“Hey Sis. Mike and I have something we want to discuss with you. We’d like to adopt your son.”
Before 2018, I never imagined I’d be having a conversation with my younger sister about adopting her child over the phone. However, as my sister’s mental illness, homelessness, and joblessness continued to inhibit her ability to provide for herself, let alone her child, my husband and I knew we needed to have this difficult conversation with my little sister.
In most cases of adoption, you typically hear of a couple going through an adoption agency to find a willing birth mother. You sometimes even hear of families serving in the foster community who make the decision to provide a permanent home for children in their care. But one type of adoption that is less talked about is that of kinship adoption. Kinship adoption, or relative adoption, is the process of adopting a family member.
Requirements for Kinship Adoption in Texas
In the state of Texas, there are a couple of requirements you must meet in order to pursue a kinship adoption. They are:
- Be a Texas resident for at least six months. If you have a relative placed in your care before you move to Texas like we did, you’ll need to wait until you’ve lived in Texas for six months continuously before you can begin the adoption process through the county family court. Additionally — unless there are extenuating circumstances — the child will need to be in your care and house for at least six months prior to starting the adoption process.
- The biological parents’ parental rights have to be terminated. This can be done willingly by the biological parents signing an affidavit, but it is not official until after a family court judge has issued a court order. For more info about what it means to have parental rights terminated in Texas, learn more about the Texas Family Code regarding terminating parental rights. If you only have access to one of the biological parents, you must be able to show good faith in trying to notify the other biological parent of your desire to adopt his or her biological child. If the biological parents aren’t willing to terminate their parental rights, you will need to provide proof the parent has shown abandonment, endangered the child, engaged in certain criminal conduct, or is otherwise unfit.
- Complete a home study. A home study is a home inspection and Q&A completed by a licensed home study agency. It can cost between $500 – $1500. It is good to know that during the home study both you and your partner will need to be present to discuss information about your family background, marriage, parenting abilities, financial status, social supports from extended family and friends, as well as the home environment. The adoption specialist isn’t looking for a spotless home, but is trying to gauge what the home environment will be like for the adopted child as he or she grows up with you.
- A court hearing to finalize the adoption. If the adoption is uncontested by the biological parents, then you may only need one court hearing to terminate parental rights and finalize the adoption.
- Anticipate several court dates and fees. If you are preparing for a kinship adoption and the biological parents aren’t willing to terminate their parental rights, be prepared for at least two court dates and fees before your adoption is complete.
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Our Adoption Experience
We began the adoption process in October of 2019, 10 months after moving to Texas from Indiana. We found our family adoption attorney through a friend of a friend. After a brief introductory meeting, we decided to pursue the adoption at the start of the new year.
Our attorney guided us along the journey, primarily over email and helped us to set up our home study, paperwork for the termination of my sister’s parental rights, and proof that we had no reasonable way to contact and/or find our son’s biological father.
Because of the caseload of the courts at the time, our adoption date was set for three months after our attorney submitted the paperwork for the hearing.
Once our adoption hearing was set, the court appointed an attorney to represent the child’s best interest in court. This attorney met with us and our son (then nephew) just once, right before the hearing in a private room at the courthouse.
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The actual court hearing before the judge lasted about an hour the day. Our family law attorney stood before the judge and professionally represented our case to the judge, along with the results from the home study, background checks, and other screening procedures. My sister did not attend the hearing, but submitted a notarized letter saying she was willingly terminating her parental rights, which our attorney read aloud for the judge.
Toward the end, my husband and I were asked to stand and deliver our pledge to raise our son throughout his entire life, and then we were done! At the end of the adoption, we stood before the judge and took a family picture. The judge gifted each of our children a small stuffed animal to help them remember the day.
All of my kids know and acknowledge that my son has two moms and refer to my sister as my son’s other mom. I think all of these small acts and choices are what made the adoption of my sister’s son more palatable for my sister. No matter why an adoption occurs, it is still a traumatic experience. No matter what reasons you may have had going into adoption, the effect is still the same: The life and trajectory of the child (and the family) is forever changed.
If you are considering a kinship adoption I would suggest getting started by finding a family attorney who specializes in kinship adoptions or meeting with an attorney at a legal clinic. You can find info for both at TexasLawHelp.org. It is managed by Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. TLSC provides free legal services to underserved Texans in need of education, advice, and representation. Adoption is not an emotionally easy process, but it is worth it. I wish you luck on your adoption journey.