The Effects of COVID-19 on the Adoption Process
Every year, 135,000 children are adopted in the U.S. However, COVID-19 is changing the way that parents can adopt and presenting logistical hurdles for the time being. Here are some ways that coronavirus is putting obstacles in the way of the adoption process.
Parents May Not Have In-Person Visits
One of the most important parts of the adoption process is the in-person visit. If parents are adopting a child, they may not even be able to meet the child before the adoption. Usually, the parents will have at least one in-person meeting with the child after they are matched but before the adoption is official.
However, there are both stay-at-home orders as well as travel restrictions in place that can prevent an in-person meeting. If the adopted child lives far away, it may be difficult to get to see them. However, this does not mean that the process is frozen so long as we are dealing with COVID-19. Parents can still meet a child virtually. Even though it is not the same experience, it is something that the adoptive parents can do to begin to form a connection with the child.
Virtual Relationships With the Birth Mother
Adoptive parents now also face obstacles in forming a relationship with the birth parent of the child. During COVID-19, they must get to know each other virtually. Many adoptive parents had been able to go to the hospital for the baby’s birth if they were adopting a newborn. However, this is not always possible now that hospitals are restricting visitors who are allowed.
Many times, adoptive parents will attend a doctor’s appointment with the birth mother before the child is born. Now, most doctors have restrictions on guests attending appointments. It appears that there will be limitations for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, adoptive parents will need to use Zoom and phone calls in order to form a relationship with the birth mother. It does present some hurdles, but with some diligence, it is possible to achieve. It is very important to form this relationship if it is at all possible.
Domestic Adoptions Are Slowed
Since the courts are part of the adoption process, it follows that anything that involves the judicial branch may slow an adoption that is already underway. While courthouses are not completely closed, the lack of staff means that courts are simply not dealing with matters that are not an emergency right now.
In other words, even if the parents are able to reach the baby, the judicial approval that they need may take some time to receive at this point. Even if you are working with an adoption agency, at some point, there will need to be a court hearing to legally approve the adoption. You will have to file a petition with the court and hold a special adoption hearing.
An adoption hearing is not considered to be an essential or emergency hearing that requires the immediate attention of the court. As such, there may be delays in the process. In many cases, this is a hearing in which the judge will want to assess the prospective adoptive parents in person.
There are no assurances that you may even get a prompt hearing after the COVID-19 crisis recedes and the courthouses reopen. The judges expect to have a long backlog of cases that piled up when their courtrooms were closed. Where they end up placing adoption cases in their queue remains to be seen. Just because a courthouse is reopening does not mean that you and your PA adoption lawyer will be able to get the next available date on the judge’s calendar.
Of course, the hearing dates must also be squared with any travel arrangements that you must make to reach the child. Travel will also continue to remain difficult as a result of COVID-19.
If you have questions about your adoption process and how COVID-19 will impact it, contact a PA adoption lawyer at Cofsky & Zeidman by calling (215) 563-2150 today to set up a consultation in Philadelphia and learn more.