Adoption Law FAQs
If you are considering bringing a child into your family, you may have some specific questions about how the process will work. Each adoption is unique, and there is a wide range of alternatives that you can consider. However, this page provides some basic guidance on what to expect regarding some of the main issues that may be going through your mind.
How much does it cost to adopt a child?
What are the requirements for adopting a child?
What are the different types of adoption?
Do you get paid if you adopt a child?
How long does it take to adopt a child?
Can you adopt a newborn baby?
Can you adopt twins?
Can parents reclaim an adopted child?
Do mothers get paid for adoption?
Do birth parents have any rights after adoption?
Do foster parents get tax breaks or benefits?
Can you adopt a child as a single parent?
What is the percentage of failed adoptions?
The cost of adopting a child depends on the type of adoption that you undertake. The cheapest form of adoption is a foster care adoption, which may even be free in some instances. Adoptions with the assistance of an agency can cost around $25,000 to $35,000, although some may be as inexpensive as $5,000 and others may cost close to $50,000. International adoptions tend to be especially expensive. The cost varies widely depending on the country of the adopted child, but you should expect to spend $40,000 or more during the process.
Adoptive parents can get a tax credit for adopting a child, and they may also have access to adoption benefits through their employer, which may offset some of the costs. Grants and subsidies also may be available in some cases.
Anyone can adopt a child if they successfully complete the adoption application and pass background checks. In most states, you also will need to pass the home study requirement. This involves a social worker visiting your home and making sure that it is fit for a child to live there. You do not need to be a family member of the child, although the process may be more streamlined if you are a stepparent of the child who is married to one of the child’s biological parents. If one or both of the child’s biological parents are opposed to the adoption, you may need to go through the process of terminating their parental rights in court.Some states impose minimum age requirements for adopting a child.
The types of adoption are defined largely by the degree to which an agency is involved. An independent adoption (private adoption) does not involve an agency and is based on direct contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. An agency adoption happens when an agency receives a child from the birth parents and goes through the process of selecting the adoptive parents. (Most international adoptions are agency adoptions.) An intermediate path is an identified adoption, which is when the birth parents choose the adoptive parents, but then the agency handles the procedures of the adoption. Some but not all states permit a process called a facilitated adoption, in which an unlicensed intermediary helps the birth parents find the adoptive parents. Finally, foster care adoptions occur when a foster parent adopts a child whom they are fostering, with the assistance of social services.
Another distinction between types of adoptions is between open adoptions and closed adoptions. In an open adoption, the child has information about the birth parents and often some contact with the birth parents, while there is no contact in a closed adoption. The type of continuing contact depends on the discretion of the adoptive parents or any agreement that they reach with the birth parents.
While you do not get paid directly for adopting a child, you may have access to subsidies and private grants to help cover the costs of the adoption. If a child is hard to place, such as a child who has special needs, you may get financial assistance to cover those needs. Some employers will help you cover the costs as well. You also may get a tax credit for the adoption.
The time that it takes to adopt a child varies depending on the preferences and restrictions that you have. For example, you may be able to adopt a child from foster care or a child with special needs within a few months, while an international adoption may take years because it may involve multiple adoption agencies and immigration paperwork. If you are unwilling to wait for a long time, you should consider being more flexible in the types of children whom you are willing to consider.
Yes, you can adopt a newborn baby if that is your preference. However, you should be aware that you may need to wait several years if you only want to adopt a newborn baby. This is because there are many more prospective adoptive parents who want to adopt a newborn than there are newborns who have been placed for adoption. In some cases, you may be able to adopt a newborn sooner if you pursue an international adoption rather than a domestic adoption. You may want to check the baby’s records to find out if they have any birth defects or genetic issues, in case this would affect your decision of whether to adopt them.
A possible alternative may be adopting an embryo. Some parents have placed embryos in frozen storage before deciding that they do not want to use them. This is a novel, complicated area of the law, and people adopting an embryo should reach an agreement with the donors to ensure that they transfer parental responsibilities.
Yes, you can adopt twins, as long as you are able to care for two new children simultaneously, and you pass requirements such as the home study requirement. If you only want to adopt twins, you may face a long wait. An alternative might be to adopt two children of a similar age and background, especially if you pursue an international adoption.
Adoptive parents who only want to adopt one of a pair of twins may find that their request is turned down in favor of someone else who is able to adopt both twins. Generally, twins develop better if they stay together because they can rely on each other for emotional support.
Yes, birth parents can reclaim an adopted child at any point before the adoption is finalized. This remains true regardless of any agreement reached between the birth parents and the adoptive parents, as well as any costs incurred by the adoptive parents. In most states, the law provides a certain period after the adoption is finalized in which either biological parent can revoke the adoption and reclaim the child. This may be less than a month or as long as six months. (The process of getting a child back from foster care or a foster parent is more specific and involves the biological parent proving that they are no longer unfit to parent the child.)
Baby selling is illegal, so you cannot get paid for giving your child to adoptive parents. However, the adoptive parents typically cover the legal costs of the adoption process and in some cases cover the medical expenses related to the pregnancy and childbirth process.
This generally depends on whether the adoption is an open adoption or a closed adoption. (See above for an explanation of this distinction.) If the adoption is open, the birth parents can reach an agreement with the adoptive parents to decide whether the child will have contact with the birth parents or simply have information about who their birth parents are. In some cases, a child may even have an ongoing relationship with the birth parents, involving in-person visits and phone calls. However, the majority of states allow adoptive parents to terminate this type of relationship if it is in the best interests of the child, even if the birth parents and the adoptive parents agreed on it. If you are a birth parent, therefore, you should not rely on an agreement to preserve a certain relationship with a child.
As mentioned above, birth parents do have a very short time period after the adoption is finalized to reverse their consent and reclaim the child.
If you are fostering a child who was placed with you by a court or a government agency, you should be able to claim the child as a dependent and get a dependent exemption. You also have access to certain types of public benefits, such as WIC. This is a health and nutrition program that is automatically available to all foster children under age five. Moreover, payments for the support of your foster child do not count as taxable income, and any foster care expenses that are not reimbursed may be counted as a charitable donation if the agency that placed the child with you can accept charitable donations.
Yes, a single parent can adopt a child. You should be aware that you may face a higher level of scrutiny during the application process, since the authorities will want to make sure that you are able to care for the child on your own. If you are pursuing an independent adoption, you may encounter some birth parents who are uncomfortable with having just one person raise their child. If you are married, you cannot adopt a child on your own but must adopt together with your spouse.
The percentage of failed adoptions climbs as children get older. Adoptions of newborns or babies tend to fail less than 10 percent of the time. Adoptions of teenagers fail about a quarter of the time. The percentage falls somewhere in the middle, possibly around 15 percent, for children between those age groups. If an adoption fails, it usually happens within the first year or two.
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