There are many reasons that birth parents decide to give children up for adoption, ranging from an attempt to provide a better life to an inability to care for the child. Likewise, there are many reasons for adopting, from an inability to bear biological children to a desire to provide a stable home for someone in need. Regardless of the reasons, all adoptions follow a similar legal process. Provided here is an explanation of various types of adoptions and the special considerations that are involved in each type.
Traditional agency adoption is closed. In this type of adoption, neither the birth parents nor the adoptive parents have information about each other. Traditional belief holds that it is best for all parties to maintain complete separation and secrecy. However, many adopted children have difficulty establishing a sense of self. They are also concerned about a lack of medical history.
A newer type of agency adoption is open. In this type of adoption, the birth parents and adoptive parents share information prior to the adoption. After the adoption, some contact is maintained. This may range from letters to phone calls or even in-person visits.
A lawyer is often needed in an agency adoption. Although the adoption agency handles much of the legwork, the lawyer can provide advice, file paperwork and ensure that the parents' rights are protected. If the adoption is open, the lawyer can also provide advice on negotiating terms that are fair to all involved.
In an independent adoption, the birth parents and adoptive parents find each other. They agree to the child's placement and conditions of the adoption without involving an adoption agency. A lawyer must be retained throughout the process to file court paperwork, ensure that all laws are followed, and mediate the agreement. An identified adoption is similar, but the parties engage an agency to perform the adoption process. Some states ban Independent adoption but permit identified adoption.
Adopting a child from another country is extraordinarily complex. It is crucial that the adoptive parents retain an attorney that is experienced in handling international adoptions. The parents must meet the adoption criteria of the United States and the child's home country, as well as filing proper visa paperwork for the child. The process is time consuming, but ultimately rewarding.
Stepparent Adoptions, Domestic Partner Adoptions and Kinship Adoptions
Both stepparent and kinship adoptions are fairly easy, as long as the adoption is uncontested. These adoptions can often be handled by an attorney with relatively little cost or outside assistance. Domestic partners can adopt under stepparent laws in states that recognize the same sex union.
Legal Matters Affecting All Adoptions
Unless the birth parents' rights are legally terminated, the birth parents must give informed, written consent. State law regarding consent varies, but normally may not be given before the child is born. Some states also provide a period of time during which consent may be revoked. Voluntarily terminating parental rights is serious and ultimately irrevocable. The waiting periods are in place to give the birth parents time to be certain of their decision.
Adoptive parents must undergo a home study process. Financial and marital stability and mental and physical health are among the criteria for successful adoption. This is also a time of education for the adoptive parents. At the end of the home study period, the assigned caseworker will make a recommendation to the court. However, it is the court, during an adoption hearing, which determines the ultimate placement of the child. Following the hearing, it may take up to six months for the adoption to be finalized, as the court monitors the placement closely.
Adoption is a time-consuming and often expensive choice. The process should not be begun without careful thought and discussion by both the birth family and the adoptive family. If the decision is made to go through with adoption, it is important to become educated about the alternatives and select the best method of adoption for each family.
Questions & Answers: Adoption