The final stage of the adoption process occurs when an available child is placed with the adoptive parents to create a new (or expand an existing) family. This very special event can also be a very emotional and even somewhat scary process for many adoptive families, as their dream of expanding their family becomes a reality.
In a domestic adoption scenario, the phone call announcing the availability of the child comes when that child is born. If the adoption is open in nature, the adoptive family may even be at the hospital with the birth parents at the time of birth. With a domestic adoption, the child will usually be temporarily placed with the adoptive parents immediately upon discharge from the hospital, after they have signed a placement agreement in which they consent to adopt that particular child. The actual placement process varies slightly from agency to agency and with the state that governs the agency.
After the initial placement, there is a supervised period of two to six months during which the newly formed family will receive several follow-up visits by the social worker assigned to their case to determine how things are going. During this supervision period, the adoption is not final and it is possible for either the birth parents or the adoptive parents to change their minds.
The final adoption cannot take place until the birth mother has officially signed a voluntary waiver of parental rights. In most states, there is a set rule governing the earliest time that the birth mother can sign these papers. In most cases, the waiver cannot be signed until the baby has actually been born. No state imposes a deadline on the birth month to sign the waiver, so the process can sometimes take a long while, depending on how certain the birth mother is that she wishes to go forward with the adoption. Some states will require that the voluntary waiver form be signed in front of notary or in court in front of a judge, while others will only require that an adoption agency representative or lawyer/facilitator be present. In addition, some states will specify a period after the form has been signed during which the birth mother can still revoke her consent.
In domestic adoptions, the last legal step to be taken is a court appearance to finalize the adoption. This is a very short court session, usually taking about 15 minutes. No more time is needed because all the hard work and paperwork have already been done. The judge, lawyer, and adoptive parents will be present; sometimes the social worker who has worked with the family will make an appearance depending on state requirements. The adoptive parents will be required to take the stand and state the date of their marriage (if applicable), the child's birth date, and the date of placement. The judge will ask a number of questions to verify that the parents understand the legal implications of accepting the child for adoption. After all the questions and answers are completed, the judge will formally sign the adoption decree, finalizing the adoption. Within several weeks, the court will issue a "Delayed Certificate of Birth," which documents the child's new legal name and adoptive parents.