Adoption Law: Checklist
Adopting a child isn't only a benefit to children who need parents, but it's also a wonderful and rewarding experience for the adoptive parents. However, adoption involves more than simply deciding or wanting to adopt a child. There is a process involved which can be complicated depending on your situation.
This article provides an adoption law checklist to help you sort through the process, and includes information about:
- Selecting the type of adoption;
- Finding a child available for adoption;
- Participating in the home study process;
- Obtaining consent to adoption; and
- Filing an adoption petition and obtaining court approval.
1. Select the Type of Adoption You'd Like to Pursue
There are a number of possible adoption types available for parents seeking to adopt a child. Prospective parents can work with an adoption agency, or can adopt through an independent adoption, without the involvement of an agency. Also, an adoption can be open or closed, depending upon how much contact between the birth parent(s) and adoptive parent(s) is desired.
2. Find a Child Available for Adoption
First and foremost, states have a variety of requirements that make a child eligible for adoption. Assuming this requirement is met, there are a number of options in locating a child for adoption. Some examples of how to find a child available for adoption include consulting with attorneys, talking to friends or coworkers, and going through an adoption agency. There are also a number of steps you can take to obtain background information on children who are available for adoption.
3. Participate in the Home Study Process
Many states require prospective adoptive parents to participate in a "home study." This process has three purposes: to educate and prepare the adoptive family for adoption, to gather information about the prospective parents that will help a social worker match the family with a child whose needs they can meet, and to evaluate the fitness of the adoptive family. The specifics of the home study process is dependent on the adoption agency conducting it; however, it generally includes the following elements:
- Home Visits
- Health, Income, and Autobiographical Statements
- Background Checks
The findings are then compiled into a home study report. While the home study process may seem burdensome, it's good not only for the child to be adopted but also for the family thinking about adoption.
4. Obtain Consent to Adoption
Consent in the adoption context refers to the agreement by a birth parent to relinquish the child for adoption and to release all rights and duties with respect to that child. Each state has laws related to who must consent, how consent may be given, and when it may be given. The termination of parental rights ends the legal parent-child relationship between a prospective adopted child and his or her birth parent(s). Once the relationship has been terminated, the child is legally free to be placed for adoption.
5. File an Adoption Petition and Obtain Court Approval
No matter what type of adoption, eventually the adoption will need to get court approval. In most states, parents adopting a child will file an adoption petition in court. Although it'll depend on the particular jurisdiction, the petition will usually include:
- The name(s), age(s), and address of the adoptive parent(s);
- The legal purpose behind the termination of the child's biological parents' rights;
- The relationship between the child and the adoptive parents;
- That the adoption is in the best interest of the child; and
- That the adoptive parents are the right people to adopt the child.
After filing the petition, the prospective parents must usually go through an adoption hearing before the adoption may become final.
Parenting After Adoption
No one can ever be completely prepared to take on the responsibilities of parenthood, whether it be with a biological or adopted child. There are, however, a number of things for new parents to keep in mind when raising an adopted child. Some things adoptive parents should keep in mind include what to watch for at key stages in the child's development, how to discuss adoption with the child, and how to deal with adoption-related issues that might arise at school.
Adoption Law: Related Resources
If you're interested in adoption, the information above may not answer all of your questions. Click on the links below for specific information on the following adoption-related topics:
- Adoption and Same-Sex Couples
- International Adoption
- Single Parent Adoption
- Stepparent Adoptions FAQ
- Adoption and Taxes
Questions About Adoption? Get in Touch with an Attorney
There are a variety of challenges, when it comes to adoption, from the process of locating a child to the process of obtaining court approval of the adoption. While this adoption law checklist is helpful in giving you a basic understanding of adoption, every situation is unique. Reach out to an experienced adoption attorney to get your questions answered and to receive help with the adoption process.