How to Navigate the Legal Aspects of Adopting Children with Special Needs
Having the privilege of adopting a child with special needs and providing them with a loving home can be rewarding and life-changing. However, it’s no secret that the process of doing so can be a long and arduous road.
Navigating the legal aspects of special needs adoption in Nevada is no easy task. Thus, it’s important to have an idea of what you can expect to improve your chances of success moving forward. Use our guide below to learn more about the legal requirements and process for adopting a child with special needs. Then, speak with an attorney at Mills & Anderson to discuss your case and see how our team can help you fight for your family today.
Legal Requirements for Special Needs Adoption
In order to adopt a child with special needs, there are a few initial requirements that must typically be met.
For example, under Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 127.020(1)(b), any person adopting a minor child, regardless of whether or not the child has special needs, must be at least 10 years older than the child they are seeking to adopt. Additionally, if the child is over the age of 14, the child’s consent to the adoption is typically required. However, under NRS 127.186, where a child under 18 has special needs due to race, age, or physical or mental disabilities who is in the custody of a child welfare services agency, the agency may consent to the adoption if it determines that it would be in the best interests of the child to be placed in a particular adoptive home.
Adoption Process for Children with Special Needs
Aside from filing the Petition for Adoption to initiate the court process, there are several steps you will need to take before the adoption can be finalized. Below is an overview of the process for adopting a child with special needs.
1. Orientation and Adoptive Parent Preparation Classes
The first step is attendance and completion of orientation and adoptive parent preparation classes. These classes are coordinated and put on by the appropriate State or county agency and provide valuable information, training, and support for those interested in special needs adoption in Nevada.
2. Home Study
After completion of the required preparation classes, prospective adoptive parents must then participate in a thorough home study conducted by a public or private agency worker. The purpose of the home study is to assess the suitability and preparedness of prospective adoptive parents to provide a safe, stable, and loving environment for a child with special needs. This home study typically includes questionnaires, interviews, references, home inspection, background checks, and medical examinations.
3. Adoptive Family Matching Process
Once the home study process is complete, the agency must then approve any prospective adoptive parents to proceed with the adoption matching process. During this process, the agency will match prospective parents with any waiting children whom they are well-suited to parent. Prospective parents may specify their preferences regarding preferred age, ethnic background, sex of the child, or other factors or conditions, and these preferences will be respected and taken into consideration during the matching process. Note, however, that more limitations in your preferences may impact the amount of time it will take to receive a match.
If a match is found, the prospective parent(s) will be provided a detailed report regarding the child, which will include information about their medical and sociological history, any behavioral, emotional, or psychological issues they may have, and other important information to consider. This report allows prospective adoptive parents to better understand the child and their potential needs to determine whether the parents will have the ability to meet those needs.
4. Visitation, Placement, and Post-Placement Supervision
If, after reviewing the report, the prospective adoptive parent(s) wish to proceed, the agency will then schedule visits with the child. If the visits are successful, the agency may then place the child in the home of the prospective adoptive parents.
Thereafter, the child must live in the hope of the prospective parents for a period of at least 6 months before they may be legally adopted. During these 6 months, case workers will make periodic visits to supervise and assess the child’s adjustment to the home.
5. Court Finalization
If, after the post-placement supervision period, the agency recommends approval of the prospective parents’ petition, the court may then approve and finalize the adoption.
With special needs adoptions, specifically, the agency may also recommend certain options such as post-adoptive counseling and services to help meet their ongoing needs and better ensure that they are well-adjusted moving forward.
Financial Assistance Options for Special Needs Adoption
Importantly, there are a number of subsidized adoption assistance programs that have been developed to provide financial support to those seeking to adopt children with special needs.
These programs provide medical coverage for eligible special needs children, financial assistance for certain expenses related to a child’s care, and reimbursement of fees related to finalizing an adoption.
Those who may be eligible are encouraged to apply. However, be sure to submit your application before the adoption is finalized.
How an Attorney Can Help Navigate the Legal Aspects of Special Needs Adoption in Nevada
An attorney is not required to adopt a special needs child in Nevada. Nevertheless, having legal representation throughout the process is generally advisable, especially in more complex cases. An experienced attorney can help you draft and file court paperwork correctly, advise you during the adoption process in general, and represent your interests in court when necessary, significantly reducing the time and stress on your shoulders.
If you have questions about whether hiring a family attorney is the right decision for you, feel free to contact our team to discuss your options in more detail.
Mills & Anderson: Your Trusted Adoption Attorneys
Adopting a special needs child can allow you to complete or grow your family. And when it comes to something as important as your family, it’s important to put your case in the hands of someone you can trust.
At Mills & Anderson, we recognize how special the adoption process is for many, which is why we’ve dedicated a large portion of our practice to helping families navigate the complexities of adoptions in Nevada. We are a full-service family law firm and pride ourselves on adhering to the highest ethical standards possible. Thus, when you hire our team, you can feel confident knowing that your case is in great and capable hands.
Contact our team to see how we can help you pursue your special needs adoption today.