"The child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding….”
Hiring an Attorney
Foster parents know the most about the children in their care and have the most to offer in terms of possible permanence. They must express their own rights and wishes, but more importantly, they must advocate for the children in their home. Many foster parents are hesitant to speak out for fear of being labeled as troublemakers. In fact, foster parents who are appropriately assertive are more apt to be fully heard. They would be wise to hire an attorney as soon as they wish to adopt, before matters get set in cement.
When hiring an attorney, foster/adopt parents want someone who is knowledgeable and experienced in the area of their concern. Whether incorporating a business, planning an estate, or suing for personal injury, one wants to be represented by someone who has expertise in that particular area. The same applies to adoptions from foster care. Foster parents need an attorney who is familiar with the state and federal laws. The attorney should also be familiar with agency and state policies and know the people in the system. Every state has thick policy manuals which cover such topics as bonding, adoption, subsidies, and a definition of special needs.
The attorney needs to understand bonding. While the varied legal procedures must be followed conscientiously, the presentation and proof of bonding between the child and the foster/adopt parents may be the strongest argument for keeping them together; especially in a contested adoption. Bonding, when it occurs, is critical to a child’s development. The disruption of a demonstrated bonded relationship does considerable damage which may be irreversible. The problem for an attorney is to present proof of bonding and the consequences of its disruption to the court in a factual and evidentiary way.