Submitted by Danelle Stone, B.S.S.W., Director of Adoption
If you can be a swing-pusher, a jump-shot-helper, or a clarinet-listener, then YOU can be a foster or adoptive parent.
November is National Adoption Month, and what better way to celebrate than taking the time to better understand local adoption services, guidelines, requirements, and the process involved. For anyone thinking about adoption, November is not the only time to act. At any one time there are as many as 20,000 children in Pennsylvania who need placement is safe, stable homes. Homes just like yours. And it’s people just like you who are able to provide the kind of nurturing environment where these children can realize their full potential. If you are considering becoming a foster or adoptive parent, you probably have a lot of questions. The information in this article, provided by Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services, will serve as a reference for those wanting to learn more. If you would like to learn more about local foster care and adoption services, please call Catholic Charities at 814-456-2091, or visit www.cccas.org.
Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services
Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services of the Diocese of Erie offers a full range of adoption services for the Diocese of Erie. The agency has been approved by the State Department of Public Welfare for adoptive placements and accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Services for Families and Children, Inc.
The adoption process has as its main objective the well being of children. The needs of a child serve as the main determinant of the total service, although the independent needs and interest of the birth parents and adoptive parents are also fully recognized. The agency’s services and programs reflect a commitment to support children and families.
Guidelines for Prospective Adoptive Parents
Based on our belief of the primary purpose of adoptive services, our focus in selecting adoptive families centers around various qualities that are exhibited by the prospective adoptive applicants which tend to show awareness and understanding of, and concern for not only his/her own human needs, but also the needs of a child. These certain qualities include flexibility, stability, maturity and an understanding of the parent-child relationship. Although difficult to pinpoint and define, these qualities are indispensable for happy and successful parenthood. Along with the ability to understand and show concern for others, a couple must experience a satisfying mutual relationship.
In addition to the requirements listed above, adoptive applicants must meet the following criteria:
- Resident of the Diocese of Erie throughout the adoption process
- Couple are required to be married at least one year
- A couple’s marriage should be recognized according to the practices of their faith
- All applicants must be members in good standing of a church
- Upon placement of a child in an adoptive home, a leave of absence from work is required by at least one adoptive parent. The length of time is determined by the personal policies of the adoptive parents’ employer.
The Adoption Process
The adoption process consists of application, home study, placement, supervision and finalization.
Application and Adoption List
Prospective adoptive parents who contact Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services decide whether to pursue infant, special needs, transracial or international adoption after receiving information about agency fees and eligibility criteria, including age limits and the appropriate length of wait until the child will be placed in their home. Upon completion of the adoption application, their names will be added to the waiting list based on the type of child/children they are seeking to adopt and the date of their application. In compliance with the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act, placement of a child cannot be delayed solely on the basis of race.
The Home Study Process
The purpose of the home study is to prepare a family for adoption. The home study consists of interviews with the applicants, interviews with selected references and home visits. The adoptive applicants will be required to submit documents and to complete forms as requested by the agency. A list of all required documents and forms will be given to the adoptive family prior to beginning the home study. The home study must be conducted and approved by the agency.
In the process of assessing a couple’s potential as a parent, the agency considers each couple on an individual basis, recognizing that there is no right or perfect model of parenthood, but that the separate characteristics and values which each spouse brings to their marital relationship and to parenthood must be assessed in the context of the whole person and of their marital relationship. In assessing the couple, consideration is given to such characteristics as the following:
- Reasons for wanting to adopt, attitudes towards their infertility, attitudes toward birth parents that are unable to parent their child and an understanding of the parent-child relationship.
- Ability to provide for the physical care of the child in which the couple’s age, physical health, economic stability, career plans and expectations and number of children already in the home are factors.
- Families applying for adoption do not need to be Roman Catholic but must practice a religious faith and have the child baptized or an equivalent service if not in a Catholic home.
- The adoptive parents must be United States citizens and reside in the Diocese of Erie.
- Home ownership is not required. However, the adoptive parents must live in a residence that supplies the child with adequate room and a safe environment. There is no set income requirement, but the family must be able to live within its means with the addition of a child to the family.
- Single parents are eligible to become adoptive parents for some programs. Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoptive Services understands that, in very exceptional situations, a good home can be provided by a single parent.
- The adoptive parents must possess the ability to accept the child to be adopted and his or her history, and possess the ability to meet the child’s developmental, racial/cultural or psychological needs.
- All children placed for adoption through Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services are required to receive all recommended vaccinations.
- Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services discipline policy emphasizes the use of positive reinforcement to modify behavior and teach children self-discipline. Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services does not permit the use of physical punishment as an acceptable means of discipline. All families are required to abide by the Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services discipline policy.
Placement of Children
The opportunity for adoption at Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services is not denied any child for reasons of age, sex, religion, race, nationality or handicaps that do not preclude living in a family. Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services endeavors to place all children with families available from its own applicants for adoption. Where this is not possible, placement is sought by utilizing other adoption agencies and adoption exchanges.
Birth Parent’s Involvement
Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services believes that the decision to place one’s child for adoption must be made freely and with the awareness of its implications. Therefore, for the sake of the birth parents’ well-being, Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services work closely with the birth parents prior to filing a petition to voluntarily end his/her parental rights. Every effort is made to ensure that the birth parents’ decision to relinquish the child is based on his/her conviction that this is the best course for him/herself and for the child. The birth father is strongly encouraged to participate in the counseling process. All services to birth parents and their parents and/or guardians are provided without condition and free of charge.
The birth parents may participate in the selection of the adoptive family for their child be reviewing non-identifying information and autobiographical letters written by waiting families. The goal of Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services is to place a child in a home where the child’s individual needs can be met and both sets of parents desire the same degree of openness. Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services will honor the birth parents’ criteria to the extent possible among available families. Openness may include such things as the exchange of pictures and letters, meeting the adoptive parents before placement or sending gifts to the child.
When a child is ready for placement and a family has successfully completed the home study process, the potential parents are invited to review all non-identifying information, including medical history, ethnic heritage, general family background and legal standing of the child. An understanding of the child to be adopted and his or her individual needs are discussed, as well as all legal documents and agency forms.
The adoptive family may decline a child for any reason. On their intake and during the home study process, a family identifies the type of child they feel realistically prepared to parent. The decision of a family to decline the placement of a particular child does not prejudice the family’s eligibility for the placement of another child.
Termination of Parental Rights
It is the policy of the Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services to end the rights of both birth parents by a court hearing. Where Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services has good reason to believe parental rights will be terminated, it may place infants directly upon discharge from the hospital following birth into the adoptive home is this is acceptable to both the birth parents and the adoptive parents.
Pre-Adoptive Foster Care is available to those infants where there is notable doubt that parents rights will be legally ended. A baby may be placed with the adoptive parents after a limited time in foster care. This type of placement is called a “legal risk placement” because the court process regarding parental rights to a child has not been finalized. It may be necessary at times for the infant to remain in foster care until the parental rights are terminated. If the baby is over two months of age, pre placement visits will be scheduled for the baby and the adoptive parents.
Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services requires a minimum of six months of supervision after placement of a child with the adoptive applicant. A minimum of three home visits will be made by Adoption Counselors during this time. The purpose of the supervisory visits is to support the adoptive family with the integration of the child into the home. The purpose of these visits is discussed during the home study process so that families can look to these visits as a source of help and information. The length of the supervisory period varies according to the type of adoption, the needs of the family and child and applicable state laws.
After the supervision period ends, the petition of adoption is submitted to the court. The adoption is finalized when the decree is granted during the court hearing. Adoptive couples will need their own attorney to handle this process.
If you would like to learn more about local foster care and adoption services, please call Catholic Charities at 814-456-2091, or visit www.cccas.org.