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How to Adopt a Child in the US?

Posted on by Dawna M. Roberts in LawOctober 11, 2022

How to Adopt a Child

Adoption is the legal process that gives legal guardianship over another to a legal adult; usually, adoption occurs between a child and their adoptive parents. Further, legal custody of the adopted means permanently transferring all vital records, rights, and responsibilities.

Adoption is a wonderful, often noble pursuit; the results change the child’s life, but the process also changes the adoptive parent’s life. They can provide a child with a better approach and start to life—surrounded by those who love them. However, the process can be long and complicated, so it’s not something to venture into without assistance.

Additionally, it is helpful to keep in mind that processes and laws dictate the adoption process in your area. The difference between state laws for adoption can be as simple as fines associated with the process; for example, in Nevada, fees range from $550-$8,000—but in New York, those fees could be waived.

how to adopt a child

What to Expect from the Process

What you should expect from the process may change, given real-life situations are stickier than cleanly written ones. However, you can still expect a certain consistency when adopting babies or children you have not yet met.

To begin, the prospective parent (a pregnant woman, usually) approaches their chosen adoption entity. The adoption entity can be the Child Welfare System, a facilitator (i.e., a lawyer or doctor), or an adoption agency. The exact type of adoption will depend on the entity chosen; some offer better contracts or benefits. For example, going through the courts can take longer, but there are financial benefits to using them.

The adoptive parents then come into the fray. Often, they are asked to create “family resumes" to show the prospective parent. These family resumes are typically portfolios filled with photos and letters; they showcase your current family and indicate your hopes and dreams for your new child. These portfolios are the most crucial aspect of the process—the ball is in the prospective parent's court after this.

There are many ways the process can proceed from here. Typically, the prospective parent will sift through family resumes until they find one they like. After this, adoption agencies or other facilitators begin the paperwork—and that’s mostly it, outside of delivering the baby. However, some adoption entities allow for various forms of contact between the prospective and possible adoptive parents; some include it as part of the adoption contract. These contact methods include conference calls between the parties, ongoing contact before placement, or meeting placement. Except in open adoptions, all communications usually stop after the child has undergone placement and is with their new family.

Types of Adoption

As mentioned before, there are many types of adoption. Picking the right one may take some time but exploring all the options beforehand will make things easier; you won’t be trying to learn as you go. Every type has benefits and downfalls—switching up might be a good idea if you’ve hit a dead end otherwise.

  • Open adoptions:one of the most common adoption choices, the birth parents and adoptive parents typically continue communication after placement.
  • Closed adoptions: both parties remain confidential, with zero contact before or after the child’s placement.
  • Independent adoptions: facilitated through lawyers or doctors, this can have elements of open and closed adoptions.
  • Kinship adoptions: minors can be adopted by family members of legal age.
  • Step-parent adoptions: if the child accepts this request, the step-parent can become their legal parent.
  • Foster-to-adoptions: many foster families become “foster failures”—they’ve decided to adopt their foster children.
  • Domestic adoptions: all adoptive options within the United States, regardless of state boundaries. The downside is that certain things like criminal records may make domestic adoption a nonviable choice.
  • International adoptions: the most expensive option, these adoptions take a very long time. The upside to them is helping to save a child from another country.

How to File for Adoption

Depending on the state and adoption type, there are a few ways to do this. In the easiest cases, a prospective parent picks a family, everyone files paperwork, and the baby is placed. In other cases, this process can be more complex. Usually, there are three steps for adoptions that run their course through the courts:

1. File the Adoption Case with the Courts.

There are many forms that a court will need even to start the adoption process. You can find many helpful guides describing them online. Approval for adoption can be painstaking, so it is best to do a lot of research on adoptions in your area.

2. Sign and Submit Documents to the Court and Child Welfare Agency.

Both institutions will need to communicate to make an adoption happen. This is part of the reason government adoptions take so long. Despite their lengthy periods, these are some of the most chosen options for adoption, especially those where special needs are found before birth.

3. Take Part in the Adoption Hearing and Get the Child’s Placement.

A judge must finalize the adoption in a court setting. This is meant to be the final step in the “process,” but remember to get the child’s vital records. They likely won’t be at the adoption hearing, so remembering to get them will be important.

How to Get Information About the Child

Those looking to explore their options can almost always look at adoption databases online to find adoptable children. The National Foster Care & Adoption Directory Search, run by Child Welfare, is one of the best online options.

Potential parents interested in an adoptable child will find contacting the facilitator the easiest method for getting information. Additionally, those looking to adopt through other types may benefit from facilitated discussions.

With Adoption, Every Child’s Future can be Bright

Adopting a child is one of a person’s most compassionate actions. It is not only the willing sacrifice of oneself but also the heedless desire for a better world. Adoptive parents have the unique opportunity to improve their lives as much as their adopted child’s life.

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