Prior to adopting three kids I didn’t know much about adoption. After adopting three kids I still don’t know much about adoption. (helpful, right?) What I DO know is that the finalization process can look very different depending on how you adopt (international adoption, foster care, adopting thru other states, etc.). Also, if you are adopting kids who have been in foster care, depending on which county & state you adopt from can make things vary as well.
Over the past month as we were talking about our soon to be adoption finalization, people were surprised to find out that our kids weren’t officially ours yet. Most friends thought that when the kids came to live with us back in January, they were ours. They were…and they weren’t. We had signed paperwork saying that we “intended to adopt”, which meant that we had greater legal rights to them than a regular foster parent. For instance, for our protection, if something happened they couldn’t just remove the kids out of our home without first taking us to court. At the same time, the kids were still considered wards of the state (just saying that breaks my heart for the thousands of kids still considered “wards of the state” with no one to adopt them.) Since they were, ok I’m going to say it again, wards of the state, we still had to follow the normal guidelines of a foster parent. Once we would be given the opportunity to go before a judge and “finalize,” our last names would all change to be the same and we would officially be their legal guardians and new birth certificates would be issued. That my friends is what final would mean!
To give you a glimpse into what the past ten months have looked like…here ya go.
When we moved in February we didn’t realize how much moving into a different county would affect things. That meant months of extra paperwork, house inspections, buying and replacing windows in the kid’s bedrooms, etc. to get our license re-established in our new home.
We had monthly home visits from the kid’s social worker.
We had numerous home visits with our adoption worker (different than the social worker) to sign paperwork and talk about where everything was at and when we could expect to finalize. Legally, the kids had to be placed with us for at least three months before we could go to court…anything after that was just the process of paperwork that made the time go longer.
We had multiple visits from our licensing worker (different than the social worker and our adoption worker.)
The only people that could drive our three kids in a vehicle during this time was ourselves, Beth & Joel, and another friend who had taken the required class. In order to transport foster kids (who are in car seats) in a vehicle you must take a 3+ hour class…to make sure you know how to properly use a car seat. You would be surprised at the things that you don’t know (and uh hem, end up forgetting) about car seats (and the numerous amounts of options) out there!
Paperwork…they have paperwork for everything.
When we would go out of town the kids could only be left overnight with people who had completed background checks on file as well as submitted fingerprints. So grandma couldn’t be in charge of the kids unless we…you guessed it, completed more paperwork.
School, Doctor visits, Therapy appointments…everything was under their original legal name. With all of the appointments I had to take them to it was probably most evident to me that we looked like a family in person (they call me “mom”) but don’t look like a family on paper. I am “mom” but not their “legal guardian” (their social worker is considered their legal guardian).
When we decided to go out of state for our first family vacation together we had to submit paperwork asking to temporarily leave the State that we live in. We were approved to go, one day prior to leaving. Phew!
Once we finalized it meant we ALL have the same last name, we are their legal guardians, my mom can drive them in the car and stay overnight with them, our calendar is looking a lot lighter without the extra worker visits, not to mention: no paperwork, no paperwork, no paperwork. My calendar is REALLY looking more open!
The honest truth, the past ten months have been more than challenging. Trying to adjust as a family of seven AND work through all of these factors. Sam would faithfully remind me how much easier life would be once we didn’t have to manage these extra tasks. If I was even more honest, the fact that the county would say “everything is going smoothly” and yet we didn’t have a court date yet would make me wonder if something, or someone could through a wrench in it all. Putting your heart into living like a REAL family and knowing that you aren’t a LEGAL family…well let’s just say that I tried not to think about it too much. Knowing that, however, you can imagine how ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL it was to walk out of the court room knowing that the kids were officially ours…well the feeling just can’t really be expressed! But since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I think it is the perfect day for a post on, What Exactly Happens…or Happened in the Court Room?
Have you adopted? Or do you want to? What was your experience like when it came to finalizing?