Welcome to Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County (CSSW). We primarily place infants through an open, cooperative system. Only on rare occasions do older infants or toddlers come into our care for adoptive placement; we do not provide international adoption services.
Persons of any age (over 18), family size or marital status who live in one of the following Michigan Counties: Branch, Calhoun, Clinton, Genesee, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Lapeer, Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Saginaw, Shiawassee, St. Clair, Washtenaw, Wayne, may apply for our services.
In addition to this booklet, we offer monthly Orientation meetings designed to answer in detail every question you have about adoption. If you are interested in attending a meeting, please fill out and email the enclosed registration form. An email confirming the meeting will be sent to you.
We also provide Preplacement Assessments (sometimes known as home studies) for families who have been directly approached by a birth parent who is working with us. Please call me if this is your situation. If you do not meet our geographic requirements, are interested in adopting an older child or a child from another country, please refer to the enclosed list of licensed adoption agencies in Michigan that may be able to help you.
If you have further questions, please feel free to call.
Elly Falit, MSW, LMSW
734.971.9781 ext. 322
Who can adopt?
Persons of any age, family size or marital status who live in the counties of Branch, Calhoun, Clinton, Genesee, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Lapeer, Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Saginaw, Shiawassee, St. Clair, Washtenaw, Wayne may apply. It is a policy of the Agency that a three-month leave of absence from employment be taken upon placement to facilitate the adjustment of the infant with the new parent(s). The leave may be shared among two parents so that outside care not be provided on a regular basis during the three months.
What age children are available? How long does it take?
Newborn infants. Many placements happen within 12-18 months and the Agency places 10-12 infants/year.
How much does it cost to adopt through Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County?
See this document for fee information. Other fees to expect are court filing fees and birth certificate fees. You will incur attorney fees if you or your birth parent retains legal counsel. Michigan law also allows you to pay other birth parent expenses within reason. No fees associated with an adoption are recoverable if the birth parent changes the plan and decides to parent.
Is an attorney necessary?
No. Birth parents and adoptive parents, who use attorneys must, however, be represented by separate counsel. Names of adoption attorneys may be obtained from the State Children’s Ombudsman’s Office: 517.373.3077.
Must a birth parent release to an agency?
No. Michigan law allows for a birth parent to physically transfer temporary custody directly to the adoptive family if they reside in Michigan and have an approved Preplacement Assessment by a licensed agency. The birth parent must be assisted by an attorney or Agency, however, to do this.
What adoption services does CSSW offer?
Preplacement assessments, counseling for birth parents, placement and post placement services are offered by Catholic Social Services. The Agency recognizes adoption as a lifelong process that significantly changes and impacts one’s life. To that end, we offer counseling, education and support to anyone in the community whose life has been touched by adoption at any point in their lives.
What is a home study?
More appropriately named a Preplacement Assessment, it is a mutual process of identifying one’s readiness to adopt by exploring strengths, weaknesses, resolution of loss issues, and the capacity to parent through adoption. The law also requires us to have criminal clearances and medical reports on family members. We do not perform home studies for out of state adoptions unless the family is working with us.
Would I ever be turned down?
Probably not, unless there is reason to suspect harm to a child. CSSW helps prospective parents stretch, grow and take risks in order to be fully informed about the challenges of adoptive parenting and to be the best adoptive parent(s) they can be to their child.
Based on years of experience of working with families in adoption, we may see that there are issues needing resolution before successfully entering adoptive parenthood. For example, difficulties with the capacity for a relationship with birth parents; unhealthy communication styles; unresolved issues of infertility; unstable financial conditions; or a psychologically unhealthy environment for a child. Medical conditions are not necessarily a reason to be rejected. Our concern is that one has a plan to be able to parent a child into young adulthood. It is not necessary to own a home nor are there income requirements. We look to see that prospective adoptive parents can live within their means, provide for a child and handle an emergency situation should one arise after placement. In essence, it would be rare for a family to be denied service without being given the opportunity to work on the issue in question.
What do you mean by ‘open adoption’?
It is the process by which birth and adoptive families mutually design a plan for a lifelong relationship with each other. It is the process of relationship-building based on honesty, respect and trust. Birth parents choose the adoptive family for their child and all parties meet to explore their capacity to mutually form the foundation for an ongoing relationship. The Agency has been proudly facilitating open adoptions since 1985.
CSSW stresses the mutuality of relationships. Lifelong advantages of cooperative, open adoption gives adoptive parents full information of their child’s heritage and medical history in order to respond more fully and effectively to the unique needs of their child; birth parents are able to confront the reality of the adoption plan sooner and can have immediate information as to the growth, development and health of their child; and adoptees feel more rooted by having complete and accurate information. Access to birth parents ensures the honesty of the adoption story, thereby lessening the mystery, fantasy building and feelings of rejection.
Isn’t it confusing to have four parents?
In adoption, a child does not have four parents. There is a tendency to use divorce as an analogy, but in divorce, both parents legally retain their parental rights. In adoption, birth parents release their parental rights in Court. Adoptive parents are the legal, nurturing and psychological parents while birth parents represent a portion of the child’s heritage and identity. When all adults are clear about their roles, children will not be confused. A portion of the counseling with birth parents is to help them redefine their role with the child and grieve the loss of the parental role.
Do we have to give identifying information to birthparents?
The Agency values and encourages the exchange of full identifying information as a component of developing a lifelong relationship. However, the final decision rests with the parties involved.
Our philosophy and guiding principles
THE BEST INTEREST OF THE ADOPTEE drives all decisions and practices of the Agency.
BIRTH PARENTS are people to be loved and respected. They are voluntarily choosing what they feel is in their best interest and that of their child. They love their children but can’t parent at this time.
BIRTH FATHERS represent half of the child’s heritage and are people who deserve to be involved in the process. Children deserve full social and medical information. In reality, there are very few “unknown” birth fathers.
ADOPTIVE PARENTS ARE OUR RESOURCES. Our primary mission is to find families for children needing homes. We look first to the family of origin but know that this isn’t always a positive option. Adoptive families willing to keep a connection with the birth family are wonderful resources.
ADOPTION IS A LIFELONG PROCESS. We educate birth and adoptive families about the lifelong challenges of adoption. Adoption is much more than a legal formality and we’re committed to offering counseling, support and educational services to anyone touched by adoption at anytime in their lives.
EDUCATION AND COUNSELING ARE THE KEYS to recognizing that adoption is a responsibility to a child – it is not a solution to a problem. We want adoptive parents to become the best adoptive parents they can be. We attempt to build an awareness of the “parenting-plus” of adoption, which includes the joys and sorrows of parenting by birth as well as the additional challenges when parenting a child from another genetic heritage. Pregnancy counseling is offered to birth mothers and birth fathers to help them explore the options available and assist with implementation of their plan. When adoption is the choice, we also educate about the lifelong impact and loss of the parenting role and offer support long after the birth of the child.
ADOPTION IS BUILT ON LOSS so we help all parties look at their losses to better prepare themselves and their children for dealing with present and future losses.
ADOPTIVE PARENTING IS DIFFERENT and, while often second choice, it is not second best. Adoptive parents need to come to feel comfortable that adoption is a way of building a family that isn’t inferior to parenting by birth.
OPENNESS IS HEALTHY AND ENRICHING An open system recognizes the rights of all parties to speak for themselves and reduces the level of fantasy and anxiety about the other party.
ADOPTION IS A FAMILY AFFAIR. Losses felt by immediate members of the adoption circle may be felt by other family members as well. Infertility and untimely pregnancies can impact an entire extended family system. We encourage family members to be part of the counseling, education and relationship-building process.
The Adoption Process and Services
CSSW provides services to any member of the community whether or not they are completing the entire adoption process with us. Services required of those in the CSSW pool of waiting families are marked with an asterisk.
INQUIRY, ORIENTATION AND APPLICATION *
A monthly orientation meeting is held on the second Wednesday of every month. Click here for details.
The two hour meeting offers detailed answers to Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Adoption and highlights the philosophy and services provided by CSSW. An intake meeting with the Adoption Counselor is usually scheduled within two weeks of the receipt of the application.
INTAKE MEETING *
A meeting to assist in assessing the critical issues in parenting through adoption so that one may make an informed decision about the how, why, and when of adopting. All paperwork is given at this time.
PREPLACEMENT (FAMILY) ASSESSMENT * (aka Home Study)
A two-part process to prepare for adoptive parenting through mutually assessing strengths and weaknesses related to parenting a child through adoption. The first part consists of completing an autobiography and gathering documents such as birth certificates, references, criminal clearances, financial records, counseling and medical reports. At least one home visit comprises the second part. Family history and relationships, home and environment, parenting styles, preparation for relating to birth parents and adoptive parenting are explored.
PREPARATION FOR ADOPTIVE PARENTING CLASSES *
We value the importance of exposing adoptive parents to the unique challenges and additional parenting tasks they will face when parenting by adoption. Issues encountered by all members of the adoption circle, risk taking, birth parent dynamics and preparing to be selected by birth parents are some of the topics covered. A series of four classes are offered three or four times per year.
BIRTH PARENT ADOPTION PREPARATION COUNSELING
We value helping birth parents make fully informed decisions when faced with untimely pregnancies. Understanding lifelong implications of adoption, grief and loss, involvement of birth fathers, preparing social and medical histories, planning for a lifelong connection with the adoptive family, and preparing for legal placement are some of what is covered in counseling with birth parents. Michigan law mandates that adoptive parents pay for birth parent counseling; and allows them to pay other birth parent expenses within reason.
POOL ENTRY, SUPPORT AND EDUCATION CLASSES
Timing of pool entry rests primarily with the prospective adoptive parent(s) and the speed with which they complete their paperwork. This can occur within four to six months if a family wishes to proceed that quickly. Pool entry occurs with the completion of the pre-placement assessment, the adoptive parent preparation classes, The child we can parent checklist, a “Dear Birth Parent” letter and a photo album. Supportive counseling is offered to help families manage the challenges of balancing psychological preparation for parenthood with the uncertainty of waiting.
SELECTION BY A BIRTH PARENT
(1) If a person desires to adopt a child or an adult and to bestow upon the adoptee his or her family name, or to adopt a child or an adult without a name change, with the intent to make the adoptee his or her heir, that person, together with his wife or her husband, if married, shall file a petition with the court of the county in which the petitioner resides or where the adoptee is found or, if the petitioner and adoptee reside out of state, where the parent’s parental rights were terminated or are pending termination. If both parents’ parental rights were terminated at different times and in different courts, a petition filed under this section shall be filed in the court of the county where parental rights were first terminated. If there has been a temporary placement of the child, the petition for adoption shall be filed with the court that received the report described in section 23d(2) of this chapter.
When birth parents reach the point of choosing the adoptive family, they look at the “Dear Birth Parent” letters that match their situation and identify families whose photo albums they wish to review. The family they have chosen is called by the Adoption Counselor and a mutually convenient time and place to meet is arranged. The meeting is designed to help both parties explore the comfort of entering a lifelong relationship with one another. If each party agrees to proceed with the relationship, meetings continue in order to prepare for and make decisions about the birth and discharge process. A session with the birth parent(s), adoptive parent(s), adoption counselor and birth parent counselor is held after the initial meeting to clarify expectations and procedures.
PLACEMENT COUNSELING AND EDUCATION (DEBRIEFING)*
Families are given assistance in preparing to receive “the call”, meeting birth parents, designing a plan for mutual contact, handling hospital birth and discharge details and planning a placement ritual.
PLACEMENT OF A CHILD
Placement of the child with the prospective adoptive family usually occurs at the hospital and may be made directly from the birth parent with the assistance of an agency or attorney. In Michigan, birth parent rights are released and terminated in a Court with a Judge or referee. Birth parents have twenty-one (21) days after this hearing to petition the Court for a rehearing to reinstate their parental rights. A formal adoption placement is made with the adoptive parents after the birth parent rights have been terminated.
PREPARATION FOR FORMAL PLACEMENT
CSSW provides the preparation of legal documents for the court. As of 1-1-1995, families may retain the services of an attorney for this part of the adoption process though it is not necessary to do so. Most agencies have been providing this service since their beginnings.
SUPERVISION AND FINALIZATION*
Michigan law requires Agency supervision of an adoptive family to assist with the adjustment to adoptive parenthood. This period is usually three months but may be extended to 18 months if necessary. There is generally one visit with the adoption counselor over this time period. A written report at three months is filed with the court. At the end of three months, the adoption can be finalized by mail or in court with a finalization hearing with the Judge. This is usually a significant day for the family, and they are encouraged to videotape, take pictures and bring close family or friends to this celebratory event.
ANNUAL PREPLACEMENT ASSESSMENT UPDATE *
Families waiting longer than one year for placement will need an update of their Preplacement assessment. This includes a home visit and medical, financial, references and law enforcement updates. Documents must be current within one year at the time of placement.
UPDATED PREPLACEMENT ASSESSMENT
Families with completed pre-placement assessments from CSSW or other licensed child-placing agencies who wish to adopt another child will need an updated assessment. This can be at a reduced rate if circumstances have not changed significantly. One does not need to repeat the Adoptive Parent Preparation Classes but will find it necessary to update medical, law enforcement, financial and reference documents.
Michigan law requires the involvement of the Interstate Compact office when an adoption occurs across state lines. CSSW can assist families with this procedure. Depending on the laws of the other State, we may ask the family to obtain the services of an Agency in the other state and an attorney in Michigan. CSSW will not agree to be involved in any adoption whereby the family knowingly avoids Interstate regulations.
PREPLACEMENT (FAMILY) ASSESSMENT (HOME STUDY) ONLY
As a licensed child-placing agency, Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County can provide domestic adoption home studies for prospective adoptive parents who are working with out-of-state agencies and/or attorneys and who live in our service area. The fees for this service are: $3500.00 for the intake and the home study, travel expenses of $50.00 for Washtenaw County residents not including Chelsea or Manchester, and $100.00 outside Washtenaw County, Chelsea, and Manchester. We can also provide post-placement supervision as required by law for $2500.00. An interstate adoption might require an additional fee.
Hallmarks of ethical adoption practice
We believe the following are important considerations when choosing a facilitator to assist with an adoption:
The GENERAL PHILOSOPHY espoused by the facilitator and prospective adoptive parents is that children, in general, should be raised within their birth families. Adoption is an option only when the birth parent feels that his/her family is not a resource.
ETHICAL PREGNANCY COUNSELING explores all options available to birth parents – not just adoption. Even birth parents who strongly present adoption as the only option to consider must be challenged to look at parenting and/or raising the child within the family. Only then can adoption become a free choice.
Diligent attempts are made by the birth mother and facilitator to IDENTIFY, LOCATE AND INVOLVE ALL POSSIBLE BIRTH FATHERS in the counseling, decision making, planning, and legal process. Birth fathers and/or their families are a resource for the child whether the decision is parenting or adoption since they can provide social and medical information, which represents 50% of the child’s heritage and identity.
COMPREHENSIVE EDUCATION is made available to adoptive and birth families. Topics such as the dynamics of denial, grief, shame, trust, and loss as related to all members of the adoption circle are the core curriculum as well as education regarding the lifelong process, unique challenges of adoptive parenting, relatedness of birth and adoptive families and the legal process.
Totally informed decisions about adoption cannot be made until birth parents have gone through the actual birth process. A DECISION FOR ADOPTION IS ALWAYS MADE AT LEAST TWICE – once during counseling and once when the child is born. Legal steps should not be taken until the birth parent has seen, held and named the child; recovered from the birth process; experienced a separation from the child; and has made an informed post-birth decision. Legal papers should be signed in front of a Judge to ensure that the birth parents’ rights are protected and that they have full understanding of the finality of their decision. Birth parents and adoptive parents should have independent counsel to avoid conflict of interest if attorneys are involved.
BIRTH PARENT EXPENSES should be reasonable, itemized and accompanied by receipts. The element of coercion should not be even remotely possible. In most instances, fees should be kept to a minimum to remove the feeling of obligation by either party. An adoption decision must be made voluntarily with no strings attached.
POST ADOPTION SERVICES beyond finalization of the adoption should be provided by the facilitator for any members of the adoption circle throughout their lifetime. Experiencing the joys and sorrows of an adoption plan are lifelong emotions for birth families, adoptive families and adoptees. If support services are not provided by the facilitator, referrals will be made to another service provider.