Right now, there are more than 8,000 children in foster care in Tennessee. The State offers a comprehensive overview of the system and how it should work on TN.gov, but the truth is a lot of kids need homes: sometimes temporarily, and sometimes permanently. As someone who helps families grow through adoption, I’m aware of just how many kids out there are looking for a place where they belong.
November is National Adoption Month, and local groups and adoption agencies are doing their best to get the word out. I can think of no worthier cause; adoption is exciting and thrilling (and maybe a little scary, too, for parents and kids alike). Knowing that your family is now whole is an extraordinary feeling, and I wanted to let you know a little bit about the process here in Tennessee, so you can be fully prepared.
The home study is vital
Even if you’ve been fostering the same child for years, there’s an awful lot of paperwork that goes into adopting a child. Even a tiny mistake, like a typo, could keep you from the next step. I point this out because it’s really important that you work with an attorney who can help you through these initial stages.
You’ll need to:
- Submit an Adoption Application for Parenting to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services
- Complete 30 hours of education and self-assessment
- Submit to a home study conducted by a licensed child placement agency (which you may already be familiar with, if you’re fostering) as well as a written home study
The home studies are, perhaps, the most important part of the process. The state and the agency with which you work need to ensure that the child will be safe and protected in your home. Any whiff of impropriety and you could be denied a home study, and therefore denied a chance to adopt your child. It’s a safeguard for the children, and a good one, so you want to make sure that you cross every “t” and dot every “i” during these stages.
However, this process can be easier when it involves step-parent adoption, since one natural, biological parent remains involved. This type of adoption is oftentimes a good solution when only one biological parent is out of the child’s life, and the remaining parent has a spouse or partner who wants to adopt the child.
Things can get a little “weird” afterwards
Adoption can be a lengthy (and perhaps expensive) process, but it’s totally worth it: your family is growing! But sometimes people don’t react the way you think they would. You might have friends or family who aren’t as supportive as you thought they’d be, or you and your spouse might disagree about something that you both assumed you saw eye-to-eye on. There might be days where you’re angry with your child, with your spouse, with yourself, and find yourself second-guessing your decision.
It’s totally normal, and it’s okay. Every parent feels that way sometimes, no matter what journey they took to become parents. I’ve raised children myself, and I can tell you that while it’s not always easy, it’s ALWAYS rewarding.
So whether you’re a foster parent looking to adopt, a family looking to grow, or an advocate for the rights of children and families, let’s all work together to get the word out about National Adoption Month, and help kids in Tennessee get the homes they dream of having.
If you’re looking for an experienced Maryville family law attorney to help you with the adoption process, I’m ready to help. Please contact my law firm, Shepherd and Associates, P.C. by filling out this contact form or by calling 865.225.9655. Let’s plan your family’s future together.