Each of these steps in the process is described below....
Prospective adoptive parents who contact Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services decide whether to pursue infant, special needs, transracial or international adoption after receiving information about agency fees, eligibility criteria, including age limits and the approximate length of wait until the child will be placed in their home. Upon completion of the adoption application, their names will be added to the waiting list based on the type of child/children they are seeking to adopt and the date of their application. In compliance with the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act, placement of a child cannot be delayed solely on the basis of race.
The purpose of the home study is to prepare a family for adoption. The home study consists of interviews with the applicants, interviews with selected references and home visits. The adoptive applicants will be required to submit documents and to complete forms as requested by the agency. A list of all required documents and forms will be given to the adoptive family prior to beginning the home study. The home study must be conducted and approved by the agency.
In the process of assessing a couple's potential as a parent, the agency considers each couple on an individual basis, recognizing that there is no right or perfect model of parenthood, but that the separate characteristics and values which each spouse brings to their marital relationship and to parenthood must be assessed in the context of the whole person and of their marital relationship.
In assessing the couple, consideration is given to such characteristics as the following:
1. Reasons for wanting to adopt, attitudes toward their infertility, attitudes toward birth parents that are unable to parent their children and an understanding of the parent-child relationship.
2. Ability to provide for the physical care of the child in which the couple's age, physical health, economic stability, career plans and expectations and number of children already in the home are factors.
3. Families applying for adoption do not need to be Roman Catholic but must practice a religious faith and have the child baptized or an equivalent service if not in a Catholic home.
4. The adoptive parents must reside in the Diocese of Erie.
5. Home ownership is not required. However, the adoptive parents must live in a residence that supplies the child with adequate room and a safe environment. There is no set income requirement, but the family must be able to live within its means with the addition of a child to the family.
6. Single parents are eligible to become adoptive applicants for some programs. Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services understands that a good home can be provided by a single parent.
7. The adoptive parents must possess the ability to accept the child to be adopted and his or her history and possess the ability to meet the child's developmental, racial/cultural or psychological needs.
8. All children placed for adoption through Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services are required to receive all recommended vaccinations.
9. Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services' discipline policy emphasizes the use of positive reinforcement to modify behavior and teach children self-discipline. Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services does not permit the use of physical punishment as an acceptable means of discipline. All families are required to abide by the Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services discipline policy.
The opportunity for adoption at Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services is not denied to any child for reasons of age, sex, religion, race, nationality or handicaps that do not preclude living in a family. Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services endeavors to place all children with families available from its own applicants for adoption. Where this is not possible, placement is sought by utilizing other adoption agencies and adoption exchanges.
Birth Parent's Involvement
Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services believes that the decision to place one's child for adoption must be made freely and with the awareness of its implications. Therefore, for the sake of the birth parents' full well-being, Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services work closely with the birth parents prior to filing a petition to voluntarily end his/her parental rights. Every effort is made to ensure that the birth parents' decision to relinquish the child is based on his/her conviction that this is the best course for him/her and for the child. The birth father is strongly encouraged to participate in the counseling process. All services to birth parents and their parents and/or guardians are provided without condition and free of charge.
The birth parents may participate in the selection of the adoptive family for their child by reviewing non-identifying information and autobiographical letters written by waiting families. The goal of Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services is to place a child in a home where the child's individual needs can be met and both sets of parents desire the same degree of openness. Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services will honor the birth parents' criteria to the extent possible among available families. Openness may include such things as the exchange of pictures and letters, meeting the adoptive parents before placement or sending gifts to the child.
Birth parents are given information on Act 101 of 2010 which allows for ongoing contact with the adoptive parents and child.
When a child is ready for placement and a family has successfully completed the home study process, the potential parents are invited to review all non-identifying information, including medical history, ethnic heritage, general family background and legal standing of the child. An understanding of the child to be adopted and his or her individual needs are discussed, as well as all legal documents and agency forms.
The adoptive family may decline a child for any reason. On their intake and during the home study process, a family identifies the type of child they feel realistically prepared to parent. The decision of a family to decline the placement of a particular child does not prejudice the family's eligibility for the placement of another child.
Termination of Parental Rights
It is the policy of Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services to end the rights of both birth parents by a court hearing. Where Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services has good reason to believe parental rights will be terminated, it may place infants directly upon discharge from the hospital following birth into the adoptive home if this is acceptable to both the birth parents and the adoptive parents.
Pre-adoptive Foster Care is available to those infants where there is notable doubt that parental rights will be legally ended. A baby may be placed with the adoptive parents after a limited time in foster care. This type of placement is called a "legal risk placement" because the court process regarding parental rights to a child has not been finalized. It may be necessary at times for the infant to remain in foster care until the parental rights are terminated.
Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services requires a minimum of six months of supervision after placement of a child with adoptive applicant. Monthly visits will be made by Adoption Counselors during this time. The purpose of the supervisory visits is to support the adoptive family with the integration of the child into the home. The purpose of these visits is discussed during the home study process so that familes can look to these visits as a source of help and information. The length of the supervisory period varies according to the type of adoption, the needs of the family and child and applicable state laws.
After the supervision period ends, the petition of adoption is submitted to the court. The adoption is finalized when the decree is granted during the court hearing. Adoptive couples will need their own attorney to handle this process.