Adopting a Special Needs Child

Special Needs

Are you interested in adopting a child with special needs? The process and the outcome may differ significantly from the adoption of a child without special needs. Here are the steps to take to give yourself the best chance for success:

  • Work with an agency that specializes in this type of adoption—Don’t work with an agency that hasn’t done special needs adoption. They may not know everything that needs to be done to protect your interests.
  • Learn as much as you can about the adoption process itself—How long will it take? What will it cost? How will you be matched with a child? Utilize online resources, seek out support groups and consult the extensive literature available to you.
  • Put together a dossier—You’ll want to gather all information and documents that will be required, including tax returns, pictures of family members, health records and even a criminal background check, if you have one.
  • Prepare and submit your application—This is the critical moment. Be sure you want to adopt a special needs child. It has the potential to be extremely rewarding, but it can also be a lot of work and can end in heartbreak.
  • Wait—Unfortunately, this is a part of the process. Once you’ve submitted your application, you’ll have to wait for what adoption professionals call a "referral," the identification and designation of a specific child available for you to adopt.
  • Prepare to travel—If you are adopting internationally, you will likely be required to go to the country of origin for some period of time. If you are adopting domestically, you may be required to travel to the child’s location to complete the adoption process.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Determining If Adoption is Right for You

Adopting a child

If you are contemplating adopting a child, either to start or build a family, you want to take some time before you get too far into the process to determine if it’s the right step for you. Here are some ways you can be more certain you’re doing the right thing.

  • Educate yourself—There are lots of adoption websites, social media sites and support groups, as well as many books. Take the time to talk with others who have adopted, and be sure to ask them about the challenges as well as the benefits. It can also be beneficial to schedule a few interviews with adoption agencies. Be willing to ask them the difficult questions—how much will it cost, how long will it take and what are the chances it won’t happen.
  • Consider your options—The adoption process can be complex—you have to choose between an international and a domestic adoption, between a private and an agency adoption, between an open or a closed adoption. Learn the differences and ask yourself what will be best for you and your family.
  • Put together a plan to pay for the adoption and the costs of raising the child—Whether you are adopting domestically or internationally, you can expect to spend a minimum of $10,000 in most cases. You want to know in advance where you’ll get the money. Look for grants from church groups, family and friends, if necessary. The National Adoption Foundation also offers unsecured loans in some situations.

Know why you want to adopt—Adoption is for life and it’s through good times and bad times. Don’t adopt to save your marriage and don’t adopt to "rescue" a child. Adopt because you want to build and maintain a strong family unit.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Ex-Wife Uses Adult Adoption to Circumvent Custody Ruling

 Adult Adoption

In a bizarre case in New Jersey, the mother of an 18-year-old girl has (so far) successfully used adult adoption to circumvent a court’s custody order. Evidence indicates that the woman and her new spouse filed the documents and completed the adoption without telling the girl’s biological father, who had been granted physical custody.

According to court records, the couple exhibited model behavior for the first few years after the divorce. The father had custody, but the mother lived 15 minutes away. The parents worked effectively together to raise the children, without any need for intervention from the courts. Then the mother remarried.

Shortly after her remarriage, the mother began keeping the children at her house after visitation hours were over, in violation of the court order. She and her husband, according to court records, systematically attempted to cut the children off from their father. The father filed motions with the court and the court issued an order prohibiting the step-father from interfering with the father’s relationships with his children. The judge even indicated that he might grant sole custody to the father (the order in place was for shared custody).

When the oldest daughter became 18, the stepfather, unbeknownst to the biological father, went to another court and filed a petition for an adult adoption, seeking to legally adopt the girl. The petition was granted. Some time later, the biological father attempted to enforce the court’s custody arrangements, but was advised by the court that the adult adoption rendered them void.

The biological father asked the court to vacate the adoption, but the court denied the petition. The father has asked for reconsideration.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

How Much Can I Expect to Pay to Adopt a Child?

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Maybe you’ve been unable to have a child biologically, or you’ve just decided that you’d like to build a family by providing a good home for a child in need. But you’re concerned about the costs of adoption, as you’ve heard tales of couples spending tens of thousands of dollars to bring a child into their homes. So how much can you really expect to spend on an adoption? Two answers—one that won’t surprise and one that might.

The first answer—the one that’s not a surprise—is that it depends, and the variables are many:

  • Are you adopting domestically or internationally? With many international adoptions, there’s a significant travel requirement, which can quickly escalate costs. However, you can just as easily spend lots of dollars in a domestic adoption, as you may have to travel out of state to pick up your child, and may not be able to leave the state with the child until all court proceedings are final.
  • Are you using an agency? There will be a number of fees associated with an agency, but you’ll also have costs if you try to handle most of the details by yourself of with the assistance of an attorney.
  • What have you agreed to pay for on behalf of the birth mother? Much of this is negotiable, but be advised. The more your birth mother asks and you give, the more she’s likely to keep asking. Don’t let yourself be fleeced just because you want a baby.

The second answer, which will surprise you, is that an adoption doesn’t need to, and often does actually, cost as much as you think it would:

  • You’ll need to pay for a home study, which can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. If the provider wants more than $750, ask them why.
  • Many adoption agencies offer sliding fee scales, so that less affluent families can adopt, too.
  • There are tax incentives for adoption, and many employers offer a variety of benefits to reduced the costs of adoption for employees
  • There are loans and grants available to help families who seek to adopt. Check out the National Adoption Foundation as www.nafadopt.org.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Your Options If You Want to Adopt a Child in New Jersey

Photo of a family

If you live in New Jersey and you are interested in starting or building a family through the adoption process, you have a number of options available to you. Here are some of the alternatives to consider:

  • An agency adoption or a private adoption — There is no requirement that you use an adoption agency to find a child, to complete a home study or to handle any other aspects of an adoption. An agency will often simplify the process of matching you with biological parents or with an adoptee, but there are many other ways of finding a child, including advertising in magazines or publications that birth mothers might read. You can start a page on Facebook or simply engage in extensive networking, telling everyone you know. Once you’ve located a child, you’ll probably want to retain an adoption attorney to ensure that all legal matters are properly handled.
  • Domestic vs. international adoption — With a domestic adoption, your child will come from somewhere within the United States. The adoption laws vary from state to state, but there most states have a reciprocity rule. You may be required to reside in another state for some period of time in order to finalize the adoption proceeding there. Many New Jersey adoption agencies either offer international adoption services or work with other agencies that do. You can expect to travel to the country of the child’s birth, but you may also find the process more structured.
  • Open vs. closed adoption — The key question here is “how much or how little access do you want the birth parents to have to the child after the adoption is final.” With an open adoption, the birth parent will typically have knowledge of who you are and where you live. With a closed adoption, all records are sealed and cannot be seen, absent a court order.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Hospital Falls—Are They Medical Malpractice?

If You Fall at the Hospital, Is It Medical Malpractice?

Hospital Falls

When you have to go to the hospital, you expect that you won’t suffer additional injury because of the negligence of hospital personnel. But what if you fall while at the hospital? Would that be considered medical malpractice or just ordinary negligence, a slip and fall? Does it matter and, if so, why?

In some states, it can matter whether an injury at a hospital is determined to be medical malpractice or ordinary negligence. Many states, including Pennsylvania and Texas, have specific legal procedural rules that apply to medical malpractice claims. Because those rules don’t apply to slip and fall, motor vehicle accident and other “general negligence” claims, moving a medical malpractice claim forward in Pennsylvania typically requires a different strategy and often involves substantially more expense during the legal process.

In a strange twist, defense attorneys for medical professionals and their insurers have sought to argue that hospital falls do fall under the category of medical malpractice. They then seek to have the claims dismissed because the injured party failed to meet the more demanding procedural requirements for medical negligence actions.

The current state of the law in Pennsylvania is somewhat uncertain, though it seems likely that the court will carefully examine the nature of the fall to determine whether it constitutes medical carelessness. For example, a trip and fall on a stairway or hallway by a patient, unrelated to any medical care, will likely be considered a slip and fall, absent a showing of any duty of medical care tied to the fall. On the other hand, a patient who falls out of bed or from a gurney because of lack of proper restraint may be required to meet the special procedural provisions for medical malpractice claims.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

New Jersey Allows Adoptees Access to Reco

Effective January 1, 2017, any adult in New Jersey who was adopted as a child will have the right to learn who their birth parents were, unless those birth parents request that their names be removed from their child’s original birth certificate. Parents who put children up for adoption after August 1, 2015, however, may not request anonymity.

Adoptees-Access-to-Records

Authorities say that there are more than 300,000 adults in the state who were adopted as children. As of late December, only 244 birth parents had asked that their identities not be disclosed, and nearly three times as many adoptees had requested their original birth certificates.

The change did not come easily, as opponents have battled for decades. Proponents to the prior rule, which allowed birth records to be closed without a court order, cited privacy as the primary reason for maintaining the practice. However, advocates for adopted children, including the New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education, contended that adults had a right to know the truth about their family histories, especially as it related to medical issues and hereditary and genetic issues.

Under the new approach, a birth parent who is willing to be contacted may request a direct contact or can ask for an intermediary. The request must be accompanied by a complete family history, addressing medical, cultural and social issues. Thus far, about 200 birth parents have provided medical histories.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary. will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Helping Your Adopted Child Through the Holidays

Adopted-Child-enjoy-Holidays

If you’ve recently adopted a child, you may have a new perspective on the holidays. You may look at it as a time of joy, a time to celebrate your new family. But your adopted child may not be able to share fully in your holiday cheer. Here are some tips to help your adopted child through the holidays.

  • If possible, maintain some of the child’s holiday traditions—obviously, this is more important with older children, who have had the time to establish certain traditions. In addition, it will likely require that you have communications with biological parents. But it can provide a modicum of stability for your adopted child.
  • Create new traditions—Find ways to make your adopted child a part of all you do
  • Be ready to listen and willing to acknowledge that your adopted child may be struggling—Don’t get caught up in the belief that “he just needs to get over it,” or “it’s Christmas, be happy!” In addition, don’t think that a lot of presents will make everything okay.
  • Maintain routines—Don’t change bed times, naps, or rules just because it’s Christmas—Kids thrive on consistency
  • Be willing to change some gatherings based on your child’s needs—If your child is unaccustomed to large family gatherings, a big celebration can be intimidating. You may need to see extended family members in smaller groups until your child is comfortable with everyone.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

What to Expect at Your Home Study

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So you’ve started the adoption process and it’s your first time. You know you have to go through a “home study,” but you’re not certain the full extent of that part of the process. Does the case worker or agency representative want to know about the physical home, the emotional home, or all of the above? You guessed it—all of the above. And what exactly will it look like?

Typically, the first thing an agency representative or social worker will ask is why you want to adopt. Social workers want to be sure that you’re not going into it for the wrong reasons—that your marriage is in trouble and you think a baby will solve all your problems, for example. You’ll be asked questions about your family growing up—how were you parented and how do you feel about that? The social worker will likely inquire about your parenting philosophy, determine who the disciplinarian is your relationship, and identify the types of discipline that get meted out.

Your home study will include an assessment of the physical space of your home, so that the case worker knows that you’ll have adequate room for the child, and that the environment will be safe. There will be discussions of your financial status, in addition to conversations about who will provide care to the child. The case worker will also seek to learn about your health, so that there are assurances that you will be able to care for the child.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

What You Need to Know about Birth Mother Expenses

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If you are seeking to adopt an infant domestically, one of the issues you’ll have to eventually address involves what expenses of the birth mother you are willing to pay. The expenses you can be accountable for are governed by state law, so every jurisdiction is different. As a general rule, you can be asked to pay reasonable medical, legal and counseling fees. You may also be allowed to pay some living expenses.

Though many adoptive parents are willing to help defray living expenses, advocates for birth mothers say doing so puts an additional burden on birth parents, as it places pressure on the birth parents to put the child up for adoption, even though the law allows them to change their mind. In fact, under the laws of every state, a birth parent cannot be compelled to terminate parental rights and an adoptive parent cannot be required to adopt a child.

A critical question for many adoptive parents centers on what happens if the birth parents changes her mind after the birth of the child. Can the adoptive parents get their money back? As a practical matter, probably not. If the birth parent had the resources to meet her own expenses, it’s likely she wouldn’t have asked for assistance. As a legal matter, though, the answer depends on state law. Some states consider any financial assistance given to the birth mom to be a gift, which cannot be revoked or taken back. A small number of states actually do recognize the validity of a reimbursement agreement between biological and adoptive parents, but such a contract is seldom put in place.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

ASSOCIATIONS AND AWARDS

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