Adoption involves the complete transfer of parental rights and responsibilities from one person to another. A transfer may occur from a birth parent to a relative, a step-parent, or even an unrelated person. Both minors and adults may be adopted by another parent. Each state has its own adoption laws, which govern the adoption process in their particular jurisdiction.
Adoptions may be open or closed. Open adoptions represent the modern trend in adoptions and involve continuing contact between adopted children and their birth parents, even after the adoptions are finalized. The individual situation will determine the level of interaction, which may include the exchange of names and contact information, letters, or ongoing visitations.
Closed adoptions represent a more traditional form of adoption in which adopted children cease contact with their birth parents and the adoption records are sealed. In such an instance, the adopted child, usually an infant, will be placed with an adoptive family and neither the adoptive parents nor the adopted child will know the identities of the birth parents.
Once a person has reached the age of 18, he or she is eligible for an adult adoption. Unlike a minor adoption which necessitates the consent of the biological parents of the child, an adult adoption only requires the consent of the person who wishes to be adopted and the adoptive parents. Examples of adults who may want to be adopted are stepchildren or foster children over the age of 18 who wish to establish a legal family relationship with their non-biological families. Also, people who would like to establish inheritance rights may choose adult adoption. Generally, once a person is adopted, the birth parents of the child no longer have an intestate claim to the child's estate.
However, not all states utilize this inheritance policy. Certain states, such as Michigan and Nebraska, completely prohibit adult adoptions. Other states place restrictions on adult adoptions, such as prohibiting the use of adult adoptions to create a legal relationship between same-sex partners, only permitting adult adoptions of permanently disabled or mentally challenged people, and requiring a certain age difference between the adoptive parent and child.
The Uniform Adoption Act was enacted to provide a uniform standard for adoptions throughout the United States. The Prefatory Note of the Act explains that the Act strives "to enable the States to respond more flexibly and reasonably to the changing social, economic and constitutional character of contemporary adoption practice." The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), ratified by all 50 states, governs the transporting of children across states lines in order for them to be adopted. For the transport to be legal, the destination state and the state of origin must provide written consent to the transport.