Most of the adoption process is a private matter. Adoptive parents make the choice to form a family through adoption, a birth parent makes the decision to choose adoption for their child, and the HFS social worker staff members shepherd everyone through a complex and exacting process.
However, when it comes to the relinquishment and finalization phases of the process, it’s all hands on deck with the staff members at HFS, as I discovered firsthand!
The Relinquishment: The Journey Begins for the Adoptee
I have had the privilege of working for HFS for the last 7 months. As Social Media Manager, I have absorbed an overwhelming amount of information regarding Foster Care and Adoption. So, you can only imagine how moving it was when the staff asked me to be part of a relinquishment during an open adoption. You might be asking yourself, “What is a relinquishment, exactly?” I had the same question, but allow me to explain. A relinquishment is when a parent or parents independently decide that they would like to terminate parental rights to their child. They weigh all options, including foster care, open adoptions, etc. Although people can be quick to judge birth parents’ reasoning for giving up rights to their child, I’ve seen first-hand how selfless birth parents are when making the best and sometimes hardest decision for their child to live and have a better life.
Early one morning, I was called to meet with one of our social workers and our executive director at a nearby hospital because they needed a witness during one of their relinquishment procedures. I was greeted by a 15-year-old girl who had just given birth and wanted to relinquish her newborn because she couldn’t provide the life she wanted for her child. I looked over to the bassinet and saw the cutest little boy staring at me with the clearest eyes I have ever seen. The birth mother was looking through our “waiting family list” and wanted a family with a similar background to hers. It was very important to her that they root for the same baseball team. At last, she found the perfect family for her perfect child. Once I helped our social worker and director organize the paperwork and her rights were read to her, I met with the waiting family, newly chosen by the birth parent. Their eyes were filled with joy, knowing that their dream of becoming parents had finally come true. I have never witnessed such tenderness between two families who, moments ago, were strangers, but now will be forever bonded through love. I have never witnessed such selfless love. But it’s not over. For these families, there will be another, more definitive step in the adoption process.
The Finalization: Now officially a “Forever Family”
The finalization of a child’s adoption marks the finish line of the adoptive parent and child’s journey. When a court issues a decree of adoption, your relationship as parent and child is permanently and legally bound. Finalization of adoption usually takes place from three months to a year after the child comes to their forever home.
I was lucky enough to witness not one, but two adoption finalizations in September, and it was the sweetest thing in the world to see in person. I walked into a room at the courthouse with the adoptive parents, the adopted children, the family’s attorney, and HFS social workers who worked on the case. When the judge entered the courtroom, the entire family stood up and he swore them in. The children were laughing and playing around. The parents were filled with joy, knowing this was the final step in making their forever families official. The attorneys asked the parents to introduce themselves, then asked the family to confirm their intention in relation to the care of the children. One family had a grandma and grandpa present as well.
When everything was confirmed, the adoptive parents and the judge signed the decree of adoption and the other paperwork needed to finalize the process. Once the signatures were completed, it was time to celebrate! There were a lot of laughs and smiles from cheek to cheek and a sigh of relief in the air. Cameras began flashing as family members took pictures of this monumental moment. I looked over at my co-workers, who were also beaming with excitement and joy. This experience was so beautiful! I can imagine the joy this day will bring to others who have put time, energy, and love into creating a new family and making it official.
I am thankful to work for an incredible organization that touches so many lives and helps create forever families.