Adoption rates through a public child welfare agency have been on the rise. In 2017, 59,469 children were adopted in the United States, which rose to 62,997 in 2018. Then data shows that 66,035 children were adopted in 2019. While the number of children being adopted each year is increasing, there are still more than 400,000 children in the foster care system waiting to be adopted by 2020.
Given this, it’s evident that there is a great need for families willing to adopt children. If you’re considering adoption, you likely have many questions about the process. This guide might answer some of the most frequently asked questions about adopting a child in the United States.
Different Types of Adoptions
Different types of adoptions are available, and each type has its own process and requirements. The most common types of adoptions are domestic and international adoptions. Still, there are other types of adoptions, such as step-parent and agency.
The process for domestic and international adoptions is different in a few key ways. Domestic adoptions occur within the United States, while international adoptions occur outside of the United States. In addition, the process for domestic adoptions is typically shorter than for international adoptions. Domestic adoption processes vary from state to state, while international adoption processes are governed by the Hague Convention.
On the other hand, step-parent adoption is a type of domestic adoption that occurs when one parent wishes to adopt their spouse’s child. The process for this type of adoption is typically shorter and less expensive than other types of domestic adoptions. Still, it does require that the biological parent’s rights be terminated.
For instance, a mother’s husband wishes to adopt the child. If the father consents, his rights to the child will be terminated, and the mother’s husband will become a stepfather. But if the father still wishes to keep his parental rights, the adoption request will likely get denied in court.
An agency adoption is another type of domestic adoption that occurs when a child is placed with a family through a licensed adoption agency. This type of adoption is similar to the process for other types of domestic adoptions, but it can sometimes be more expensive. Adoption agencies match children with adoptive parents while considering the birth parents’ wishes.
Rights as Adoptive Parents
After adoption, the adoptive parents would earn the same rights as the birth parents had. They would have the right to decide about their child’s welfare and upbringing. This comes to be because once an adoption is final, the birth parents are relieved from all parental duties, which are then transferred over to the adoptive parents. This severance of legal connection to the child also extends to inheritance.
However, it’s not as simple for LGBTQ+ parents. Every state has different laws when it comes to LGBTQ+ parenting rights. Over 34 states recognize non-gestational parents as legal parents, but only if they are married. Meanwhile, the other 16 states recognize non-gestational parents as legal regardless of marital status, but only if the child was born through Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART). For non-gestational parents to be recognized as the legal parents of their child in some states, they have to adopt the child through a step-parent adoption.
The Adoption Process
Adopting a child is a gratifying experience. Hence, adoption agencies are there to help you through the necessary processes. Here is an overview of the steps you will need to take to adopt a child through an adoption agency:
1. Complete an application. The agency will require you to fill out an application, which will ask questions about your background, lifestyle, and why you want to adopt.
2. Attend orientation and education classes. Once your application is approved, you may need to attend some education classes to learn more about adoption and what to expect.
3. Be matched with a child. Once the agency feels like you are ready, they will begin matching you with a child who needs a home.
4. Go through the home study process. A social worker will need to come to your home to ensure it is safe and suitable for a child. They will also interview you and your family to get to know you better.
5. Finalize the adoption. Once everything has been approved, you will attend a final court hearing to make the adoption official.
Adoption is a beautiful process that can provide a child with a loving home and parents who may have been unable to conceive. It can also be a challenging process, both emotionally and legally. Hence, it is vital to understand all involved in the adoption process before taking any steps.