What to Expect When You Expect to Adopt

The legal steps to take to grow your family in Colorado

When Seth A. Grob began practicing adoption law 30 years ago, he would get a call a week from an adoptee searching for their biological parents. Back then, in about 90% of infant adoptions, the adoptive parents knew very little about their child’s birth parents and the information was difficult to uncover.

“That has completely changed,” says Grob, whose Lakewood firm, Grob & Eirich, represents eight adoption agencies in Colorado. “Most adoptions today are open in the sense that birth and adoptive parents will have an opportunity to meet one another.” 

Often the adoptive parents are in the delivery room, assume care of the child immediately after birth, and share pictures, updates and, sometimes, visits with birth parents over the years. But even in adoptions with limited or no contact with the biological families, adoptees now have a legal right to access their birth certificates with biological information when they turn 18. 

Grob, who has handled nearly 3,000 adoptions, says the private process typically costs about $30,000 (or $15,000 with the federal tax credit). It begins with choosing an agency. Grob recommends one represented by general counsel to handle legal matters such as finalizing the adoption process in court, reviewing potential matches for risks and benefits, ensuring there is a timely pathway to making the child eligible for adoption, and applying for adoption assistance from the state for a child with special needs. In some situations, like interstate adoptions or those involving children of Native American heritage, there are additional legal requirements.

Then, adoptive parents get home-study approved, complete 16 hours of training classes, and create a profile for birth parents to see. After that, expect to wait 18 to 30 months to find a match, depending on the agency. About one in five matches ends with the birth parents changing their minds and electing to parent. “That can be emotionally devastating, particularly when they have taken the child home from the hospital. But I think Colorado law balances all of the rights of the adoption triad: the child receives permanency quickly, birth parents have time to reflect and make sure they want to proceed with the decision, and adoptive parents have some closure,” Grob says.

While networking or advertising to find a woman looking to place her child for adoption is common and can lessen the wait, be aware it is against Colorado law to hire a facilitator to find a birth parent or child. Similarly, all pregnancy-related financial support for costs like medical insurance must be reasonable, funneled through a licensed agency and disclosed to the judge.

Though infant adoptions are more popular, hundreds of older children are waiting to be adopted. Adoption Options and Raise the Future both work with human services departments to recruit families willing to adopt children who may have medical and/or emotional needs as a result of abuse and neglect, Grob adds.

Jamie L. Cage, of Cage Bucar Lewis, commonly assists when a stepparent, family member or other adult who has had custodial rights seeks to adopt. As long as the parents or guardians agree, the process is straightforward. 

“The state has done a wonderful job of providing resources to parties without attorneys in an effort to make the process easier to navigate,” she says, noting the step-by-step instructions at courts.state.co.us. “If it’s uncontested, parties may be able to prepare the forms without a lawyer. Parties just have to make sure they are filling out forms correctly and meeting deadlines.”

Specifically, there’s a 90-day window to file a petition for adoption after receiving the results of a criminal background check. “Some people want me to prepare the forms because there are a lot of them and the process can be intimidating, but I’ve seen other people prepare the forms on their own and successfully complete their adoption,” she says. “That 90 days deadline is the big thing not to forget, or they have to redo the background checks.”

That said, in situations where the adoptive parents are not related or not traditionally related, it’s a good idea to find an experienced lawyer at the outset, says Danaé D. Woody, of Woody Law Firm. They have knowledge of the myriad options available in complicated situations, such as second parent adoptions. These aren’t well-known outside the legal community, she says, but it’s a great option for those who need it.

In one case, Woody helped a biological mother and her mother become the legal parents of a child with the consent of the biological father. “She was already living with them both, and all parties agreed that it was better that the father moved on,” Woody says. “The family was able to go on in peace and happiness, and the child was supported by two legal parents.”

Cage says uncontested adoptions are some of the most joyous and celebratory proceedings she gets to experience in her field. It’s not uncommon to see judges bring stuffed animals or balloons. At one hearing, the judge let the child wear his robe and sit at the bench.

“Family law consists mostly of divorce and custody battles,” Woody says, “so it’s one of the very special highlights of our job to be able to help families come together.”

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