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Pre-adoptive social studies: What will yours look like and what should you expect

Attempting to adopt a child is one of the most generous and loving acts you can undertake. If you have already filed your petition for adoption, you have likely come to realize that there will be a social study completed on you, your spouse, and your household. This is true whether or not you are a child's stepparent, another relative of the child, or are unrelated to the child. Rather than trying to figure out what a social study means for you and your family in the moments before one is ordered to be done, I recommend learning as much as possible beforehand.

In the social study, you will have a chance to discuss with the professional assigned to your case what your goals are in the adoption and how you and your family are prepared to take on the tremendous responsibility of raising a child well. At the same time, some people would consider this an invasive aspect of the case it does not have to be. If you are prepared for what to expect, you can prepare yourself and collect your thoughts well before meeting with anyone who comes into your house.

On behalf of the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, I would like to spend today's blog post discussing this topic with you all. I can scarcely think of any more important issue in today's world of families in transition and children in need. If you have any questions or seek clarification on any topic we cover today, please do not hesitate to contact our office today.

What is the purpose of adoption in Texas?

Just so we can all start with the same knowledge on adoption, I wanted to share with you what adoption is all about in our state. Adoption exists in Texas to create a parent-child relationship between you as an adoptive parent and your child. Once you are named the adoptive parent, there is no distinction between you as an adoptive parent and a biological parent. You are assuming the permanent roles of care, custody, and control that a biological/birth parent would have.

Your commitment is a complete one, both to the court and to your child, that you will provide the necessities of life for your child. The court does not play an active and involved role in your life after your adoption petition is granted. Likewise, there is no "sliding scale" of care that you can provide your child with due to your being "only" an adoptive parent. You're in it fully at this point.

Where can I file a Petition for Adoption in Texas?

A lawsuit in which you seek to adopt a child should be filed in the county where the child resides or where you reside. It does not matter if another court in Texas has jurisdiction over the child in other family law-related matters. However, keep in mind that the other case does not have to be transferred into your family law court.

You cannot go about the adoption alone if you are married

If you are married, your spouse must enter into the adoption process as a party to the case. If you and your spouse get divorced during your adoption case, then the court can dismiss your request for adoption until you can seek leave of court to amend your petition to include only your name.

Termination of at least one parent's parental rights is necessary

There cannot be three parents of a child in Texas, and as such, one of the child's legal parents must have their rights terminated. Once this has happened and the child has lived in your home for at least six months, you can move forward with the adoption process.

Why is a social study done in conjunction with your adoption case?

The judge in your case has a large amount of responsibility on their shoulders in handling your adoption case. He or she must decide that naming you as their legal mother or father is in the child's best interests. In making that decision, you will be scrutinized a great deal. The social study functions to provide the judge with additional information regarding your persona and home environment when you are not in the courtroom. The social worker assigned to your case acts as the court's eyes and ears in relaying information and making recommendations either for or against you.

When your social worker enters your home, your family members will be met individually and then as a group. The reason is that the worker will want to see how well you relate to one another as a group and also how you respond to questions when separated.

It is expected that a background search is a part of this process. A search of your criminal, employment, and general background histories will be run to determine if there are any skeletons in your closet that render you unfit to become an adoptive parent. Past incidents involving drugs, alcohol, or CPS are sure to be looked at harshly.

Any other children who live in your household that are of age (say, older than 10) will be interviewed individually. In addition to your children, you will provide a list of references for your social worker to reach out to for additional information about you.

What happens once the social study is completed?

When the social worker has completed their study, a report will be created for submittal to your judge. Once it is filed, you will receive a copy along with your attorney. At the end of the study, a recommendation will be made by the social worker that either the adoption should move forward or should not be approved.

In the event that the social worker recommends that your adoption application be approved and continued, there would be a final hearing in your case where a judge would render a decision on your petition. Keep in mind that if you are not recommended for adoption, you can work with the social worker in most cases to improve areas of your life or to clear up discrepancies to gain the worker's recommendation. In these areas, an attorney is an excellent advantage for you to have.

What documents are required in a Texas adoption?

Just to put a bow on this subject, I wanted to run through the documents that will be required in your adoption case in addition to the pre-adoptive social study.

A Health, Social, Educational, and Genetic History Report will be compiled unless you are a blood relative or stepparent. This requirement may be waived if you cannot locate the child's biological parents.

If your child is over the age of 12, they must provide a written consent form to the court regarding their preference on whether or not you should be able to adopt them.

Criminal History Report, as discussed above. You and your spouse will have a criminal background search completed.

Exceptional circumstances for adopting a child from a foreign country will be discussed tomorrow.

If you are a Texas resident interested in adopting a child from another country, we will discuss some topics related to this subject at the outset of tomorrow's blog post. Stay tuned to our blog to learn more about this issue.

Questions about adoption and the pre-adoptive social study? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

If you are interested in adopting a child and need to learn more or have information clarified for you, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We work on behalf of southeast Texas families just like yours to accomplish their goals and objectives. A free-of-charge consultation with a licensed family law attorney is only a phone call away.

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