Saturday, November 18, 2017, is National Adoption Day. Every year, thousands of Michigan foster children are eligible for adoption by couples and individuals looking to start a family and help a child find a permanent home. Here are a few things adoptive parents should know, before they begin the adoption process.
National Adoption Day happens every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The goal is to connect children all across America with permanent homes and families so that they can grow and thrive. Closer to home, November marks a time when the Michigan family and juvenile courts are trying to finalize as many adoptions as possible before year end, so that those children can celebrate the holidays in their forever-homes.
Last year, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services fostered 12,666 children. Of those, over 6,000 were looking for an adoptive family. But only 2,015 adoptions from fosters were completed. The year drew to a close with thousands of children still in temporary placements.
Types of Adoptions
Agency placements, including those related to foster children, are only one type of adoption. Other options are available, as well. The process depends on the connection between the child and the adoptive parent. The family court performs:
- Step-parent adoptions, uniting parents’ spouses with their step-children for legal and inheritance purposes
- Relative-placement adoptions, providing children support they need within their own families when parents are not fit
- Direct-placement adoptions, giving options to mothers and parents not able to support a child they conceived
- Agency adoptions, helping children pulled from unfit homes find new families who will love and care for them
5 Myths About Michigan Adoption Law
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of confusing information floating around about Michigan adoption law. So let’s set a few things straight:
1. The Adoption Process is Hard
Many Michigan families considering adoption don’t follow through because they have heard how hard the adoption process is. There is a lot of paperwork involved, that is true. But adoption agencies, adoption attorneys, and court social workers are all out to make sure you succeed. There is help to be had obtaining and finalizing the paperwork and making the adoption process easy.
2. Adoptions Are Expensive
The price tag on an agency adoption can sometimes scare potential parents away. But there adoptions don’t have to be expensive. Direct placement adoption and step-parent adoption options can be much less expensive than working with a placement agency. No matter which process you use, there are also tax credits available to adoptive parents, which can offset the agency fees, attorney fees, and costs.
3. Unmarried People Can’t Adopt
There is a rumor that goes around that unmarried people can’t adopt in Michigan. The Michigan Adoption Code does not require an adoptive parent to be married. Instead, this rumor is a misinterpretation of step-parent adoption procedures. The law says that when an individual adopts a child, his or her spouse must generally join in the petition. A case opinion decades ago said that this means two unmarried people cannot adopt the same person. But it does not stand between an unmarried individual and the family he or she wants to create. In fact, every year, nearly 1/3 of all adoptions involve a single parent.
4. Your Life Has to Be Perfect to Pass an Adoption Background Check
It is true that in most adoption procedures, the prospective parents must pass a background check. But just because you got convicted of shoplifting as a teenager doesn’t mean you will fail to qualify. Foster care certifications and adoption home studies are focused on potential parents’ ability to care for their children. Patience, a sense of humor, and a love for children are far more important than the errors of your youth.
5. Same-Sex Couples Can’t Adopt in Michigan
In 2015, Obergefell v Hodges made it legal for same-sex couples to get married in Michigan, and across the country. Justice Kennedy’s opinion centered on how important it is for the children of same-sex couples to have their families legitimized. Same-sex adoption is nothing new, single members of gay and lesbian couples have been adopting Michigan children for decades. But now, married same-sex couples can adopt jointly, ensuring a strong legal bond between parent and child. It is true that under a 2015 law, religious adoption agencies can refuse to serve same-sex couples based on their sincerely held religious beliefs. The ACLU of Michigan is currently suing to prohibit this state-sanctioned discrimination. But there are also a number of inclusive and secular adoption agencies providing services to same-sex couples across the state.
At Schmidt & Long, PLLC, family law attorney Lisa J. Schmidt, has helped many same-sex couples complete second-parent adoptions under Obergefell, bringing everyone under one legal roof. She also helps loved ones and couples finalize relative and direct placement adoptions. If you need help navigating the Michigan Adoption Code, contact Schmidt & Long, PLLC, in Ferndale, Michigan for a consultation.