Domestic Adoption—An Overview

Domestic Adoption

Domestic AdoptionIf you are considering an adoption, you may be overwhelmed with the choices and options. This blog post provides an overview of the domestic adoption process.

A domestic adoption essentially means that you have chosen to adopt within the states and territories that make up the United States, so you won’t have to worry about immigration matters or foreign adoption laws.

A domestic adoption can take a number of forms:

  • Agency vs. private (independent) adoption—Though many people use adoption agencies, it is not a legal requirement. You can work directly with birth parents, or use an attorney to facilitate the adoption. Agencies typically have networks that can make the process of finding a child easier, but there are also significant expenses associated with an agency adoption. Currently, five states (Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts and North Dakota) do not allow independent adoptions, but offer agency adoptions that are very similar to private adoptions.
  • Open vs. closed adoption—In an open adoption, the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s) meet and can remain in contact, even after the adoption is done. Arrangement may even be made for visitation with a birth parent. In a closed adoption, the agency (or an attorney or other representative) acts as an intermediary between the birth parent and the adoptive parents, so that there is complete anonymity and privacy
  • Infant adoption—Many adoptive parents want an infant and it’s fairly typical that adoptive parents will be paired with a pregnant woman, and will take the child home from the hospital.

The Domestic Adoption Process

The adoption process is essentially the same, whether you use an agency or go through a private adoption. You will still need to have a home study done, and the home study will require a background check. As a practical matter, completing the home study should be the first step you take.

Once you’ve completed the home study, you need to find a child. An agency will work through its contacts and network to find a suitable match. You can, however, take your own steps to find a child, advertising in periodicals, online or other places.

Once you have a prospective child, there is legal documentation to complete. If you are adopting an infant, you will need to negotiate what you will pay for and put it in writing. Once your child is with you, you will also have to file papers with the court, and will need to get court approval of the adoption.

Contact Adoption Attorneys Cofsky & Zeidman, LLC

At the law office of Cofsky & Zeidman, LLC, our lawyers bring more than 25 years of experience to every matter we handle. Attorney Donald C. Cofsky has personally handled more than 1,500 adoption proceedings since joining the bar in 1974. Attorney Bruce D. Zeidman has protected the interests of clients in state and federal courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 1984. We understand the challenges you face, and can help you identify all your options so that you can make good decisions that are in your best long-term interests.

Contact our office online or call us at (856) 429-5005 in Haddonfield, NJ, at (856) 429-5005 in Woodbury, NJ, or in Philadelphia, PA, at (856) 429-5005.

Embryo Donation

Embryo Donation—A New Form of Adoption

Embryo DonationFor many who want to adopt, the desire is that the child feel like he or she really belongs to the family. With the advances of modern technology, a new process—embryo adoption—has evolved, allowing a woman to carry and give birth to an embryo donated by another person.

In the embryo donation process, couples who have participated in in vitro fertilization donate a remaining embryo to a third party female. The embryo is then placed in the uterus of the recipient, and the recipient carries the child to birth. Embryo donation is typically anonymous and without compensation. The child born is considered to be the legal offspring of the woman who gave birth.

According to industry spokespersons, extra embryos are a common occurrence in in vitro fertilizations. Donors are typically faced with options—keep their embryos (frozen) and pay a storage fee, give them to research, allow them to be disposed of, or, as more people are choosing, make them available to other prospective parents.

As part of the process, most agencies involved in embryo adoptions allow donors to make genetic information available to prospective donees. After physical and psychological testing, embryos are exchanged and the recipients pay for any medical costs. Some agencies allow the donors to select or reject recipients. Home studies are typically required.

Contact Adoption Attorneys Cofsky & Zeidman, LLC

At the law office of Cofsky & Zeidman, LLC, our lawyers bring more than 25 years of experience to every matter we handle. Attorney Donald C. Cofsky has personally handled more than 1,500 adoption proceedings since joining the bar in 1974. Attorney Bruce D. Zeidman has protected the interests of clients in state and federal courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 1984. We understand the challenges you face, and can help you identify all your options so that you can make good decisions that are in your best long-term interests.

Contact our office online or call us at (856) 429-5005 in Haddonfield, NJ, at (856) 845-2555 in Woodbury, NJ, or in Philadelphia, PA, at (215) 563-2150.

More Children in Foster Care—Trend Reverses

Report Shows Reversal of Foster Care Trend

In a report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), researchers reported a slight increase in the number of children in foster care across the United States. The study indicated just over 400,000 kids in foster care, down from the peak of 524,000 in 2005, but up about 5,000 over 2012. Until this year, though, there had been a steady decline year after year in the number of children in foster care.

According to researchers, the principal reason for the drop—a shift in the policies of state and county welfare agencies. Many agencies have aggressively shortened foster care stays over the last 10 years, and have also promoted expedited adoptions of children in foster care. Others expanded their programs for families in trouble, eliminating the need to remove children and place them in foster care.

HHS officials are not troubled by the increase in fostered children, seeing it as mostly insignificant in light of the long-term drop in numbers. They attribute the increase mostly to a reduction in the number of adoptions from foster care. In 2012, more than 52,000 children were adopted out of foster care. In 2013, that number dropped by nearly 1,500. A recent law enacted by Congress, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, carries provisions that should reverse the trend in adoptions out of foster care. The bill offers incentives to states to facilitate these types of adoptions.

Adoption Attorneys in New Jersey

At the law office of Cofsky & Zeidman, LLC, our lawyers bring more than 25 years of experience to every matter we handle. Attorney Donald C. Cofsky has personally handled more than 1,500 adoption proceedings since joining the bar in 1974. Attorney Bruce D. Zeidman has protected the interests of clients in state and federal courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 1984. We understand the challenges you face, and can help you identify all your options so that you can make good decisions that are in your best long-term interests.

Contact our office online or call us at (856) 429-5005 in Haddonfield, NJ, at (856) 429-5005 in Woodbury, NJ, or in Philadelphia, PA, at (856) 429-5005. We also provide a free initial consultation in personal injury and workers’ compensation matters.

Adoption Incentives Bill Enacted by Congress

President Signs Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act

On September 29, 2014, President Obama signed into law the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, a statute that limits long-term foster care, provides measures for monitoring failed adoptions, and offers restructured adoption incentives.

Under the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, Congress created what is alternatively known as OPPLA (Other Planned Permanent Living Arrangements) or APPLA (Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement). Under this process, child welfare agencies maintain care and custody of a child in foster care who is not expected to be adopted before adulthood. OPPLA or APPLA was only supposed to be a last resort, but studies showed as many as 10 percent of foster children were targeted for OPPLA or APPLA.

Under the new law, APPLA will only be available to children over the age of 15. In addition, case workers will be required to show they have made “unsuccessful efforts” to find another permanent living situation.

The new law mandates that states track finalized adoptions, and that they report to HHS any disruptions to adoptions or guardianships. The law also requires that states spend at least 30% of the funds they receive through HHS on post-adoption and post-guardianship services.

The new law also restructures the payments that states receive for foster care and adoptions. States can receive from $4,000 to $10,000 per child, based on the outcome:

  • $4,000 for guardianship placements
  • $5,000 for adoptions of children under the age of nine
  • $7,500 for guardianship or adoption placements of children between nine and 14
  • $10,000 for guardianship and adoption placements of children over the age of 14

Adoption Attorneys in New Jersey

At the law office of Cofsky & Zeidman, LLC, our lawyers bring more than 25 years of experience to every matter we handle. Attorney Donald C. Cofsky has personally handled more than 1,500 adoption proceedings since joining the bar in 1974. Attorney Bruce D. Zeidman has protected the interests of clients in state and federal courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 1984. We understand the challenges you face, and can help you identify all your options so that you can make good decisions that are in your best long-term interests.

Contact our office online or call us at (856) 429-5005 in Haddonfield, NJ, at (856) 429-5005 in Woodbury, NJ, or in Philadelphia, PA, at (856) 429-5005. We also provide a free initial consultation in personal injury and workers’ compensation matters.

Getting Support When You Have an Adopted Child Who is Acting Out

Strategies When Your Adopted Child Acting Out

When you’ve built a family through adoption, you can have concerns about your adopted child’s interactions with you and other family members. It can be particularly distressing when the child starts acting out, engaging in behaviors clearly designed to either get attention or to annoy you.

Why Kids Act Out

All kids act out at some point. The tendency can be greater in adopted children, though, especially those who are adopted after infancy.

Most experts attribute acting out to an attempt to non-verbally get others to feel what the child is feeling. Adopted children can often feel shame, anger, fear or resentment because of the unstable nature of their early lives, or because of their loss of connection with former caregivers. Because they lack the cognitive skills or the verbal acuity to explain those feelings, they try to convey them to others the best way they know how—through their behavior and actions. A child who deliberately does things that he or she knows will make you angry is likely saying to you “I’m angry. I may not know why and I don’t know how (or don’t want) to tell you.”

When your child starts to act out, it’s important to remember a few things:

  • Acting out is one of the ways your adopted child tests the commitment of your family—Especially if your child feels abandoned, acting out is likely a test to see whether (and at what point) you will abandon them, too.
  • Acting out is better than doing nothing at all—When your child is feeling angry, ashamed, afraid or abandoned, one of the worst things they can do is hold it all inside. Acting out is generally a good sign, an indication that your child is trying to express a deep emotion. Acting out is typically the first step toward confronting and healing the hurt your child feels.

Adoption Attorneys in New Jersey

At the law office of Cofsky & Zeidman, LLC, our lawyers bring more than 25 years of experience to every matter we handle. Attorney Donald C. Cofsky has personally handled more than 1,500 adoption proceedings since joining the bar in 1974. Attorney Bruce D. Zeidman has protected the interests of clients in state and federal courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 1984. We understand the challenges you face, and can help you identify all your options so that you can make good decisions that are in your best long-term interests.

Contact our office online or call us at (856) 429-5005 in Haddonfield, NJ, at (856) 429-5005 in Woodbury, NJ, or in Philadelphia, PA, at (856) 429-5005. We also provide a free initial consultation in personal injury and workers’ compensation matters.

State Laws Related to Adoption

Pennsylvania State Laws Related to Adoption

There are federal laws that establish standard with which state adoption laws must comply. If you are considering an international adoption, you will have certain international laws that govern the process. But every state has its own adoption laws and Pennsylvania is no exception. Here are some of the more important laws.

Who Can Adopt or Be Adopted?

In Pennsylvania, anyone can adopt—you must, however, have an approved family profile, or home study. The home study is prepared by an adoption agency and customarily includes a visit to your home, a background check (to confirm employment, character and criminal history), and interviews with family members. The home study is also used to match you with a child.

There are no restrictions, either, on who may be adopted, except that consent must be obtained in the following circumstances:

  • If the adoptee is under the age of 18, the adopting parents must obtain the permission of the adoptee’s parents
  • The husband of the birth mother, if he was married to the birth mother within one year before the birth of the child
  • The adoptee, if he or she is over the age of 12
  • The guardian of the adoptee, if parental rights have been terminated or there are no parents whose consent is required
  • The spouse of the adopting parent, unless both parents are parties to the adoption

A person over the age of 18 may be legally adopted. If so the court has the discretion to determine whether any special consent is required.

Confidentiality of Adoption Proceedings

As a general rule, all adoption recordings and any documents related to the adoption are sealed and may not be reviewed except upon court order. If the adoptee is at least 18 years of age, he or she may request information about birth parents, provided the information does not reveal the identity of birth parents. If the child is not 18, his or her parents may ask the court for information that does not disclose the identity of birth parents. However, the birth parents still have absolute discretion to disclose or not disclose information.

Adoption Attorneys in New Jersey

At the law office of Cofsky & Zeidman, LLC, our lawyers bring more than 25 years of experience to every matter we handle. Attorney Donald C. Cofsky has personally handled more than 1,500 adoption proceedings since joining the bar in 1974. Attorney Bruce D. Zeidman has protected the interests of clients in state and federal courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 1984. We understand the challenges you face, and can help you identify all your options so that you can make good decisions that are in your best long-term interests.

Contact our office online or call us at (856) 429-5005 in Haddonfield, NJ, at (856) 429-5005 in Woodbury, NJ, or in Philadelphia, PA, at (856) 429-5005. We also provide a free initial consultation in personal injury and workers’ compensation matters.

Overcoming Attachment Issues in Adopted Children

When you adopt a child, your hope is always that the child will fully integrate with your family, bonding and becoming one of your own. Unfortunately, many adopted children experience problems with attachment, often as a result of not having the opportunity to bond with a stable and significant caregiver.

Some of the Characteristics of Attachment Disorder

Though every child manifests attachment disorder in different ways, there are some common types of behaviors that are typically indicative of an attachment problem:

  • With younger children, destructive acts may signal a lack of attachment. Your child may see no cause and effect between the destruction of a toy and the loss of a toy. A small child may not understand the components of a healthy relationship, such as hugs, acts of kindness or compassion, or sharing. A child may be unwilling to make eye contact, or may be demanding or clingy.
  • As children with attachment issues age, they tend to develop behaviors that benefit them at the expense of meaningful relationships. They may engage in stealing or lying, or may develop the ability to turn a charm off and on. They may also start to exhibit controlling or manipulative behavior with siblings or playmates. They seldom show remorse for their actions, and tend to make the same mistakes over and over. Additionally, they rarely, if ever, seek comfort when they have been hurt or are afraid.

Some Strategies for Parenting a Child with Attachment Issues

The most important thing to understand when living with and parenting a child with attachment issues is that there are no short-term solutions, no quick fixes. You need to have realistic expectations, and you need to expect that it will take a long time for the bond to develop, if it ever does. In most instances, with time, patience and hard work, attachment disorders can be healed. There will be times when it feels like no progress is being made. Those are the times you have to maintain a positive focus and keep moving forward.

  • Love is key—With small children, who don’t have verbal skills, hug them and physically express love and affection as often as possible, even if there’s little or no response or the response is negative.
  • Use humor and express joy as much as possible—Laughter is good medicine, and it’s always beneficial to show your child what it’s like to be joyful. In addition to injecting joy and laughter into your work with your child, find external sources of joy and laughter, so that you can stay emotionally and physically healthy.
  • Be patient and find ways to minimize your stress—Your child will demand a lot of your time. Give up other activities if they only serve to increase your stress level.
  • Seek support whenever you need it—Build a network of friends, family members and professionals who can guide you through the difficult times.

Adoption Attorneys in New Jersey

At the law office of Cofsky & Zeidman, LLC, our lawyers bring more than 25 years of experience to every matter we handle. Attorney Donald C. Cofsky has personally handled more than 1,500 adoption proceedings since joining the bar in 1974. Attorney Bruce D. Zeidman has protected the interests of clients in state and federal courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 1984. We understand the challenges you face, and can help you identify all your options so that you can make good decisions that are in your best long-term interests.

Contact our office online or call us at (856) 429-5005 in Haddonfield, NJ, at (856) 429-5005 in Woodbury, NJ, or in Philadelphia, PA, at (856) 429-5005. We also provide a free initial consultation in personal injury and workers’ compensation matters.

Dealing with an Adopted Child Who Was Neglected in an Orphanage

What to Do When You Adopt a Child Who Was Neglected in an Orphanage

When you adopt a child who has spent most of his or her life in an orphanage, the risk that the child was neglected or not properly cared for can be significant. Some orphanages simply have more children than they can adequately care for. Some children will be perceived as problem babies and avoided as much as possible by staff, only making the situation worse. Often, these children develop attachment disorders, making it difficult for them to bond with you. In addition, the shame, anger, resentment and sense of isolation they experienced as infants may cause them to act out as they grow up, engaging in behaviors intentionally designed to elicit negative emotions from you.

Dealing with Attachment Disorder

Attachment disorders can often (but not always) be healed, but they are deep-rooted. You must have reasonable expectations, a lot of patience and a willingness to take comfort in small steps forward. Remember that your child does not have any experience with someone not leaving them. Deep down, they have significant trust issues, and likely expect that you will leave them, too. This may cause them to devalue themselves, to assume that no one would want to stay in relationship with them permanently.

The best way to counteract an attachment disorder is to provide stable, consistent and genuine love and affection. You have to expect that it may not be enthusiastically received, or received at all. But you have to keep doing it. And as much as possible, share joy and laughter with your child. The more positive emotional experiences your child has, the more they come to understand that joy and fulfillment can be tied to attachment.

Dealing with a Child Who is Acting Out

Even though it may be difficult for you, it’s important to understand that a child who is acting out is taking positive steps forward. When your child acts out, it’s really their attempt to tell you about emotions they are feeling by getting you to experience the same emotions. If they are angry, they will try to get you to feel angry. If they are sad, they will engage in behavior that they believe will make you sad. It’s generally a good sign, because it indicates that they are trying to deal with the emotion, to get over it.

It’s also important to understand that acting out, especially in an adopted child, is in part an attempt to determine your level of commitment to them. They are essentially asking, “when are you going to abandon me?”

Adoption Attorneys in New Jersey

At the law office of Cofsky & Zeidman, LLC, our lawyers bring more than 25 years of experience to every matter we handle. Attorney Donald C. Cofsky has personally handled more than 1,500 adoption proceedings since joining the bar in 1974. Attorney Bruce D. Zeidman has protected the interests of clients in state and federal courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 1984. We understand the challenges you face, and can help you identify all your options so that you can make good decisions that are in your best long-term interests.

Contact our office online or call us at (856) 429-5005 in Haddonfield, NJ, at (856) 429-5005 in Woodbury, NJ, or in Philadelphia, PA, at (856) 429-5005. We also provide a free initial consultation in personal injury and workers’ compensation matters.

Attachment Issues and Adopted Children

Attachment Issues in Adopted Children

We all strive for a deep connection with our children. When they are adopted, though, that can be difficult. Many adopted children, especially those who have spent time in orphanages, develop attachment disorders, mostly as a result of not having a stable and significant person with whom they could bond during formative periods.

The Causes of Attachment Issues

Attachment disorders typically stem from repeated instances of abandonment, isolation, or neglect. Though children in orphanages may have greater susceptibility to these behaviors, any child can develop attachments issues. Here are some of the common causes:

  • The parent of a child may have mental health issues or substance abuse problems, preventing the parent from being available to the child during the first few months or years of life.
  • A child may be physically abused, leading a child to associate attachment with harm
  • A child may be hungry, wet or cry for any reason, and receive no attention for extended periods of time
  • Parents may be inconsistent in their care of the child, vacillating between periods of neglect and periods of doting
  • The child may have had too many caregivers, making it difficult or impossible to bond to one

The Telltale Signs of Attachment Disorder

In most instances, the sooner you recognize and respond to potential attachment issues, the greater the likelihood of overcoming them. Here are some of the classic symptoms of attachment disorder:

  • Your child continually cries and cannot be consoled
  • Your child does not try to verbalize or make sounds
  • There’s no eye contact, and your child’s attention does not change when you move
  • Your child shows no interest in playing with toys, and does not engage in any play with you
  • Your child does not seek or demand to be picked up or to have contact with you
  • Your child does not smile

Some general behaviors characteristic of attachment disorder include:

  • Lack of care and compassion in play or in interactions with others
  • Absence of remorse, guilt or learning from mistakes
  • Aggressive behavior toward others
  • Attempts to control others and to challenge authority
  • An unwillingness to be touched or to show physical affection

Adoption Attorneys in New Jersey

At the law office of Cofsky & Zeidman, LLC, our lawyers bring more than 25 years of experience to every matter we handle. Attorney Donald C. Cofsky has personally handled more than 1,500 adoption proceedings since joining the bar in 1974. Attorney Bruce D. Zeidman has protected the interests of clients in state and federal courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 1984. We understand the challenges you face, and can help you identify all your options so that you can make good decisions that are in your best long-term interests.

Contact our office online or call us at (856) 429-5005 in Haddonfield, NJ, at (856) 429-5005 in Woodbury, NJ, or in Philadelphia, PA, at (856) 429-5005. We also provide a free initial consultation in personal injury and workers’ compensation matters.

General Adoption Ethics

Ethical Concerns in an Adoption Proceeding

Doing the Right Thing When You Adopt a Child

In many ways, adoption is big business. Adoptive parents will spend a lot of money to get the child they want. Unfortunately, when there’s a lot of money involved, the best interests of everyone involved can be forgotten or ignored. Adoption is more than creating a happy new family by the addition of a child. The birth parents can be easily exploited and feel a tremendous sense of loss. Adopted children can feel abandoned and develop attachment issues. The needs and concerns of all three parties—birthparents, adoptive parents and the adoptee—need to be considered. Here are some ethical guidelines for adoption.

The Birthparents

Birthparents who consider adoption and seek information on adoption are generally under a great deal of stress. Adoption professionals need to be very clear about all the options available, carefully and honestly describing the advantages and disadvantages of each option. If the birthparent opts to place the child up for adoption, the adoption professional should make certain they understand the different types of adoptions—public and private, open and closed. Before making a final decision, a birthparent should know whether they will know who the adoptive parents are and where they live, as well as whether there will be any continuing contact with the child.

Birthparents should also be educated about the potential emotional consequences of putting a child up for adoption. Birthparent may experience a broad spectrum of emotions, from loss and grief to guilt, shame or low self-esteem. Adoption professionals should make certain that birthparents have information about support groups, counseling and other resources to deal with post-adoption challenges.

The Child

In all adoptions, the primary goal and the focal point should be the best interests of the child. Adoption professionals should clearly determine the needs of the child, and work to implement an adoption that will best meet the child’s needs.

Studies indicate that the best interests of the child are best-served in a permanent home, where the child will receive consistent and loving care. If that can be done in the birthparents’ home, adoption professionals should support keeping a child with birthparents, particularly if there are siblings with whom the child has established a bond. If it’s clear that staying with birthparents is not in the child’s best interests, the adoption professional should seek a permanent placement as soon as possible, to minimize the potential negative impact on the emotional growth of the child. In addition, if the child has siblings, all efforts should be made to keep siblings together.

The Adopting Parent(s)

Adopting parents can just as easily be exploited, as the desire to have a child can blind them to the realities of the situation. Adoption professionals should clearly explain the different types of adoption proceedings, making certain that adoptive parents know that they can use different agencies, or can adopt without the assistance of an agency. All potential costs should be disclosed up front, and adoptive parents should clearly understand if there will be any communication or contact with the birthparent after the adoption is finalized. Adoptive parents should also be educated about potential emotional challenges the child may face, including acting out and attachment disorders.

Adoption Attorneys in New Jersey

At the law office of Cofsky & Zeidman, LLC, our lawyers bring more than 25 years of experience to every matter we handle. Attorney Donald C. Cofsky has personally handled more than 1,500 adoption proceedings since joining the bar in 1974. Attorney Bruce D. Zeidman has protected the interests of clients in state and federal courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 1984. We understand the challenges you face, and can help you identify all your options so that you can make good decisions that are in your best long-term interests.

Contact our office online or call us at (856) 429-5005 in Haddonfield, NJ, at (856) 429-5005 in Woodbury, NJ, or in Philadelphia, PA, at (856) 429-5005. We also provide a free initial consultation in personal injury and workers’ compensation matters.