Domestic Adoption Procedures

Overview

The Adoption Services of Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New Orleans (CCANO), is a non-profit adoption agency licensed by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.  CCANO has provided adoption services since the early 1900s and continues in its commitment to serving families created through adoption as well as other maternity and adoption related services. The agency provides services to families of all faiths. The basic criteria for application is that applicants be between 27-45 years of age. If married, it is requested that the applicant be married for at least 3 years. The family income should be adequate to provide for the needs of a child.

Questionnaire

Requests for questionnaires are typically accepted each November and December. However, this timeframe is re-evaluated year to year. Questionnaires are provided to interested applicants and due back in the office by a pre-determined date. The questionnaire is not an application, but is a means of obtaining identifying information to determine the eligibility of applicants. When the questionnaire is returned to the adoption agency by the applicant, the agency requires a picture of the family including all household members, a copy of the birth certificate for all household members, a copy of the marriage license, a copy of a divorce decree or death certificate in the case of a previous marriage, and a copy of discharge papers from the military (where applicable).

Individual Information Meeting

Applicants who complete the questionnaire and return it with all requested attachments by the specified due date will be contacted to schedule an individual informational interview.

The individual informational interview serves as a time for the adoption program staff to learn about the applicants’ adoption interest and readiness for adoption. This is also a time for the adoption program staff to address the applicants’ individual adoption related questions. Based on the information received in the meeting, applicants are asked to indicate their desire to continue in the selection process.

Upon completion of the individual informational interviews with all interested applicants, the adoption program staff will make a selection of applicants to offer a formal application to adopt through the Adoption Services of Catholic Charities for that specific calendar year.

Since the expectant mothers in the program choose the adoptive family for their child, the program needs a selection of potential adoptive families with varying backgrounds (educational, religious, employment, etc.).

The Adoption Services of Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New Orleans is not seeking “perfect” applicant or a pre-determined number of potential adoptive families. The number of applicants offered a formal application is based on the adoption program’s placement rate for the previous year and additional factors as trends are presented to adoption program staff.

Unfortunately, due to the limited number of adoption placements, Adoption Services of Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New Orleans is typically not able to offer all applicants a formal application to adopt. The adoption program welcomes questions from applicants not offered a formal application to adopt in the program for that specific calendar year. The adoption program staff is also available to offer counseling / referrals to those applicants who are not offered a formal application to adopt through the agency for that specific calendar year.

Application

Applicants offered a formal application to adopt must sign / return the Acceptance of the Formal Application. A Formal Application to Adopt and Home Study Packet will be provided to the applicant.

Outreach Fees

Applicants offered a formal application to adopt through the program will be assessed a one-time fee for the agency’s outreach efforts. Outreach fees are non-refundable and due at the time the Formal Application to Adopt is submitted.

Home Study

A home study for the purpose of adoption is completed by the Adoption Program Director. The home study is a time to gather and prepare information required by Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans as well as prepare the prospective family for adoption. The home study is a time to further explore the family’s readiness to adopt, infertility issues and the ability to provide for a child’s physical and emotional development. Although rare, in some cases a prospective family’s home study may not be approved. An approved home study may be provided to other adoption placement resources by completing the agency’s release of information. The home study fee is non-refundable and due at the first scheduled home visit meeting.

What is the Home Study?

The home study usually takes place over three meetings (2 in the adoption program office and 2 in the family’s home). This is an informal time to for discussion and education related to the goal of adoption placement.

The 4 meetings include the following:

Office Meetings – these 2 meetings include discussions with families as a couple and as individuals. The individual meetings are relaxed discussions about the information provided in the autobiography guide as well as plans for the family.

Home Meeting – these 2 meetings include a tour of the family home including number of bedrooms, bathrooms, general living areas, as well as a home safety assessment.

As part of the adoption home study, additional paperwork is required and forms will be provided for completion.

Home Study Packet

Certificates – Copies of birth certificates, marriage / divorce certificates, and driver’s licenses are provided to the agency.

Autobiography Guide – The autobiography guide will assist in writing your life-story. We ask that this information be typewritten. This information is not shared with the birth parents but used as part of the individual interview meeting.

Medical Forms – A medical form will be provided for your physician to complete for each family member living in the home.

Criminal Clearances

There are several criminal clearances that are necessary to complete:

  • Child Abuse Clearance through the Department of Children and Family Services
  • Child Abuse Clearance through each state the applicant has resided since the age of 18
  • Louisiana State Police – Bureau of Criminal Identification
  • FBI Fingerprint Criminal Clearances

Financial Background – A summary of the family’s financial summary as well as a copy of the most recent W-2 or a recent check stub to verify employment and income.

Personal References – A minimum of 5 personal references will be contacted to provide information regarding your family as it relates to adoption.

Additional Forms – There will be other forms required by Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services to be completed as part of the home study process and these will be provided as required.

Adoption Profile / Dear Expectant Parent – Adoption Profile / Dear Expectant Parent letters are presented to expectant parents as part of the selection process. The Adoption Profile consists of written information as well as photos of the adoptive family’s life. A guide and samples of the Adoption Profile and Dear Expectant Parent can be provided. The Adoption Profile photo album is provided to the birth parent is typically kept buy the birth parent following the adoption placement. If the birth parent is unable to accept the photo album, the album will be returned to the adoptive family. If you would like a copy of the photo album for your family, please make a duplicate album prior to submitting the photo album to the program for consideration by expectant parents.

Other Requirements

Applicants offered a Formal Application to Adopt through the program must complete online adoption education courses as well as adoption related reading materials. Additional reading material will also be provided throughout the program. Applicants are expected to assist and support outreach efforts to increase referrals to the program.

Waiting Period

When the applicant is chosen by an expectant parent, they will be notified about a potential placement. The time frame for adoption depends on many factors including, but not limited to, desired race of child and level of openness. Upon receipt of the approved home study and adoptive family profile, the average wait for a child is 6 months – 5 years.

Adoption Fees

Payment of the adoption placement fee is due within 20 days of placement. When an applicant is accepted into the program, an Adoption Fee Agreement outlining all of the adoption fees will be reviewed, agreed to and signed by the applicants and adoption program staff.

The adoption fee allows the agency to provide various services to the adoptive parents and expecting/birth parents pre and post adoption placement. In addition to program fees, the agency depends on personal contributions from the general public and fundraising efforts to meet the balance of the agency’s budget.

Adoption Tax Credit/Refund

Applicants may be able to take a tax credit/refund for qualifying expenses paid to adopt an eligible child (including a child with special needs). Qualifying expenses may include adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, traveling expenses while away from home, etc.  See www.irs.gov for additional information.

Placement of a Child and Post Placement Supervision

All applicants must be present at the time a child is placed with them. Each adoptive parent must sign the Adoption Services Placement Agreement packet before accepting a child into their family and home.

Louisiana requires that the adoptive child be in the home a minimum of six months before the Adoption Services of Catholic Charities can give permission for filing the adoption petition. The six-month supervision period begins on the day of placement. After placement of a child, the Adoption Program Director or Maternity Case Manager will visit your home on a scheduled day / time to complete a minimum of three post placement visits over the six month post placement period.

Progress Reports

Monthly reports (12 months) and yearly letters (5 years) with pictures (minimum of 6 originals – double prints) are required as part of the adoption placement agreement. A monthly report form will be provided for the monthly reports and made non-identifying in preparation for providing the information to the birth parents. The yearly letters are more of a narrative format with a summary of the previous year and any additional information the family would like to share. All reports are provided directly to Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Finalization of Adoption

The Adoption Services of Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New Orleans retains legal custody of the child until the court grants the final decree of adoption. All petitions are filed in Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court using the adoption program’s attorney (Albert F. Widmer, Jr.). When the final decree is granted a new birth certificate is issued under the names of the adoptive parents. Attorney’s fees are paid directly to the attorney by the adoptive parent(s) and must be paid in full prior to finalization.

Other Services

The Adoption Services of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans provides home study and post adoption service for other agency, private and international adoption placements.  Please contact Danna P. Cousins, LCSW-BACS at 504-885-1141 or dcousins@ccano.org for more information regarding any of these services.

Anyone desiring further adoption information should contact:

 Danna P. Cousins, LCSW-BACS

Program Director

Adoption Services

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans

3019 N. Arnoult Road

Metairie, LA 70002

504-885-1141

Email:  dcousins@ccano.org

Website:  www.adoptnola.com