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Adoption & Guardianship

What is Adoption?

Adoption means a lifelong commitment to a child. Adoption is the creation of a new and legally binding parent and child relationship. A court proceeding initiated by the prospective adoptive family asks the court to finalize the adoption.

An approved home study must be completed on the adoptive family and filed with the court. If OCS has permanent custody of the child, OCS must consent to the adoption. When the adoption is finalized, OCS supervision ends, and foster care payments cease. Financial assistance in the form of an adoption subsidy may continue.

Adoptive parents assume all rights and responsibilities for the child, including the right to consent to major medical treatment and to marriage. They can claim the child as a dependent for income tax purposes, and the child can inherit from them. The birth parents do not have visitation rights, although the adoptive family and the birth family may voluntarily agree to some degree of contact and communication.

When is adoption appropriate?

For children who cannot return to their birth parents, adoption should always be explored. Adoption offers greater legal and emotional security for children than do guardianships.

Prospective adoptive parents should understand how crucial it is for children to have families who will make long-term commitments and be there for them into adulthood. Adoptive parents should also recognize that a child's need to stay connected to the birth family might be met through an open adoption.

If prospective adoptive parents are concerned about how they can meet a child's special needs, the OCS social worker can discuss financial help available through a state subsidy program. OCS is responsible for ensuring that families have accurate information regarding adoption and guardianship so they may make informed decisions.