in fact, not making immigration decisions but are taking the necessary step for these young immigrants to start the process. The argument is that the SIJ findings of fact are issued within the context of custody or adoption cases that local judges would be familiar with, in which the court decides which living situation is in the child's best interests. Further, that children are vulnerable and in need of protection, which is the mandate of the state court in family law type cases.

Critics have asserted that local judges do not have the authority to make immigration decisions and that the state courts should not get involve in federal immigration issues. Specifically in assessing the two cases being evaluated by the Virginia Court of Appeals, factual questions were raised- whether the biological fathers had knowledge of the proceedings, and whether there was substantial evidence to warrant mistreatment from the fathers. On a larger scale, there is speculation that immigrant parents have been abusing this program and making false claims, with the two parents actually colluding on sending the child to the United States.

Questions have also been raised concerning whether a young undocumented immigrant who joins an illegally documented parent here can legitimately be seen as “unaccompanied.” There  have been bills proposed in the past year to address these issues, with Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) proposing that the term “unaccompanied minor” not apply to those with a suitable guardian in the United States to assume custody. As well as the bill introduced by Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) which would restrict eligibility for the SIJ program to juveniles who don’t have parents in the United States.

Ultimately, the Virginia Court of Appeals decision, expected to be rendered by late June, will clarify which children may use the Virginia Courts to obtain the state court order that would then allow them to apply for SIJ status. Our office has worked with many deserving youth who have benefited from this program and are now attending college or working. We are hopeful that the Court of Appeals decision will bring uniformity to the process in Virginia and clarify that the Virginia Courts do have jurisdiction to render SIJ Orders in the context of custody or adoption cases.

Drafted by Amanda Wong, staff member of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.

Disclaimer

This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this web-site are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2017.