Adoption Procedures & Legal Requirements for Adoptive Parents
If you are looking to adopt a child, it may seem overwhelming at first. In most cases, adoption is an in-depth and lengthy process. The many procedures involved are in place to protect all of the parties, and even in the best-case scenario, there may be stress and emotional strain for people hoping to adopt.
Choosing the Type of Adoption
The first thing that prospective adoptive parents need to determine is which kind of adoption they would prefer. If the birth parent is already known and identified (and has agreed to the adoption), you should contact a family law or adoption lawyer to help you understand the laws and rules in your state. If you are looking for an international adoption, you should find a reputable adoption agency in the U.S. that does international adoptions in the country from which you are adopting. They can help guide you through the process, and they will have connections with an adoption agency in the child’s country of birth.
Types of Adoption
Open: A type of adoption where you choose to share information and have contact with the biological family of the person you are adopting. How much contact you have and how much information is shared can vary.
Closed: A closed adoption means the records and information of the biological family are sealed and unavailable to the adoptive parent(s).
If you are looking to adopt an infant, a local adoption agency would be a good place to start. Research the agency beforehand, though, to make sure that it is a good fit. Some agencies have a particular focus, such as working with same-sex parents or facilitating open adoptions. An internet search should be able to help you gather the information that you need to get started. If the first adoption agency is not a good fit, they can potentially refer you to other resources that may help you identify one that is better for you.
Foster Care Adoptions
If you are looking to adopt from foster care—or just foster—your local social services agency can help you get started. Many areas will have information sessions for prospective foster parents. Often, social services agencies are in need of qualified foster parents, and have procedures in place to help interested potential foster parents get the information that they need to make a decision.
Refining the Decision
Beyond the kind of adoption, potential adoptive parents have other decisions to make. For example, you will need to decide whether you are open to children of different races or children with special needs. Couples and individuals also need to decide whether they are open to infants who have potentially been exposed to drugs in the womb. Prospective adoptive parents need to also decide how open or closed they want the adoption to be. If you do not know much about open adoptions, you should research them first, since they may have benefits of which you are not aware.
Once you have connected with an attorney, agency, or social services, there will be forms that you need to fill out and compile. The specifics will vary slightly by state and agency, but generally prospective adoptive parents will be asked to provide birth certificates, marriage certificates, proof of identity, financial statements, letters from their employers, medical information and doctor’s approval, and/or police reports. Though you will be required to assemble and submit an extensive amount of personal information, if you are working with an agency, they can help you procure and gather the necessary documents.
Later in the process, there will be legal forms to finalize the adoption. This may also include a post-adoption contract that lays out birth parent visitation and other matters.
Steps to Adoption
1Decide on the type of adoption you want.
2Determine whether you want to adopt domestically or internationally, the age of the child you wish to adopt, and whether you want to adopt via the foster care system.
3Select an adoption agency or pursue an adoption privately/independently based on your choices above.
4Participate and complete a home study.
5Create an adoption profile and become a waiting family.
6Finalize the adoption.
Home Study Requirement
While specific state requirements vary, in almost every state, a social worker will need to complete a home study. The paperwork above may be part of the “home study,” but there will also be a component in which a social worker visits you, your spouse (if applicable), and your other children (if applicable). Family members and references will also be interviewed. It is common for social workers from the adoption agency (or others hired to do the home study) to visit the home multiple times during the adoption process. The agency or attorney who is working with you will help you with the details.
The Home Study
A process in which prospective parents are interviewed by a licensed social worker to determine whether they are fit to be parents and raise a child. During the home study, which can occur over a period of several months, you may be asked about such things as:
Your financial situation
Your employment history
Your family history
Whether you plan to have more children or information about your current children
Your obligations or other commitments, such as those involved in your career
Your mental health and your physical health history
Your criminal history
Appealing a Denial of an Adoption Petition
The denial of an adoption petition is a legal determination, which means that it can be appealed. If your adoption petition has been denied, you will want to contact a skilled attorney who understands the laws of your particular state, since state laws vary. Depending on the reason why your application was denied, you may be able to make corrections or additions so that your petition can be approved.