Finalizing an adoption in Texas is a long, complex process (one which we've covered in blogs here and here. Many prospective parents underestimate just how involved the adoption process is, leaving them scrambling throughout vital stages as they prepare to welcome a new family member.
One of the most crucial stages of any adoption is the Adoption Evaluation. Understanding how to child-proof your home and what adoption authorities are looking for during home studies can help you move forward with your adoption more easily.
At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, our lawyers can help you find the best path forward in your adoption.
To schedule a consultation with our team or learn more, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313.
What Is an Adoption Evaluation?
When a prospective adoptive parent (or parents) initiates the adoption process, they seldom know that a third-party professional will need to be retained to conduct an Adoption Evaluation. These third-party professionals may be social workers, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, or even psychologists who meet the minimum qualifications outlined in the Texas Family Code.
The third-party professional will conduct an Adoption Evaluation to help ensure that prospective adoptive parents have a safe home and are capable of caring for their adopted children.
However, an Adoption Evaluation isn't as simple as visiting a home and deciding how safe it is. An Adoption Evaluation evaluates a wide variety of factors, some of those factors may include an adoptive parent's:
- Reasoning for adopting;
- Current and Future Health status;
- Marital and familial relationships, both in the adoptive parent’s immediate and extended family circles;
- Applicants’ feelings about their own childhood and parents including any history of abuse and/or neglect;
- Opinions about discipline; and
- Family's ability to work with specific kinds of behavior and backgrounds.
How Long Will and Adoption Evaluation Take?
In general, how long an Adoption Evaluation takes is dependent on the third-party professional conducting the Adoption Evaluation.
Factors that may add to the length of time needed to complete an Adoption Study may include (1) the number of children, (2) the number of people adopting the child (1 adult or 2), (3) the distance between the evaluator’s primary practice location and the home of the perspective parent(s), and (4) the length time it takes for the evaluator to get the documents necessary to complete the Adoption Evaluation.
To make this process run smoothly, it is important that prospective parents keep in contact with the third-party professional and their attorney at all times. It is also important that the prospective parents timely respond to all requested information and take a proactive (instead of passive) role in the Adoption Evaluation Process.
How Do I Hire a Third-Party Professional to Conduct My Adoption Evaluation?
Most third-party professionals that conduct Adoption Evaluations require an appointment from a Court or—at the very least—an official order from the Court granting them the authority to conduct the Adoption Evaluation on the Court’s behalf.
Your attorney, adoption agency (if applicable), Child Protective Services (if adopting through CPS), or the Court may put you in to contact with a third-party professional to conduct your Adoption Evaluation. It is best that you consult with your attorney, adoption agency (if applicable), or Child Protective Services (if applicable), about a recommended or required potential third-party professional. They may only work with certain providers or they may be able to provide you a list of acceptable providers to choose from.
Please do bear in mind that the cost of an Adoption Evaluation will likely depend on how you are adopting the child (through Child Protective Services, an Adoption Agency, or Privately) and may vary by provider.
How Can I Make My Home Safer?
The measures you need to take to prepare your home for an Adoption Evaluation for a prospective adoptive child largely depend on the age of the adoptee. An older child or a teenager will need less safety-proofing than an infant.
For the purpose of this blog, we'll be covering some general baby-proofing measures you want to take, as well as general safety-proofing precautions you can take for any age.
- Rounding off sharp corners. One of the simplest steps you can take to make your home safer is rounding off any sharp edges your adoptee could run into, especially if the adoptee is a baby or have more limited mobility. This includes things like sanding down door frames, running protective rubber around sharp edges, installing rounded counter-tops, etc.
- Install child-proof handles on cabinets and doors. This can help you keep track of your adoptee and stop them from getting into anything that's dangerous.
- Anchor heavy items and furniture. This will keep it from toppling over onto your child.
- Check the stairs. Accidents are extremely common on staircases. You may want to install a baby gate on either side of the stairway to keep your child from hurting itself on it, and by making sure the railing can easily be used by non-adults.
- Make a space for the child. You don't need to customize it specifically for them until you finalize the adoption but setting up a room for them with basic amenities that are comfortable and suits your prospective adoptee's needs will go a long way.
Generally, the more amicable you are with the third-party professional, the easier it will be to complete the home study efficiently and effectively. Get to know the third-party professionals working on your case—they can provide you with valuable tips and information about the adoption process and help you finalize your adoption.
At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, our attorneys will work with you and usher you through the adoption process in Texas.
Contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313 to schedule a consultation with our team.