Basic Information


While anyone can choose to care for a child in need for short or long-term periods, such as a foster care situation, adoption is a different situation that requires a much different commitment. Adoption is the legal act of permanently placing a child with a parent or parents other than the birth parents. In this process, the parental rights of the birth parents are permanently terminated. The adoptive parents then assume full legal responsibility for the child. The child, in turn, gains the same legal rights as that of a child born to the adoptive parents.

Adoption means that the connection between the child and the caregiver is legal and binding on both parties, not just convenient. It makes it a crime for the caregiver to abandon the child. It also makes it legal for the adoptive parents to make decisions that seriously influence the child's destiny: what type of religious education will occur; what schools the child will attend; methods of discipline that will be used, et...

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Who can adopt a child?

  • Historically and still today, conventional married couples are considered the best candidates for becoming adoptive parents.
  • Partners who are not formally married have a harder time adopting and when this is allowed at all in the United States, the states consider the adoption to be valid for only one of the partners, who is essentially adopting as a single parent.
  • It is now possible for single people to adopt a child in the United States, although it is still much more difficult to be approved than it is for a married couple.
  • Gay and lesbian singles or couples will generally face many challenges in the adoption process.
  • For all adoptive parents, agencies set minimum age requirements for adoption, (25 years of age or older), and many have maximum age requirements (45 or 50 years of age or younger).
  • When considering a married couple, the agency may also look at the age of each partner and the age difference between the two.
  • International adoptions may also have age restrictions or requirements as well.
  • Adoption application procedures include a thorough background check and any past legal or financial issues that show up may restrict an adoption from taking place.
  • Certain medical or psychological conditions can also negatively affect the status of an adoption application.

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What are the steps in the adoption process?

  • The process begins when a couple or single person decides to adopt a child.
  • They contact an adoption agency and fill out an application, which requires a great deal of information regarding details of the couple's life, including legal and financial details.
  • The couple will then have some time to consider what they are looking for in a child and how they will pay for the adoption process, which can be quite expensive.
  • The agency may provide a gallery of images of available children, or they may require the application process be completed before any matching of adoption candidates with children can take place.
  • As part of the application, the agency will also require a home study, which involves a social worker coming out to the couple's home and reporting to the agency on what is found.
  • After some time passes, the couple's application materials are processed and approved (or denied).
  • At that time, the couple will have the opportunity either to select a child or to be matched with a child.
  • If a child meeting the applicant couple's criteria is not available, which is likely in a domestic adoption situation, the couple will have to wait until a child becomes available.
  • Even if a child is available, there will likely be additional administrative hoops to jump through before an adoption is finalized.
  • A significant amount of time will likely go by before it is possible for the adoptive couple to take their child home.
  • If the adoption is taking place internationally, one or more extended visits to the international country may be required.
  • If the adoption is domestic and open in nature, the adoptive parents will be introduced to the birth parent (or parents).
  • Eventually, all the necessary papers are signed and more fees are paid.
  • The adoption goes to court and a judge signs off on the adoption, making it permanent.
  • The entire process may take as little as six to nine months, or as long as two years or more.

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What are the financial costs involved in adopting a child?

  • A private-agency domestic adoption will generally cost anywhere from $7,500 to $15,000.
  • Up-front costs generally include application and other fees (background checks, etc.) with the bulk of the money being due when placement occurs.
  • In addition to the agency costs, lawyer fees can range anywhere from $500 up to $10,000 or more, depending on how involved the lawyer is in the adoption process.
  • Finally, the birth mother's medical costs or other expenses may need to be negotiated.
  • State-arranged adoptions are much cheaper than agency adoptions and will usually only require court fees, out-of-state adoption fees (if relevant) and possible home study costs, which are sometimes by the state. An adoption of this type may cost anywhere between a few hundred to several thousand dollars to complete.
  • Fees vary widely for international adoptions depending on the country and agency chosen, but typically range from $7,000-$30,000.
  • Extra costs associated with international adoption vs. domestic adoption include the cost of multiple non-optional extended trips to the adoption country, and/or the hiring of a native-speaking proxy (a lawyer or agent) to act on the adoptive parents' behalf within the adoption country.
  • The standard costs of an adoption (administrative fees, home study costs, etc.) also apply to an international adoption.

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What are open and closed adoptions?

  • Closed adoptions occur when adoptive parents and birth parents have no contact with one another, never meeting or gaining information about each other.
  • The birth parents surrender the child to an adoption agency and never learn who adopts the child.
  • All records identifying the birth parents are then sealed by the court and not disclosed to the adoptive parents or to the adopted child.
  • Semi-open adoptions occur when birth parents are given some say in determining which parents will have the opportunity to raise their child.
  • They are presented with profiles of potential adoptive families and have the opportunity to read them and choose the family they believe has the most to offer the child.
  • Open adoption occurs when birth and adoptive parents' contact information is shared with one another and there are no barriers preventing contact between the parties, either before the adoption is finalized or afterwards.
  • If the birth mother has not yet given birth, the adoptive parents may be invited to participate in preparations for labor and delivery.
  • Following the adoption, some form of regular contact is established between the birth parent and the adoptive family.

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What are the benefits of domestic or international adoption?

  • Domestic adoptions occur when both sets of parents live in the same country, while international adoptions occur when the birth parents live in one country and the adoptive parents live in another.
  • Domestic adoption agencies generally are able to provide more detailed and accurate information about birth parents' medical information and are also better able to provide the option of an open or semi-open adoption than are international agencies.
  • People may choose to adopt domestically because it is the best way to adopt a newborn or young infant.
  • If a family pursues an international adoption of an infant, the child will most likely be several months old at best, and possibly over a year old or more, before the child is permitted to travel to the new home.
  • Many adoptive parents do not desire any contact with birth parents and like the fact that most international adoptions are closed in nature.
  • Others like the humanitarian payoff of knowing that by choosing to adopt a child internationally, a child can be removed from harmful or poverty level situations - although the same could be said for many domestic adoptions.
  • The way that most international adoptions are conducted also minimizes the risk that a child could be offered to prospective parents and then withdrawn because the birth parents have already transferred their parental rights to a third-party adoption agency or orphanage before the adoptive parents get involved.

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How do I tell my child he or she was adopted?

  • Very young children should be told about their adoption in simple terms that convey how much they were loved by their birth parents and by their adoptive parents.
  • As the child matures, the story will need to have details added to answer additional questions that the child may have concerning the circumstances of the adoption as his or her understanding grows.
  • Older children may wonder why their birth parents couldn't take care of them, and may believe that they were rejected because they were bad.
  • Adoptive parents can help their child work thorough feelings of rejection by their birth parents by helping the child to see that there are many reasons why some people are not able to be good parents when a child is born and that these reasons don't have anything to do with the child, but rather with the birth parents.
  • The most important thing a parent can do to help their child work through such hurt feelings is to remain calm and be a good listener.
  • If the adoption is a completely open one, then the child will obviously need to be told that the person who is visiting or sending cards and letters is his or her birth parent.
  • When the adoption is completely closed, the birth parents will not be in the child's life at all, which may lead to additional issues that need to be addressed.
  • It is important to realize that some children may feel unsafe at the prospect of discussing birth parent issues for fear of upsetting their adoptive parents.

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How can I tell my family and friends that I'm placing my baby up for adoption?

  • It is often hard for birthmothers to tell friends and family about their decision to adopt out their child.
  • This is particularly hard when your extended family is against the idea of adoption and makes suggestions about how the family can accommodate a new child or makes pleas to not give a part of the family away.
  • While family opinions and ideas should be seriously considered, it is ultimately you, as the mother, who must make the final decision about what is best for yourself and your child, even if that means going against the wishes of your family.
  • Once you give the family time and opportunity to adjust to your decision, you can then use them as support while you go through the adoption process.
  • You should also recognize that just as you will need to deal with grief and loss issues surrounding the adoption, your extended family may also need time and space to go through their own grieving process.
  • You may choose to keep a pregnancy journal to be given to the adoptive parents to someday share with the child and can allow your family to participate in the journaling as well.

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