Whenever I meet someone that has adopted/gone through fertility or is about to go through this journey, I get so excited as if we are both a part of a club. This weekend I met a young man that has custody of his 10 month old nephew and he wants to adopt him. I loved hearing his story. It was full of sadness, love, hope, anxiety, frustration, uncertainty, and compassion. As I listened to his story, I was reminded of our adoption to our daughter. I was so glad for my experience to be able to help him on his journey towards adopting his nephew. I provided him tips, resources, cautions, and encouragement.
It’s hard when family members make choices that require the State to step in and remove their children. We have a connection to our family and a desire to take care of them. Taking responsibility for children of family members comes with its own set of challenges. I’m going to share with you how you can adopt a family member.
First, it’s important to gain custody. So many families that I have met don’t have custody, they often have power of attorney or just a verbal “take care of my children while I go live my life”. This does not allow the child to gain permanency. Children sense when life is temporary. They need consistency and a schedule to give them the security that they need. Go to your nearest family court and file a petition for custody. The cost to file the petition and serve the orders was under $150.
There are two ways you can gain custody. One way is to have the parent’s willfully sign over custody to you at family court. The other way is through kinship placement through foster care. This PDF provides more detailed information about kinship permanency placement. (This way requires some classes through Foster Parent Training, but bonus is that you can be paid the foster care stipend to help ease your financial burden) Understanding how each way to gain custody works, will assist you in washing the worry away.
For us, we got both parents to agree to us gaining temporary custody. A week after we gained custody, the father asked us if we wanted to adopt and signed over his rights. That’s when we hired an attorney. Having an attorney that understands adoption is really key to a successful process. I’ve heard horror stories of couples hiring an attorney that took 2 years to finalize an adoption. Ours took 12 months, only because the judge made us wait to our anniversary date of having custody.
How much should an adoption attorney cost? It depends on your area. It depends on their experience. It depends on if you can negotiate a good price. Network with other families that have adopted. Ask them who they used, were they happy with their work, and what did they charge you. Here’s a list of TN Adoption Attorney’s. Rebecca Sierra Woods helped us adopt all three of our children. She charged us $1700 for everything which included termination of parental rights, 2 or 3 court appearances, and the birth certificates once the adoption was finalized. When the judge saw her paperwork, she stated that it was done correctly, which apparently the attorney right before us hadn’t done right. I originally met her in a women’s networking lunch way before we ever considered adopting.
You’ll need a home study. I researched local organizations that provide a home study. I found one for $1000. When we adopted through foster care, that cost was eliminated because the State paid for it. Look for a local company that will not drag out the process. It took 3-6 months from start to finish because they have to come visit your home several times and observe the child in your home. I felt very exposed during this stage of the process because they ask for so much information. We provided information about our budget, assets, credit/debts, and income. They also ask you questions about your relationship, how you communicate, what was your childhood like, and verify that you can financially provide for a child.
This is where having a Family Money Coach will come in handy. I will help you establish your spending plan, set your goals to have savings, review your credit and set up a plan for repair or repayment, and help with communication about your finances. I can also help with finding money to pay for the attorney fee, court fees, home study fee, and make sure you are aware of the monthly financial obligations you will face as you take on another mouth to feed. During our money coaching program, I will hold you accountable to help you reach your goal of providing a safe, secure home to your family member that you are adopting. There are so many layers to adopting a family member, let me help you peel back the financial layer.