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What Is Required to Adopt a Child in the US

Adoption laws have changed in recent years in the United States. As a result, the process can be a more fulfilling experience for the parents planning to adopt a child and the birth parents as well. There are a number of reasons for this, but the primary cause is that more state adoption laws allow child adoptions to be open than in the past. In an open adoption, both parents and sets of parents can get to know each other before adopting a child. In addition, the adopted child may get to know his birth parent(s) if s/he wants to in the future and if the birth parent(s) will allow it.  That alleviates a great deal of confusion for the child and peace of mind for the birth mother. 

Who Is Qualified for Adopting a Child in the US?

The list of people eligible to petition for child adoptions is quite long today. In nearly every state, adoption laws include single people, married couples, and stepparents. In some states, those adoption laws even include a married person who wants to adopt singly. There are some limitations on adoption laws in other states such as the legal age for adoption (often 18, 21, or 25), the number of years older the parent adopting a child must be than the child (often 10 or 14 years older), and adoption laws requiring state residency. Other states have adoption laws regulating whether or not gay and lesbian couples may plan to adopt a child or cohabiting partners may do so. However, those adoption laws are often vague and quickly changing so that a person interested in adopting a child should check his state adoption laws to learn what the limitations there may be. While the adoption laws may be more open for people from all walks of life than in the past, that doesn’t mean states don’t give preference to some parents adopting a child. Often that includes parents of the same race as the child and couples in a traditional marriage. Those who do not receive such preference may have to wait longer for child adoptions than others. In addition, if you choose to adopt through an adoption agency, you will have to meet their requirements, which can be stricter than state adoption laws.

Agency or Independent Adoption

The next hurdle is to decide whether you will choose a public or private child adoptions agency or an independent individual to facilitate your child adoptions.
  • Public agency child adoptions are the most thorough. The provide counseling to help preclude problems later on and to assure the mother will give up her child. They also have extensive experience in matching parents and children for child adoptions. Their primary drawback, however, is that they have far too many requests for child adoptions and far too few children. As a result, adopting a child in infancy is difficult and includes a long waiting period. Adopting a child who is older is often easier, but that produces another set of problems, including child adoptions that bring a child into the home that is already set in a pattern of acting, responding, and reacting. In many cases, child adoptions involving older children are much more difficult.
  • Private agencies or individual child adoptions are sometimes more accessible, but generally more expensive. These child adoptions can cost from $1,000 to $10,000 and even more when you include all the fees, court filings, agency overhead, lawyer’s fees, in some cases the expenses of the mother, and even counseling expenses. In most cases, you must hire your own attorney to file all the paperwork for private child adoptions in accordance with state adoption laws, which also adds to the cost. There are over 3,000 adoption agencies in the United States, and the internet or word of mouth are good ways to find the right one for you.
  • Adoption laws allow for international child adoptions; however, they are expensive. In most cases, you should go through a US agency that handles international child adoptions, because it is more reliable and safer. However, there are state adoption laws that may restrict international child adoptions, which you should investigate before you proceed. In addition, some foreign countries have adoption laws that restrict some people from adopting a child there. In some countries, it is against their adoption laws to approve gays and lesbians, people under the age of 25, and more.
Open vs. Closed Child Adoptions
The adoption laws in America have changed so that the majority of states allow open adoptions. That does not mean that parents adopting a child must opt for an open adoption. Nor does it mean that the parents giving up the babies for child adoptions must agree to an open adoption. Open child adoptions allow the parents adopting a child, the birth parents, and the adopted child to know one another from the initial agreement throughout the child’s life. This can answer many questions for the child and dissolve the discomfort of the parents adopting a child when he questions them about his birth parents. It can also comfort the birth parents to know where and how their child is being raised. However, there is a downside. It may appear to be a threat to the parents adopting a child, fearing the birth parents may become an intrusion on their lives and confusing the child over who his/her real parents are.

The Home Study Aspect of Adopting a Child
Every state in the union has adoption laws requiring a home study for parents set on adopting a child. However, the specific requirements of that home study can vary widely according to each state’s adoption laws. You should begin early acquainting yourself with your state’s adoption laws and home study formats. In addition, most home studies include interviews, home visit, and training to prepare you for adopting a child, background checks, references, income statements, and autobiographical statements. These home studies facilitate adopting a child by equipping the parents for their child adoptions, providing information for the agency to match the child to the family adopting a child, and determining the fitness of the family adopting a child. The reason adoption laws require a home study is not to frighten prospective parents away, but to better prepare them and the agency for prospective child adoptions.
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