The adoption process generally starts with filing of the adoption petition. Once the adoption petition is filed, the DC family court adoption clerk issues an order of reference and a show cause order both required to be served on the biological parents to provide the initial legal notice.
If contested however, below are the two main statutory elements that needs to be established by clear and convincing evidence which are listed under ξ16-304 (d) and (e):
d) When a parent whose consent is herein before required, after such notice as the court directs, cannot be located, or has abandoned the prospective adoptee and voluntarily failed to contribute to his support for a period of at least six months next preceding the date of the filing of the petition, the consent of that parent is not required.
(e) The court may grant a petition for adoption without any of the consents specified, when the court finds, after a hearing, that the consent or consents are withheld contrary to the best interest of the child.
In determining the “best interest of the child” the court will consider the factors listed below, which are essentially the termination of parental rights elements:
1) The child’s need for continuity of care and caretakers and for timely integration into a stable and permanent home, taking into account the differences in the development and the concept of time of children of different ages:
This element focuses on the child’s home environment. The foster parents seeking to complete the adoption need to establish that they have provided “continuity of care” and for a significant period. That is, a safe, stable, and sustainable home environment.
2) The physical, mental and emotional health of all individuals involved to the degree that such affects the welfare of the child, the decisive consideration being the physical, mental and emotional needs of the child:
Here the physical, mental and emotional development and attachments of the child is considered. Bonding and attachment studies, psychological evaluations, and evaluations by therapeutic services provide significant evidence.
Moreover, the court will consider physical health of all the individuals involved.
3) The quality of the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parent, siblings, relative, and/or caretakers, including the foster parent:
Psychological studies and again bonding/attachment assessments and evaluations are considered here to determine who is the primary caregiver to the child as well as the psychological parent.
Parenting evaluations provide insight for the court as to which party is effectively raising and parenting the child, the foster parents or the biological parents and to what degree. Sibling bond and interactions also play a significant role.
(4) To the extent feasible, the child’s opinion of his or her own best interests in the matter:
Here if the child is less than age of legal consent (14), then the Guardian Ad Litem — the child’s lawyer submits her consents to the adoption.
Comments made by the child to social workers, school teachers, and other independent parties, if admissible, may also provide persuasive evidence.
(5) Evidence that drug-related activity continues to exist in a child’s home environment after intervention and services have been provided ….
Clearly if the biological parents still struggle with drug or substance abuse, this factors in significantly in the parental rights termination in favor of stable and sustainable long term provider. Especially if the drug use has been long term, untreated and having impact on parental capacity.
Our DC adoption lawyers have extensive experience litigating adoption cases and in numerous cases have escalated or invoked appellate review by the DC Court of Appeals, we are not only implementing and applying the adoption laws during your representation but establishing and paving new precedents along the way.
If you are either a parent facing termination of parental rights, or a prospective petitioner seeking to file an adoption petition for a child in US territory or outside the US territory, contact our experienced DC adoption lawyers for a comprehensive case evaluation.
RELATED FORMS, BLOGS, AND RESOURCES:
DC ADOPTION STATUTE [insert 16-304 or 16-2353]
a. Petition for Adoption
b. Vital Records Form
c. Adoption Information Sheet
d. Proposed Final Decree
e. Proposed Notice of Issuance of Final Decree