COVID-19 and adoptions
COVID-19 has impacted every part of our lives – adoptions are no different. While domestic adoptions are proceeding, the standard practices and set of ‘norms’ are changing for adoption professional, hospitals, hopeful adoptive parents and expectant mothers.
In Kansas, here is what we know now:
- Policies at hospitals are changing rapidly: Adoptive families and expectant mothers should be in touch with their adoptive professionals for the most up to date information on a consistent basis.
- One person should be designated to be the contact person with the delivering hospital case manager to ensure the efficient use of resources.
- The Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children is still in place. Kansas referrals are still being processed timely.
- When it is time for the consent or relinquishment and other legal documents to be signed by the biological parents, adoption professionals should consider and may be present via video conferencing to minimize exposure to all parties.
Many requirements will remain the same:
- Twelve hours must pass before a biological mother can sign her consent or relinquishment to the adoption.
- A consent or relinquishment is final upon signature and must be given freely and voluntarily.
- If the biological mother is ready, signing of the legal documents will take place in the hospital.
- The baby will be discharged to the adoptive family, assuming the necessary documents have been signed.
What will the hospital experience be like for families and expectant mothers?
At this point, most hospitals are allowing only one support person in with the delivering mother. Of course, the delivering mother will choose who she would like her support person to be during that time.
It will be best for the mother to choose one person and that person will remain with the mother throughout labor and delivery. Some hospitals may not allow the support person to switch during labor.
Adoption professionals will have to inquire with specific hospital case managers on the individual hospital’s policy for when the adoptive family may get their own room to care for baby, as hospitals vary on that policy at this point. Some hospitals are only allowing one member of the adoptive family to care for the baby and enter the hospital. Adoptive families should decide ahead of time what member that will be, even if at this time that policy has not been enforced at the delivering hospital.
What if the adoptive family is not allowed into the hospital?
Adoptive families should do what they can to speak to the biological mother ahead of time to inquire if digital contact during labor and delivery is something she would be comfortable with and make a plan for the support person to be in touch with the adoptive family. All parties should be prepared to be flexible and understand that the labor, delivery and hospital experience is likely not going to be the same as it otherwise would have been.
Most hospitals will not require a biological mother to care for a child if she does not want to do so after delivery. In the cases where an adoptive family is not provided a room due to COVID-19, the child will be cared for in the nursery, if one is available, or by the nursing staff until it is determined that a room can be provided. If a room is not provided to the adoptive family before discharge, discharge should still be able to occur to the family directly.
What effect will this have on the Court proceeding and adoption finalization?
In Kansas, if both biological parents are signing consents or relinquishments, the adoption may not be delayed at all, depending on the county where the adoption is filed. That said, all jurisdictions have gone to limited staff and Judges and the courts are physically closed. Most jurisdictions are holding finalization and ICPC hearings by telephone or other virtual options.
If both biological parents have not signed, a delay will occur. As a parent should and must be afforded the opportunity to be heard before the Court, finalization of the adoption in those cases will likely not occur until the Courts are back open allowing a parent the opportunity to appear.
What else can be done to ensure an adoption plan?
Now more than ever it is vital to all adoption plans that parties have a strong local advocate to help navigate this unknown time. The parties should have legal counsel and a plan should be made for communication early in the pregnancy and especially as the expectant mother’s due date draws close.
Creating profiles during this time
If you are beginning your adoptive family journey and need to create a profile during this time it can be a challenge. Our partner at Our Chosen Child has some recommendations for how to safely take your photos during social distancing.
Prepared by Megan S. Monsour, J.D.
Megan practices solely in adoption, surrogacy and foster care litigation.
Megan is a fellow in the the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys