The unanticipated fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the lives of parents and families globally. The virus poses an increased threat to pregnant women. Providers have temporarily halted fertility treatments. Some major hospitals are trying to ban partners and doulas from delivery rooms. There are few elements of the pregnancy, labor, and delivery journey that remain untouched by the pandemic in some way, shape, or form.
But the pandemic’s ripple effect extends beyond biological parents: it also affects expectant parents attempting to grow their families through adoption. From travel bans preventing families from furthering their international adoption plans, to government-issued stay at home orders canceling home visits, to court closures temporarily halting the legal side of adoptions, these are more than mere inconveniences: they mark devastating upheavals in many households’ plans to grow their families and welcome new babies into their lives.
If you are currently walking through the adoption process, here are a few things to expect in the coming months. This is not meant to be disheartening, but to help families prepare emotionally, physically, and financially for the continued fallout from the pandemic. Stay calm and carry on.
The travel restrictions to and from European countries may affect travel plans for adoptive families attempting to fly overseas to meet a child. It also may affect families who are stationed overseas but hoping to fly home to adopt domestically. This means it may be difficult for families in certain countries to travel to a birth mother’s state or region within the time frame required by many agencies. Depending on the rules of your specific agency, your application may need to be moved to temporarily inactive status until the restrictions are lifted.
Presently, there are no restrictions on travel within the United States. However, stay at home orders are in effect in many areas. Most executive orders make exceptions for travel to care for a child or family member. You should plan on having a letter from your agency or lawyer explaining the purpose of your travel and attach the relevant executive order. It can be helpful for travel and obtaining lodging. Due to heightened concerns surrounding the spread of the virus, be aware that it may be more difficult to obtain medical clearance from a doctor allowing you to fly home with your adopted child. As such, you may need to prepare to travel home by another means.
In North Carolina and most states, courts are still conducting business; however, in-person hearings are only permitted for emergency matters and those involving due process protections. Per North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Beasley’s recent announcement, most court proceedings have been postponed until June 1. For updates on the status of North Carolina court proceedings, you can visit the N.C. Courts website or speak with your attorney about how your case will be impacted in the interim. When necessary, hearings can be conducted via video conference. Most adoption cases are not significantly impacted by the delayed hearings, but many court personnel are working from home and may only be in the office on a reduced schedule. If you have an interstate adoption, plan ahead for the filing of your court documents.
Many jurisdictions are devising creative solutions to court closures and other social distancing orders, and different counties and states are taking a variety of approaches to keep adoptive children safe and healthy while adoption proceedings are temporarily paused. For instance, one family’s adoption ceremony was recently conducted via conference call.
Hospital Stays and Visits
The pandemic has also impacted hospital stays for birth mothers and adoptive parents. Many hospitals have limited patients to one visitor, not one at a time, one visitor period. Visiting hours may also be restricted. Adoptive parents may find that hospitals no longer make a room available to them. Hospital protocols are focused on the health of the patient. They are changing rapidly to respond to changing conditions.
The notarization of documents can also present new challenges. Normally, the notary must be in the presence of the person signing the document, observe them sign, administer an oath on a Bible or other religious text. Now, it may be necessary to sign legal documents outside of the hospital, literally out of doors, or at some other location. Some states allow notarization by video. North Carolina has not authorized this procedure yet, but a bill is pending that would do so. In many states, lawyers are exempted from stay at home orders. Many lawyers are also notaries and are continuing to provide this essential service while observing social distancing and safe health practices . North Carolina has also authorized the use of affirmations in place of sworn notaries. The use of an affirmation avoids the necessity of swearing on a Bible.
Because most social workers, like other employees, are currently operating remotely.Fro some families, screening processes like home visits have been put on hold. Some states, including North Carolina, have authorized video visits for home studies and post-placement visits.
Don’t Lose Hope.
Again, stay calm and carry on. The upheaval in many families’ long-awaited adoption plans can feel devastating and disheartening. However, Ryan Hanlon, the VP of research, education, and constituent services for the National Council for Adoption, has recently urged adoptive parents to be patient, take heart, and follow guidance from adoption authorities. He acknowledges how hard this is for parents who have long endured the process of adoption, only to be told to continue to wait. However, he also reminds expectant parents that the greater community has bounced back from trauma before and that it will likely do so again. In particular, he shares, it is encouraging that families were able to resume adoptions after outbreaks like the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic: this societal resilience bodes well for today’s families seeking to bounce back from COVID-19’s devastating effect on families’ finances, health, and general wellbeing.
Engage A Partner to Manage the Legal Process.
Adoption can be an arduous process full of highs and lows. It demands patience and endurance even without the added complication and stress of a global pandemic of unprecedented size. As such, it’s critical to engage a knowledgeable partner at the outset of your journey to help you manage it.
Experience is the ability to anticipate life’s challenges, so they do not become problems.With more than 30 years of experience helping North Carolinians build their families through adoption, Bobby Mills helps clients navigate the infant adoption process. If you work with our firm, we can discuss all of these issues and do our very best to ensure that your adoption progresses – even in light of the hurdles the pandemic imposes. Contact us to learn more or to set up an initial consultation. We look forward to serving you and helping you realize your dream of becoming parents.