There are many different kinds of people who can be adopted. In fact, even adults can be adopted. Here are a few categories of potential adoptees and an overview of some of the laws surrounding those kinds of adoptions.
When people think about adoption, they usually think about infants first. Infants can be adopted, but if you only want to adopt an infant, you may need to wait for a long time. There are more people waiting to adopt healthy infants than there are infants who are available for adoption. If you are working with an agency, depending on your location and preferences, the wait could last any amount of time from a few months to several years.
With infant adoption, birth parents are able to be part of the process if they want to be. Often, birth parents will be involved in choosing the adoptive parents, especially with open adoptions. After the child is born, and the adoption is completed, prospective adoptive parents should know that most states have a window of time during which either birth parent can revoke their consent to the adoption.
Completing an Infant Adoption
While the adoption process can begin before a child is born, the process will not be completed until sometime after birth. Both birth and prospective adoptive parents have the opportunity to change their minds.
Sometimes the birth parent(s) will know which sex the child will be during the parent selection process, and sometimes they do not. However, prospective adoptive parents never need to adopt a child whom they do not want to adopt, even if that reason is because of the sex of the child. That said, adoptive parents who are only open to one sex may have a harder time being matched with a child and may need to wait longer.
Foster children may be any age. It is often the older children who are most in need of homes. Prospective foster parents can choose which age ranges they are open to fostering. Many people choose foster care adoption because they are giving a child a home who truly needs it. Foster care adoption is also relatively inexpensive (or free), and foster parents get reimbursement from the state for some of their expenses. They also may be eligible for benefit programs.
Adults with the time, energy, ability, money, and space, as well as clean criminal records, are generally able to become foster parents. The state will use home studies, interviews, background checks, and other screening tools to make sure that the placement will be a safe and happy solution for all parties involved.
Special Needs Children
For many different reasons, some people would prefer to adopt children with special needs. Disabled children need homes and care just as much as (if not more than) non-disabled children. There are adoption agencies that specialize in special needs children. For foster parents looking to foster special needs children, the need is great, and many states will offer increased reimbursement amounts to help provide the medical care and accessibility devices that the child needs. Typically, the state will also pay the medical expenses of special needs foster children. It is important to note that anyone can become disabled at any time, so there is always a chance that a child will be found to have special needs in the future. All parents should be aware of this possibility.
How States Define Special Needs
States often define a child with special needs broadly to include children who are harder to place for adoption, even if they do not have physical or mental disabilities. For example, older children may be classified as children with “special needs,” and so may groups of siblings in the foster care system.
Twins and Sibling Groups
Child welfare professionals advise that sibling groups and twins should be adopted together if at all possible. Sometimes adoptive parents will adopt the sibling group at the same time. With foster care, sometimes one child will enter care, and then later a sibling will enter care. Generally, the foster or adoptive parents of the first child will be given an opportunity to foster and/or adopt the sibling before anyone else is able to adopt them (aside from biological family members).
Studies show that twins and sibling groups who are kept together have better outcomes than those who are separated. This may be because they have each other for support. While social workers will try to keep sibling groups together, it can be difficult to find a single placement that meets the needs of all of the children.
Adults can also be adopted. Generally, adults are adopted for inheritance purposes. This makes it easier for a “parent” to leave assets to their “child.” The other main reason for adult adoption is to formalize an already existing parental relationship. For example, with stepparent adoption, there needs to be consent from both biological parents, since children generally cannot have more than two parents. However, once a child is 18, this is irrelevant. Thus, stepparents may adopt adult stepchildren so that they have the same inheritance rights and legal status as biological children, but only the consent of the 18-year-old is needed.
Not Just for Kids: Adult Adoptions
In most states, one adult can adopt another adult. For example, an older childless person will adopt an adult for inheritance purposes or a stepparent will adopt an adult step child. Usually these types of adoptions are completed without a home study, but may require some state investigation where caregivers of the elderly are being adopted.
The growth and innovation of reproductive technology have changed many aspects of family law. One of these is embryo adoption. Now that IVF and other reproductive treatments are more common, many families end up having embryos in frozen storage that they decide that they do not want to use. Sometimes families will decide to put the embryos up for “adoption” and allow someone else to gestate and raise the child.
The law lags behind technology, and very few states have laws that specifically govern embryo adoption. However, some states will cover embryo adoption under the umbrella of the laws that govern sperm donation. This makes it clear that the recipients are the parents with all of the legal rights and responsibilities that come along with that status. The parties should also have a written contract that explicitly states that the embryo donors do not have parental rights or responsibilities regarding the child.