November 2, 2022
By Alyssa Nekritz and Teri Deal
November is Adoption Month, which focuses on the need for adoptions from foster care. There are 50,000-66,000 adoptions per year from foster care, and unfortunately, the number of children in foster care awaiting adoption is double that–over 100,000–and has risen every year since 2012. Many of these children are awaiting adoptive homes, but some are waiting for the court to finalize their adoption.
In November, many states organize events where judges and court officials volunteer their time to process and celebrate adoptions. This year, many courts will be leveraging remote and hybrid technology to enhance these events.
During the pandemic, courts turned to remote hearings for social distancing reasons, and many courts continue to see the benefits of remote and hybrid hearings. Specific benefits of remote adoption hearings include a reduced timeline to permanency, elimination of travel, and the ability to include family members and support persons without requiring them to come into the court. Los Angeles Superior Court has reduced adoption backlogs by not requiring in-person attendance for uncontested adoption hearings. Adoptive parents only need signed documents, notarized signatures, and declaration submissions to the Judicial Council for approval. This shortened process gives the families the option to adopt sooner, something that most families choose. Other states are attempting to replicate that process.
Adoption hearings are typically celebratory events, and there are ways to conduct hearings remotely with a celebratory tone. Judge Cheryl Vaughan of 8th Region North Child Protection Court in Texas said, “We became creative in making these adoptions as special as they would have been had they occurred in person. Virtual backgrounds of confetti or balloons replaced the backdrop of the state seal. Families gathered on their living room couches in their matching shirts while family members and friends joined from their locations.”
NCSC’s study of virtual child welfare hearings included observations of over 400 virtual child welfare hearings, feedback from court professionals, and interviews with parents and older children. This study established best practices for trauma-responsive virtual child welfare proceedings, and many of the recommendations apply to adoption hearings. For one, virtual and hybrid hearings allow additional support persons–extended family members, friends, teachers–to attend when they may not have been able to in person. Judge Vaughan describes, “The village became electronic. Grandparents in nursing homes were able to join adoption hearings in a way that kept them safe but allowed them to be part of the special day.”
Find more information on U.S. adoption statistics, state statistics, and new approaches for adoptions. Check out a few of the upcoming Adoption Day events. Gregg County, Texas will hold its adoption day on November 4, 2022, to follow the 42 completed adoptions from Fiscal Year 2022.
Is your court celebrating Adoption Day or Month? Share your experiences with us at Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164. Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Vimeo.