FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT ADOPTION IN OKLAHOMA
These questions and answers relate primarily to adoption of a newborn child.
1. Who can adopt in Oklahoma?
A married couple or a single person.
2. Where is the adoption petition filed?
In the county in which the adopting family or the minor resides or in Tulsa County or Oklahoma County.
3. Can money be paid for birth mother expenses?
Up to $1,000.00 can be spent on the birth mother’s living and transportation expenses without a court order. Over $1,000.00 in payments can only be made if there is a prior court order approving payments. However, living and transportation expenses apply only to expenses incurred after the birth mother contacts the agency or attorney for adoption services. A one time gift not exceeding $100.00 in cost can be to the birth mother. You must have receipts for any and all payments. Also see number 4, below.
4. What are considered appropriate adoption expenses?
a. Reasonable attorney fees and court costs.
b. Reasonable medical expenses for birth mother and minor to be adopted.
c. Reasonable adoption counseling for birth parents not to exceed 6 months from placement.
d. Reasonable fees of a licensed child-placement agency.
e. Reasonable living expenses for housing, food, clothing, utilities, and other necessities of the birth mother that are incurred during the adoption planning process or during the pregnancy, not to exceed 2 months after birth or after consent of birth mother.
f. Reasonable costs for travel or transportation of the birth mother or minor as incurred for medical or adoption placement needs.
g. Reasonable expenses
h. Reasonable expenses legally required by any government agency related to adoption of the minor.
5. Who can be paid?
Except as allowed by court order payments are made directly to the provider. They are not made to the birth mother or birth father.
6. How is a court order for payment of adoption related living and transportation obtained?
A petition for approval is filed in the county in which the adoption petition will be filed. After birth of the child an amended petition for adoption can be filed in the same case.
7. What is a home study?
An evaluation of the adopting family’s suitability for adoption by a professional person allowed by statute to conduct home studies. Included, as a part of the home study process will be an FBI fingerprint check along with other records check. In the case of a step parent adoption if the parties have been married for over a year a home study may be waived by the Court
8. When must a home study be completed in relation to the actual placement of the minor?
There must be a favorable preplacement home study unless the minor is placed directly with a relative or in the case of a stepparent when the parties have been married for not less than a year.
9. How long is a home study good for?
One year until placement. One year refers to not only the actual home study but also means that all the backup documentation, such as criminal background checks, must be within one year.
10. What are post placement reports?
During the course of the adoption process after placement there will be follow up checks concerning the suitability of the placement and post placement reports are made to provide this information. The number of these can vary depending upon such factors as the particular court, the time elapsing from placement until finalization and agency licensing requirements.
11. Will the Court review the home study and post placement reports?
Yes, as the Court must approve the suitability of the adopting family for adoption of the particular minor. It is not at all unusual for a Court to request additional information concerning the adopting family and the minor.
12. Who must consent to adoption of the minor?
The birth mother and the adopting family. The birth father may have a right to consent under certain circumstances, and if he does and will not, then an adoption cannot take place. Since the birth mother will have a right to consent or not consent to adoption if she does not then there will be no adoption.
13. When does a birth father have a right to consent?
In general, if the birth father has carried out parental rights and duties then he has right to consent or not as he deems appropriate. Exactly what carrying out parental rights and duties means can encompass a wide variety of issues; e.g., Did he know he might be a father? Did he provide money or offers of money? Did the birth mother reject offers of assistance? Did he provide transportation, access to medical care, food and etc.? Please note that whether or not rights and duties have been appropriately carried out do not necessarily relate to whether or not the birth father has a criminal record. If the birth father is married to the birth mother then he has the right to consent or not consent to adoption of their child.
14. When is consent or relinquishment made?
Assuming the child is not an Indian child in the case of the birth mother anytime after the child is born. If the child is not an Indian child and is born out of wedlock the birth father may sign an extrajudical consent to adoption any time before or after birth of the child. If the child is an Indian child, then consent cannot be given or relinquishment made until over ten days after birth.
15. Can the birth mother change her mind about consenting or relinquishing before she gives her consent in Court?
Yes, she has the absolute right to do so.
16. What if the birth father will not consent or cannot be located?
A hearing will be set for the Court to determine whether or not he has a right to consent. If he is properly served then the Court by default deem his consent is not necessary or in some cases, terminate his parental rights. If he appears and objects then a trial date will be set for the Court to consider the evidence and make a ruling. If he cannot be actually located for service then upon a proper showing the Court can authorize service by publication in a newspaper authorized by law to provide publication service.
17. Mention has been made about consent to adoption and relinquishment of parental rights. Is there a difference?
A termination of parental rights case is usually filed by a licensed adoption agency or in some cases by an attorney or adopting family. In the termination case the birth mother relinquishes her parental rights and the Court terminates her parental rights. Also the same would apply to the birth father if would relinquish, and if does not then his case is processed as in the case of a non-consenting birth father mentioned in 16, above. The same grounds for when a birth father does not have a right to consent to adoption are used to terminate his parental rights. An adoption case is filed by the adopting family and if there has been a termination case completed the termination orders are filed in the adoption case along with the consent to adoption of the entity to whom parental rights were relinquished. If there has not been a termination case then the adopting family files their adoption case and proceeds with the consent process. The difference in the adoption consent case and the termination case situation is that in the adoption consent case the biological parents’ parental rights are terminated when the adoption finalizes.
18. How long does it take to adopt?
The Adoption Code contemplates that when the consents of the biological parents have been obtained or termination orders are filed and the Court has approved the home study that the Court will then issue an Interlocutory Decree of Adoption. From the entry of the Interlocutory Decree until finalization is to be at least six months. Keep in mind that the starting date of the six-month interlocutory period varies based upon how long it takes to obtain consents or terminations and home study approval. It is during the interlocutory period that the post placement reports are made. Often times judges will waive a formal Interlocutory Decree and period so long as the child has been in the home of the adopting family for at least six months when the adoption finalizes.
19. What if the adopting family live in one state and the child is born in another state?
The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children must be complied with before the child can be moved between states for purposes of adoption. This means that the adopting family cannot take the child back to their home state until the placement is approved. Although there can be differences between states on what they require in the Compact package common requirements are: Consents or termination orders, If the birth father has not consented or been terminated an explanation of what is to be done about him, a favorable home study, birth records for the child, a statement signed by the adopting family showing their understanding of the risks in an adoption and an explanation of or an order concerning expenses. The time to prepare the packet and for it to be processed by the states will vary. For example, note that the packet will have at least the consent of the birth mother or an order terminating her parental rights which means that obtaining those will depend upon when the Court can take the consent or relinquishment and when she may physically go to Court. For example, it may take some time to obtain the necessary medical records simply because they may be prepared but cannot be released until the physician signs them. Also please note that Compact administrators are not prone to give a priority in review of a packet because every case they have involves adopting families wanting and needing to be allowed to return home.
20. What if the child is an “Indian child?”
If so, then the federal Indian Child Welfare Act and the Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Act apply. Although the Acts have precise definitions, essentially an Indian child is a child that is enrolled or enrollable with a federally recognized tribe. If the child is an Indian child then the child’s tribe has rights such as a right to remove the case to tribal court, to intervene in the state case and to ensure that the placement preferences under the Acts are complied with. Do not be misled by someone saying such things as: “Well the birth mother says that she is only 1/128th degree of Cherokee blood so her child cannot be an Indian child because the blood quantum is so small.” Many tribes have no specific blood quantum requirement for enrollment so the smallest fraction of blood may mean the child is enrollable. If you are contemplating adoption of an Indian child before proceeding very far with that process consult with an attorney knowledgeable about the Indian Child Welfare Act and the Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Act.
21. What happens at finalization?
The adopting family and the minor appear before the Court, are placed under oath and testify as to their desire to finalize the adoption and that it is in the child’s best interests to be adopted by them. If all is in order then the Judge signs the Decree of Adoption and the child and the adopting family are now a legally complete family.
22. Can the child’s name be changed?
Yes. The Petition for Adoption sets out the name the adopting family want the child to have upon adoption being allowed and the Decree of Adoption orders the new name. After the Decree is entered paperwork is submitted to the authority issuing the child’s original birth certificate to issue a new birth certificate reflecting the child’s new name and usually the names of the adopting parties as the parents of the child. Under Oklahoma law a child born in Oklahoma has a right to obtain a copy of the original birth certificate when the child reaches the age of eighteen.
23. What about adoption from a foreign country?
Consult an agency that has the authority to deal with international adoptions under the Hague Convention.
24. What about re-adoption in the United States of a child adopted in a foreign country?
Re-adoption is always recommended if for no other reason that at completion of the re-adoption a Certificate of Foreign Birth is obtained that looks, except for the title, like an Oklahoma birth certificate and it is in English. Accordingly, it can ease such things as enrolling in school and obtaining a driver’s license.
25. What about tax consequences and tax filing before you have the new birth certificate?
Consult your tax advisor as a part of your adoption process.
26. What about birth and child health care expenses?
On occasion the birth mother will qualify for state assistance or will have private insurance. If she does not the adopting family are normally expected to pay for any medical expense not covered by state assistance or insurance. For insurance coverage of the new born as soon as possible after birth as a part of your adoption process consult you carrier for its requirements. You specifically need to ask the carrier exactly what paperwork it will want and from whom it will want the paperwork from for coverage. For example, is a court order needed? For example, is something signed by the birth mother sufficient and if so, what is to be signed?
27. What happens at the birth hospital?
Normally, the child is released from the hospital to the adopting family. However, how that is accomplished can vary from hospital to hospital. For example, in some cases the hospital wants an attorney or an adoption agency involved in the release process and obviously, the birth mother will have to agree to the release to someone other than herself. Some hospitals, if they have an available room, will provide the adopting family with a room at the hospital. Often times the birth mother will want time with the child and an adopting family must keep in mind and be sensitive to the intense emotions involved in the placement of a new born child.
28. How should I behave towards the biological parents?
Be your natural selves. If you appear other than as you really are, the birth parents may rethink their special gift to you. If you make promises such as I will provide pictures then keep those promises. A suggestion for follow up meeting of promises about picture and letters is to set up a web site that the birth mother can access as can friends and relatives.