Adoption in South Carolina

Caring people in South Carolina who choose to adopt come from a place where they have an extraordinary capacity for love, and are just looking to take the right steps to get them there.

And yet once they start the adoption process, people quickly find out that adopting a child in South Carolina takes a lot more than the ability to love. It takes patience, it takes cooperation, it takes financial responsibility and an understanding of how the process works in order to get to that final step, an Order of Adoption.

But how do adoptive parents get from that point A to point B, an Order of Adoption, without getting caught up in the pitfalls and misfortunes that can make the adoption process rocky in any state? Do the adoption laws as set out in Title 63, Chapter 9, Adoptions of the South Carolina statutes provide a course that is easy for most adoptive parents to navigate?

Like most states, South Carolina takes steps to make certain that people who move forward to adopt children are in it for the long run, and have the capacity to take on the huge responsibility of raising a child.

Basic Process – Home Study

Consequently, adoptive parents who express an interest in adopting are put through a lengthy and even sometimes intrusive process of interviews and information-gathering by the state.

Representatives from the State Social Services Department will likely visit adoptive parents in their homes, speak with their friends, aunts, uncles and other relatives to find out of the parents are financially and emotionally ready for adoption.

This part of the process is by no means guaranteed. The number of adoptive parents who failed to complete the South Carolina basic adoptive parent screening was as high as 35,000 in 2011. That number is daunting for a reason, according to the state.

They would rather have a child placed with a solid, resilient home which can navigate future struggles and misfortune, instead of placing a child where financial downturn or misfortune could lead to poor parental decisions about the adoptive child.

Different Types of Adoption

The state permits adoption in four ways:

  1. private adoption, where a private party adopts a child who is born to a single mother or couple,
  2. public adoption, where a couple adopts a child that is currently part of the South Carolina social services system,
  3. relative adoptions, where a blood or by marriage relative adopts a child in  the extended family, and
  4. international adoptions, where a South Carolina person or couple adopts a child from another jurisdiction.

Additional Steps in the Adoption Process

When the rigorous process of “Home Study” home interviews and vetting has been preliminarily completed, the court then acts on a sequence of petitions that move the adoption forward, including:

  1. the preliminary petition to temporarily receive the adopted child into the home;
  2. the underlying petition for adoption;
  3. the petition for temporary custody asking for full medical care, maintenance and support for    medical needs; and
  4. notation regarding a post-placement investigation and report before a final hearing, where a GAL representing the interests of the child may be assigned.

Final Order of Adoption

The final step for all parties who seek to complete a legal adoption in South Carolina is a Final Hearing, which if successful will generate that final piece of paper that says you have done it! You are now a parent!

By the time this hearing occurs, the child to be adopted has been under the care and temporarily responsibility of the adoptive parents for at least 90 days, all necessary consents and waivers have been obtained from birth mothers, biological fathers, and any involved social services agency. Also, the court will re-confirm that the adoptive parents are fit and proper persons for adoption.

By law, the final hearing on the adoption petition must be held no earlier than 90 days and no later than 6 months after filing the petition for adoption. The reason for this is that the courts want to allow a sufficient period for the parents (at least 90 days) to experience and temporarily live with the new child and get comfortable and familiar, and gives the chance for all necessary organizations to conduct whatever studies or reviews are considered important.

Special Needs Children

In the event that a special needs child or children are being adopted, the law allows more time to complete the adoption process, 12 months, before a final Order of Adoption must be issued. There are other circumstances where the 90-day waiting period can be waived, such as if the adoption involves a relative adoption, such as a spouse’s child, or if an adult adoption is involved.

Additional Points and Notes

  • Issues that adoptive parents should keep in mind include the Responsible Father Registry, which is an online portal for biological fathers who cannot otherwise give notice or make a formal claim of paternity. As the adoption process moves forward, if the child being adopted is from in part a young parent still in circulation, it is important to keep an eye on the Responsible Father Registry just in case a biological parent tries to assert influence.
  • In certain circumstances, particularly when a special needs child is involved, there could be an ongoing monthly financial stipend paid by the state or county, which supports families that have opened their arms and heart to a special needs child.
  • The process of adoption can be extremely expensive. In some ways, the process actually helps the state of South Carolina determine who can financially afford the sometimes unexpected costs of raising a child. Many people who have been through the process suggest that, if you can afford one, using an attorney is not only convenient, but critical to have the best chances of a positive outcome.
  • There are many possible pitfalls involved in this journey. An adoptive couple must notify all proper parties involved, at the right times and places, and must present themselves and their circumstances as safe and secure in the eyes of the State of South Carolina, and must do well during the initial 90 days probationary  period for adoptive parents, and present the correct and timely information at the final hearing.
  • Even people with giving hearts and loving intentions call fall prey to the whims and ever-changing requirements of the adoption process. That is why it always makes sense to speak with an attorney to get the best information possible about this process, to give yourself the best chance of successfully completing the process of adding a new, loving addition to your home.
  • South Carolina has restrictions on advertising to adopt a child, and limits such advertising to South Carolina Dept. of Social Services agencies, child placement agencies, licensed attorneys, and private parties where a current home pre-placement investigation has already been conducted.
  • Children over the age of 14 must consent to the adoption, unless it has been found to be in the best interests of the child that the adoption continues regardless of objection.
  • You are considering becoming a crucial and loving part of the life of another person. Make certain that you familiarize yourself with the process, and feel comfortable moving forward however you plan to proceed.