Dedicated Maryville Agency and DCS Adoptions Attorneys
Adoption lawyers helping clients expand their families in Blount County & East Tennessee
The State of Tennessee serves as guardian to hundreds of children who need the love and security of their own families. Many couples choose to help these kids, making the decision to turn to adoption to build their family and give a child a home of their own. There are many children available for adoption in Tennessee, especially older children, sibling groups, and those with special needs.
You can view photos of Tennessee’s waiting kids on the Department of Children's Services website and find out more about what it takes to bring them home. Children who are waiting to be adopted may also be in the guardianship of a private licensed child placement agency or adoption agency.
The trusted Maryville adoption attorneys at the law firm of Shepherd & Long, P.C. are ready to guide prospective adoptive parents through the entire process of adopting a child in need of a stable home.
Working with licensed adoption agencies in Tennessee
Whether a child is in the guardianship of the state or a private agency, prospective adoptive parents will need a home study by a licensed agency. The child must be in the adoptive parents’ physical custody for at least six months before an adoption may be finalized, unless the child to be adopted is related to them.
If you need help choosing an adoption agency to work with, there are several licensed adoption agencies that provide fee-based services to adoptive parents. Each year the TN Department of Children’s Services publishes a fee schedule so that you can compare the costs and services (the 2020 schedule is here). It is also vital that you read each agency’s contracts carefully and to work with an experienced Maryville adoption attorney before you sign anything.
What is the process for adopting a foster child in TN?
Many foster parents seek to adopt the foster children in their care, as they have bonded with the children and the children have bonded with them. Once a foster family has had a child for twelve months, they will have priority over any other potential adoptive parents for the child, including any relative of the child who may be seeking custody.
The first step in becoming an adoptive parent to a child in DCS custody is to have a licensed child placement agency conduct a formal home study. Next, you submit the home study for the specific child or children you want to adopt. Once you have been identified as a prospective adoptive parent for a specific child and you have agreed to become the child’s parent, the next step is PATH training.
PATH (“Parents As Tender Healers”) is a required course and self-assessment process that explores communication styles and helps adoptive families understand some of the emotional issues that may occur with children in the custody of the state. Many of these children have experienced a substantial amount of loss, grief, trauma and upheaval in their short lives.
Finally, DCS decides if you are the right match for the child, and provide you with detailed information about your potential adoptive child so that you can make an informed decision about proceeding with the adoption. If DCS agrees that matching the child with you will meet the child’s needs, the child will become your child and a legal part of your family.
What does it cost to adopt a child in Tennessee?
Adoption assistance and subsidies may be available to foster parents to help defray the cost of a child’s ongoing needs following the adoption. An adoption assistance contract is typically negotiated between the Department of Children’s Services and the adoptive parents. The amount of assistance an adoptive family receives will depends on the needs of the child and the family.
These contracts must be carefully negotiated, especially when it is likely that a special needs child will need significant and ongoing medical care for the rest of his or her life. The adoption attorneys at Shepherd & Long can work with you to ensure the needs of your child are met.
Can we foster a child temporarily so we can decide if we want to adopt them?
No. DCS tries to minimize the number of moves for children who are in the custody of the state. A child will not be moved from his or her foster home until you are approved as their adoptive parent. According to AdoptUSKids, “DCS practice is to work with individuals who sign up to become foster parents, and then if a child in DCS custody becomes available for adoption, the foster family caring for that child is the first option for adoption.”
I saw a child’s picture on the DCS website. Can we meet that child and decide if we want to adopt them?
The Department of Children’s Services focuses on the needs of the child when matching them with prospective adoptive parents. They try to find the right people who will be a good fit with the child’s personality, needs, hopes fears and desires for their life. You can learn more about Tennessee children in the foster care system at The Heart Gallery of Tennessee, Parent a Child, and America’s Kids Belong.
If we have been approved as foster parents in Tennessee, can we adopt a child from another state?
Yes, the DCS in Tennessee can send your home study information, with your permission, to the state where the child you want to adopt resides.
How do I choose the right adoption agency?
Tennessee has a variety of wonderful and reputable private adoption agencies from which to choose. However, because their services are fee-based, it’s crucial you research and compare agencies thoroughly. Before selecting an agency, you should:
- Review their accreditation, licensing, and history
- Ensure they are insured and licensed to operate in Tennessee
- Read and review any contracts carefully
Any time you are working with a government agency or a privately-run adoption agency, you’ll be facing many rules and regulations, waiting lists, and other obstacles that feel designed to frustrate you. Remember, though – in the end, every hoop you jump through and every document requiring answers to personal and invasive questions is worth it when you hold that child in your arms.
Work with a compassionate Maryville adoption lawyer today
After much soul-searching and thoughtful consideration, you may be ready to find out what is required to adopt a child from the Tennessee DCS or an agency. The adoption attorneys at Shepherd & Long, P.C. can guide you through the process with ease. Your willingness to provide a safe, stable home for a child in the state child welfare system can change a child’s life and yours for the better. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call us at 865-982-8060 or fill out our contact form. We regularly represent clients in Madisonville, Oak Ridge, Lenoir City and throughout East Tennessee.