There are many benefits to becoming an adoptive parent. From providing a loving, stable home to children who need them to allowing couples and single adults to share their life with a child and enjoy the unique experience of parenthood. Adopting a child will be a rewarding and life-changing event for all involved. If you have made the decision to adopt a child or are considering it, it is helpful to have a full understanding of what your adoption options are and how the process works in Oregon. Here’s what you need to know.
You can adopt a child through the State of Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS), or through a licensed private adoption agency, or directly from the birth parent as an independent adoption with the assistance of an attorney. Adoptions are also possible from certain foreign countries. Paid “adoption facilitators” are illegal in Oregon.
Children come into the custody of DHS through court terminations of parental rights or parents voluntarily giving custody of the child to the state. The state then places the children for adoption, sometimes after a period of foster care. Adoption of a child from Oregon foster care is called Special Needs Adoption.
Private adoption agencies are licensed by the DHS and will charge a fee for their services. The rest of this post will take a deeper look at DHS adoption in Oregon. Look for future posts about private and independent adoptions.
To be able to adopt in Oregon, either the adoptive parent, the placing parent, or the person being adopted must have been an Oregon resident for at least 6 months. A single gay or heteosexual person can adopt, as can a married or unmarried gay or hetersoxual couple.
DHS provides training to help prepare you for transitioning children into your family and parenting children who may have experienced disruptions in their life or have been abused or neglected. Training topics may include: adopted children and their special needs, the adoption process, and where to find support and resources for adoptive parents. Once you have decided to adopt, you need to complete an application and provide 4-5 references. A background check that includes a criminal history investigation and child abuse reports will be competed. You will be asked to provide a physical and medical history check to be sure you are in good health and have the ability to care for a child.
After an application is accepted, the home-study process begins. This assessment involves a series of interviews, home visits, and safety/fire inspections. Once you have an approved home-study and the criminal background check is completed, you will be ready for a placement.
Once a placement is made, there will be a period of transition and supervision. Post-placement supervision may last for 6 months. During this time, your case work will schedule monthly visits with you and the child. The last step is for a judge to issue a final decree of adoption. Once this happens, the child is legally part of your family and you have permanent, legal parental rights and responsibilities. Importantly, Oregon provides helpful resources to support and assist adoptive families post-adoption.
Following the adoption, a new birth certificate will be issued by Oregon Vital Records (or the vital records of the state of the child’s birth), showing the adoptive parents as parents and the child under his or her new name. If the child was born abroad, a certificate of foreign birth will be issued by Oregon Vital Records.
It may take 4 to 6 months for the training, family assessment (home-study) and criminal history check to be completed. The time frame from your initial inquiry until a child is placed with you may take up to a year, possibly longer, depending on your personal circumstances and the circumstances of the child you are seeking to adopt. Generally, families waiting for a younger child will wait longer than families who are open to adopting older children, sibling groups, or children with disabilities.
If you need assistance with an adoption in Oregon, whether it be DHS or independent, we welcome you to contact us. Based in Salem, we serve clients throughout Oregon and our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of family law.