1. Development of Permanent Placement Resources
Successful adoption recruitment strategies for teens are very different from those directed at locating families for younger children. Traditional adoption recruitment efforts tend to attract families seeking to adopt infants and young children. If those same strategies are used to attempt to attract families interested in adopting teens, the rate of success is minimal. There are logical reasons for this:
• Teens in foster care are, first and foremost, teenagers. Average teens from average families are at a developmental stage that is typified by pulling away from family, not by joining into a family.
• Teens in foster care are unfairly prejudged as being emotionally disturbed, delinquent, violent, and/or generally incapable of being part of a family.
• Many adoption recruitment workers would rather put their energies in getting more younger children adopted, rather than focusing on the few teens who need adoptive placement.
• Most families would not consider adopting a teen unless they knew him or her personally.
• Most teens would not consider being adopted, unless they knew the potential adoptive parent personally.
• Many teens resist the concept of adoption for a variety of reasons: they may not want to change their name (although they do not have to do so), or they may feel that accepting adoption means that they would not see their relatives again, (although this may be worked out). They may feel that they do not deserve a permanent home. They may be concerned that if they agree to adoption, no family would step forward to provide a permanent home for them. They do not want to be rejected again.
• Many agencies do not make a concentrated effort to help teens to create new connections with caring adults, nor do they ask the youth to help them identify adults that they already know and trust.
The Older Child Adoption and Permanency Movement, Inc. (http://www.yougottabelieve.org/us.htm) has several proven strategies for developing adoption resources for teens.
2. General Recruitment for Permanent Homes
As with all recruitment efforts, outreach efforts should be targeted to the communities that have a racial, ethnic, racial, religious, and cultural background similar to the youth for whom we are recruiting. Educational presentations should be held to advertise the need to find permanent homes for teens and preteens. The specified purpose of these events is to encourage the community to help to prevent homelessness of teens exiting the system. We know that youth leaving the foster care system as adults without strong personal support systems are much more likely to face homelessness than those who do have these relationships. During these presentations prospective adoptive parents should be given an opportunity to hear directly from adolescents in foster care and to learn about the type of “parenting” that is needed by these teens.
Advertising for these events are distributed where the people are likely to see them: supermarket bulletin boards, ethnic newspapers and media, leaflets in restaurants, announcements in churches, mosques, and synagogues, within tribal organizations, etc.
3. Youth-Specific Recruitment
All teens in foster care have some emotional attachments to others in order to have survived. They have created their own “families.” These “families” may consist of friends, parents of friends, current and/or former foster parents, teachers, coaches, cottage parents, maintenance staff, relatives, older siblings or friends who are now adults, neighbors, church members, Guardians ad Litem, social workers, employers, counselors, etc. We need to ask these youth about these connections and to help them strengthen these relationships. There are often more than a dozen people currently in each youth’s life that could be approached about offering a permanent home to the youth. Asking youth to invite persons of their own choosing to participate in their planning reviews helps us to know who some of these people are.
In addition to identifying existing resources, we have the responsibility to help youth to develop connections that may develop into lifelong supportive relationships. Some of the program activities that can help this process are:
• establishing a mentor program within the LINKS program, matching the youth with a volunteer who has similar interests;
• researching the interest of relatives, neighbors, and friends who were once involved with the youth as a younger child but have since lost contact;
• contacting older siblings who are now on their own;
• helping the youth to develop Eco-maps to identify their support systems;
• involving youth in volunteer activities that also engage adult volunteers from faith and civic groups, such as blood drives, environmental restoration, working one on one with disabled children, fund drives for community recreation programs, etc.; and
• involving community persons in the LINKS program as volunteers.
Even if these activities or efforts do not result in adoptive placements, they will help youth to develop the kinds of friendships and supports that they will need as adults.
The National Resource Center for Youth Development (http://www.nrcyd.ou.edu/) had this observation about permanency: “In reality, permanency is not a placement. It is a state of mind. It is about positive relationships. It is knowing that there is someone out there with whom you are so strongly connected that they will always be there for you, at any time of day or night. It is knowing that you have a family who will celebrate birthdays, weddings and graduations with you. It is knowing where you will go and what will be expected of you on important holidays. It means being connected, legally or not, through relationships that last a lifetime....”
"In spite of our misconceptions, young people do want to be a part of a family, perhaps not the standard sort of family that was portrayed on television in the '50's, but a more eclectic family. If we asked them, they could probably tell us who their family members would be. In a recent demonstration project, Massachusetts Families for Kids worked 12 months to identify lifelong family connections with 24 adolescents ages 14-18 in foster care custody. At the end of the year, 100% of the youth were matched with lifelong connections. A majority of the connections were identified from the youth's own network of family and friends. Only a small number (7) needed specialized recruiting..."
4. Adult Adoptions: Requirements and Procedures
If the youth is in a foster placement that has demonstrated commitment to a long term relationship with the youth, but does not want to interfere with his or her eligibility for educational or medical assistance, the agency should make that family aware of the possibility of adult adoption. Prospective adoptive parents should also be informed of the Education/Training vouchers that are available not only for youth who age out of foster care at age 18, but also for youth whose adoptive placement out of foster care is finalized after their 16th birthday. They should also be informed of the NC Reach Scholarships that provide scholarship assistance to youth adopted on or after their 12th birthday.
North Carolina’s adoption law does not restrict adoption to children. Adults may also be adopted. For purposes of the adoption law, an adult is defined as an individual who is at least 18 years old, or, if under the age of 18, is either legally married or has been emancipated under applicable state law.
5. Requirements for Prospective Adopting Parents (Adult Adoption)
If more than one person wants to adopt, they must be married to each other. Unmarried adults may not adopt together; but one person of the couple can adopt in such a situation. If the adopting parent is married, but the spouse does not want to adopt, the Clerk can be asked to waive the requirement that the spouse join in the adoption petition.
The adopting parent(s) must have lived in North Carolina for at least six months or the adoptee must have lived here for at least six months.
No home study or pre-placement assessment is required in an adult adoption and neither the Department of Social Services nor other adoption agency is involved.
6. Filing the Petition
Once the North Carolina residency requirement is met, the adoption petition can be filed in the county where the adopting parent lives or where the adoptee lives. The Clerk of Superior Court located in the courthouse of each county has adult adoption forms. A petition for adult adoption (DSS-5163) is filed by the adopting parent(s) on their own or through an attorney.
Attached to the adoption petition are the consent to adoption by the adult adoptee (DSS-5164) and, if the person adopting is the adoptee’s stepparent, the consent of the stepparent’s spouse (DSS-5165), unless the Clerk waives this requirement. All forms are located at the following web site: http://info.dhhs.state.nc.us/olm/forms/dss
7. Revocation by Adoptee
An adoptee can revoke his consent at any time before the final adoption decree is entered.
Once an adult adoption petition is filed with the Clerk (and the filing fee paid), the adopting parent(s) gives notice of the adoption to:
1. any adult children of the adopting parent; and
2. any parent, spouse or adult child of the adoptee listed in the adoption petition.
However, the Clerk may waive the requirement that notice be given to the adoptee’s parent for cause.
Any person who is entitled to notice of the pending adult adoption may waive that right to notice in writing. A person entitled to notice has the right to respond within 30 days and present evidence on whether the proposed adoption is in the best interest of the adoptee. They cannot prevent or stop the adoption, unless the Clerk agrees with them that adoption is not in the adult adoptee’s best interest and dismisses the petition. That decision by the Clerk could be appealed within 10 days to a district court judge.
9. Affidavit of Adoption Expenses; Hearing on Final Decree
After notice has been given to the persons mentioned above, and if no one wishes to be heard or the Clerk finds their concerns are without merit, the adopting parent(s) file an affidavit (DSS-5191) that lists any money they spent in connection with the adoption, such as legal fees. The Clerk can then schedule the hearing on the final decree of adoption (DSS-5166). The adopting parent and adoptee must both appear at this hearing unless the Clerk waives this requirement, in which case an appearance for either or both parties can be made by an attorney authorized in writing to make an appearance. The Clerk normally waits 30 days before entering the final decree to allow for the required notices to be given, but the decree can be entered earlier if all consents and notices are complete.
10. New Birth Certificate Optional
In addition to the decree of adoption, the Clerk sends a report to Vital Records in Raleigh (DSS-5167) which sets out the name of the adoptee and adoptive parent(s) and orders a new birth certificate entered in those names, if the adult adoptee desires an amended birth certificate. Once a new birth certificate is prepared, the adoptee will be notified and can purchase copies from Vital Records.
11. Legal Status of Birth Parents
The decree of adoption ends the legal parent/child relationship between the adult adoptee and his biological or previous adoptive parents, except that a birth parent who is married to an adopting stepparent retains parental rights. This means that the birth parent is relieved of all legal duties and obligations. The adoptee will no longer inherit from the birth parent unless the birth parent has a will and specifically names the adoptee as a beneficiary.
There is no separate termination of parental rights action brought against the adult adoptee’s parents. Adult adoptions are “open” adoptions in which the parties know each other and can decide what relationship to have with each other after the decree of adoption is entered.
However, after the decree of adoption is entered, the adoptee is considered the child of the adoptive parent(s) for all purposes, including inheritance.
For questions or clarification on any of the policy contained in these manuals, please contact your local county office.