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Adoption Process 101: The Basics


One of the most enjoyable aspects of family law is the chance to bring together loving parents with children who need them. For many, the journey to become adoptive parents stems from infertility. For others, the choice is one made out of a generous desire to provide stable care for especially medically or emotionally-challenged young people. Some start by fostering while others adopt relatives or stepchildren who can benefit from the constancy of caring parents. Whatever the path to adoption, it is a joyous part of the family law practice and we are pleased to be able to help people grow their families in this way.

For those just considering the adoption process, here are a few of the basics to get started. The links provide more specific adoption information regarding each topic.

Home Study

The first step in the adoption process is to complete a home study. A home study consists of interviews by social workers, a review of finances, background checks and at least one visit to the home. During the home visit, the social worker will be looking for a safe and comfortable environment for a child to grow up in. To find a home study provider, look online, contact the Department of Human Services or consult a private adoption attorney.

The home study expires after one year, takes approximately 6-8 weeks to complete and should cost $1000-$1500.

“Since the home study is only good for a limited time and is somewhat expensive, be ready to go,” Private Adoption Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler suggests “Adoptive parents don’t have to have a child already in mind, but don’t get the home study done when you are just starting to think about adoption.”

If the home study does expire before an adoption is complete, social workers will need to do a follow-up visit to reaffirm the information from the initial home study is still applicable.

Social workers share tips on preparing for the home-visit of the home study in the blog “Adoption Home Study Preparation Tips” on Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates’ website.

Foster System

“Getting into the foster system in Michigan is probably the best way to find a baby to adopt,” says Michigan Private Adoption Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler.

In addition, if the adoptive parents start out in the foster parent system, the Department of Human Services pays for the home study.

Agency-Facilitated or Direct-Placement Adoption

Once the home study is at least initiated, determine if an agency-facilitated adoption or direct-placement adoption is preferable. With agency-aided adoption, the child would be released to an adoption agency that is then charged with finding the most suitable match. A direct-placement adoption means the birth parents transfer the baby directly to the adoptive parents. A direct-placement domestic adoption in Michigan takes six or more months from the time the petition is filed to confirmation by court order. Obviously, it can take much longer if there are complications.

The costs are similar between an agency and direct adoption. An agency-facilitated adoption will probably cost about $10,000. Costs for adoption using a Private Adoption Attorney would likely be similar but could be less “if all goes smoothly with the birth parents signing off voluntarily and quickly,” said Wayne-Spindler.

Open vs. Closed Adoption

When contemplating adoption, many people have a picture in mind of how much contact between the child and birth parents they feel is appropriate. Adoptive and birth parents may not always see eye-to-eye on this point. There are enough compromises and middle ground that this should not be a deal-breaker when all other aspects of the match are in place. An adoption attorney can help both sides negotiate a workable “semi-open” adoption plan.

GLBT Second Parent Adoption

Although Michigan currently does not provide options for same-sex couples to adopt one-another’s children, second-parent adoption may become legal should the U.S. Supreme Court okay same-sex marriage in the anticipated June 2015 ruling. Here’s an advance look at what Michigan Second Parent Adoption might look like in the future.

Stepparent Adoption

The stepparent adoption process can be initiated once they have been married to the parent for 6 months. The first step is for the custodial parent to obtain the other parent’s voluntary consent to terminate parental rights to the children or to go through the courts to have parental rights revoked. The custodial parent must show that the other parent had the right and ability to have contact with the children and provide support for the children over the course of two years and did not do so. Once the parental rights of the non-custodial parent have been revoked, the stepparent can adopt giving them full legal rights to make medical, educational, financial and legal decision on the children’s behalf.

For advice about the adoption process, contact Private Adoption Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler at 248-685-8888.