You may have heard that November is National Adoption Month. Some people think of it as a month to celebrate adoption, others consider it a month to promote awareness of the process. Here are just a few things about adoption you should know.
- Though becoming a family is a reason to celebrate, adoption doesn’t happen without loss. For adoptive parents, it can be loss of giving birth to a biological child, for the birth parents there is loss of parenting the child, and for the adoptee there is loss of birth family and original identity. It is hard to think of celebrating with so much loss. What we do celebrate is that despite loss, both sets of parents make a commitment to do what they believe is best for a child, whether it be parenting that child or making an adoption plan. We celebrate that a decision was made in the child’s best interest.
- Adoption is a legal process. Once birth parents’ parental rights are terminated in court, those rights are transferred to the agency (or attorney in cases of private adoption). An adoptive home must meet certain criteria per state law. Once a child is placed in an adoptive home, visits are made over the course of six months to ensure that the child is being properly cared for so that a recommendation of adoption can be made to the court that the home is suitable for that child. The agency then consents to the adoption in court at the finalization hearing. A new birth certificate is made upon finalization.
- Most adoptions today are open, but prior to the 1990s, adoptions were closed. Per current South Dakota state law (25-6-15), “The files and records of the court in adoption proceedings are not open to inspection or copy by persons other than the parents by adoption and their attorneys, representatives of the Department of Social Services, and the child when he reaches maturity, except upon order of the court expressly permitting inspection or copy.” Many adoptees have opened their records per this law. The court does not maintain preference regarding contact.
- There are two ways adoptees and birth parents can make their wishes know regarding contact. First, the state of South Dakota Department of Social Services offers a Voluntary Registry (http://dss.sd.gov/childprotection/adoption/registry.aspx). Second, if adoption took place through LSS, you can keep your contact information updated with the LSS Adoption office and let them know of your wishes regarding contact with your birth parents or the adoptee. This however does not block the access to records if the court grants an order permitting inspection or copy per state law.
Whether you celebrate adoption month or just wish to become more aware of the process, we recognize that each adoption is as unique as each and every individual who is touched by adoption. For more information about adoption contact the LSS Adoption Office at 605-221-2346.
Submitted by Joyce Twite, Adoption Administrative Support Specialist