Q. What does it mean to "Finalize" or "Re-Finalize" our adoption?
The finalization of an adoption means the end of the supervisory period as well as the legal transfer of all parental rights to the adoptive family.
In many foreign adoptions, this process happens in-country when a family receives the child. Although the adoption is recognized by California as final, according to Adoption Horizons Policy and Procedure on Adjustment Supervision & Re-Finalization, re-finalizing your adoption is a requirement - for families adopting internationally - regardless of their child's country of origin.
Q. How long will it take to finalize our adoption?
It takes at least six months to finalize an adoption with Adoption Horizons.
Your six-month post adjustment supervision phase begins as soon as the child enters your care. During this time you will be required to complete monthly post-placement reports and attend six monthly post-placement meetings. You will also be asked to turn in documents necessary for the finalization packet that is sent to the courthouse.
Adoption Horizons requires that you complete your post adjustment supervision in six months so that you can proceed immediately to the court finalization.
In some cases a family may be eligible to be placed on a "fast track" for finalization. Such cases include children who traveled to the US from a foreign country whose adoption was not finalized in-country. In this situation a family would still be required to complete six months of post adjustment supervision, but their adoption would be eligible for finalization after only one visit with their social worker.
Q. How does an intercountry re-finalization take place?
The first step in the re-finalization process happens about one month after you have arrived home with your child. Your finalization worker will send you a letter requesting the following documents:
- Copies of all documents received from the foreign country
- Copy of Certificate of Citizenship
- Child's Arrival Medical Report
- Pre-Finalization Medical Report
- A record of all your adoption expenses
Once these documents have been received, your file will be checked to make sure that you have no outstanding balance due to the agency, attended all six post-placement meetings, completed all six post-placement reports, and that your social worker has written the Adoption Finalization Report (happens 6 months after you have returned with your child.)
Once these steps have been completed, your worker will send you a form called the AD 200 (Adoption Request). You will be requested to take this form to the court house to file ($20 filing fee). This form opens your case with the court and the court clerk will assign you an "AD" number. You are requested to give Adoption Horizons a copy of the stamped AD 200, as we need the AD number to complete the rest of your court paperwork.
Your worker will then complete the rest of the documents needed for the finalization packet and will send you a copy of everything to proof. Once any corrections/changes have been made, your finalization packet will be mailed to the court. You will also receive a notification letter stating that your packet has been sent - you can then call the courthouse to set up your appointment for a court hearing. You will then appear in court on the assigned day with your child to finalize your adoption before a court judge.
While this may seem like a lengthy process, most of the work is done at the Adoption Horizons office once we have received paperwork from you. The key to making this process easy and painless is to stay organized and follow the helpful coaching from your case worker.
Please note that these steps vary slightly from county to county.
Q. When will I receive my child's new birth certificate?
The form called the Court Report of Adoption (VS 44) that Adoption Horizons files with the court is what generates your amended birth certificate for your child. It usually takes up to 6 months to receive the amended birth certificate from Sacramento. If after six months you have not received your amended birth certificate you should contact Adoption Horizons or the court house that filed your Adoption Order. At this time there is only one person in the state of California that processes these amended birth certificates and expedited service is not available.
Q. I don't know the exact dates for my expense report. What should I do?
It is okay if you don't know the exact dates for your adoption expenses. Adoption Horizons generally uses the date you contracted with the agency and the date you traveled home with your child as the range of time you paid your expenses. (Example, if you signed up in February 2005 and received your child in March 2006 we would list the date you paid for things like passports, travel expenses, etc. as "02/05 to 03/06".)
Q. It has been longer than 90 days since my child has been to the doctor, do I have to make a new appointment?
Under normal circumstances Adoption Horizons would prefer you to make a new appointment for your child. However, we can sometimes make exceptions if absolutely necessary. You are encouraged to call your finalization worker to discuss your options.
Q. I just took my child to the doctor a few weeks before I received your request for a Medical Report. Do I have to make a new appointment?
No. Your child's doctor will most likely be willing to complete the Medical Report using the information from your last visit. In this case, please allow your child's doctor at least one week to return the form to you.
Q. What are the foreign documents you are requesting?
When you adopt from China you will receive at least three white booklets. These are called the Notorial Certificate of Birth, Notorial Certificate of Abandonment, and the Notorial Certificate of Adoption as well as a separate Adoption Registration (usually in a red folder). Adoption Horizons will need copies of these documents as well as a copy of your child's Certificate of Citizenship.
Other foreign countries have different legal documents. it is recommended that you provide Adoption Horizons with copies of ALL legal documents received during the legal process. If you are unsure of what documents are needed you should make an appointment with your finalization case worker so they can be reviewed in the office.
Q. I live out of the area and I cannot attend the six Post-Placement Meetings. Will I still be allowed to finalize?
Yes. Adoption Horizons does make exceptions for families who are unable to attend the post-placement meetings due to travel limitations, disabilities, etc. In this case you will still be required to meet with your social worker individually and promptly complete and mail in your six Post-Placement Reports.
Q. I began the finalization process a few years ago and never finished. What should I do?
If you were working with Adoption Horizons to finalize your adoption, contact your finalization worker to discuss your case.
Adoption Horizons policy requires that all intercountry adoptions be re-finalized in California. According to Adoption Horizons Policy and Procedure for Closing a Family File for Failing to Re-Finalize the Adoption, if after repeated attempts to complete your finalization without word from you, Adoption Horizons may also elect to close your case. If this happens, you will receive a notification/warning letter from your finalization worker. If you do not respond your file will be closed. If you decide at a later date to re-activate your finalization process, you will be required to pay a $500 fee to re-open your file.
If your file was not closed by Adoption Horizons, you will be allowed to re-activate the finalization process without paying a new fee (some restrictions may apply).
Usually your finalization can be picked up where it was left off. There will be some documents you will be required to re-submit (i.e. the Medical Report). In some cases, you may have to start from the beginning but the process generally stays the same.
Q. Can I save money by doing the finalization myself?
No. When you sign your Post Adjustment Supervision contract with Adoption Horizons you will pay your post-placement fee. This fee covers not only your post-placement visits by your social worker and the forwarding of any post-placement reports but also the finalization work done by our Finalization Case Manager. There are no deductions or fee separations for post placement / finalization. Finalizations must be done by an adoption agency, social worker, and sometimes additionally an attorney. According to agency policy, families who contract for services are required to finalize through the agency.
It is important to remember that life will not be the same after you return home with your child. Therefore, it is great to take advantage of the help that is available to you from your finalization case worker who will help you complete this very important part of your adoption.
Q. But what if I'm not doing an intercountry adoption?
If you are completing a domestic or foster adoption your finalization may be completed by either Adoption Horizons or a collaborative agency but the process generally remains the same. For more information you should contact Adoption Horizons.
Q. What is your best advice for families about finalizing?
Lisa Paredes, Adoption Horizons Finalization Case Manager, says:
"The best advice I can give anyone who has recently traveled home with their child is not to start packing away all your adoption paperwork. It is easier to deliver the necessary documents to the agency just after you have returned home then it is to go searching for it six months down the road. After months have passed many parents memories get fuzzy and they become confused over the process. Although you will be busy with juggling the new demands of parenting, the easiest way to handle re-finalization is to get it finished right away. If you're feeling overwhelmed, make an appointment with me. If you have to, bring a box in with all of your papers and I will coach you through everything.. Remember, I'm here to help you!"
We know that once you have received your child, you become very busy with day-to-day parenting, but finalizing your adoption is the last step important step to bring closure to your adoption.