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Adoption Law: Checklist

Adopting a child isn't only a benefit to children who need parents, but it's also a wonderful and rewarding experience for the adoptive parents. However, adoption involves more than simply deciding or wanting to adopt a child. There is a process involved that can be complicated depending on your situation.

This article provides an adoption law checklist to help you sort through the process, and includes information about:

  • Selecting the type of adoption;
  • Finding a child available for adoption;
  • Participating in the home study process;
  • Obtaining consent to adoption; and
  • Filing an adoption petition and obtaining court approval.

1. Select the Type of Adoption You'd Like to Pursue

There are a number of possible adoption types available for parents seeking to adopt a child. Prospective parents can either work with an adoption agency or can adopt through an independent adoption, without the involvement of an agency. Also, adoption can be open or closed, depending upon how many contacts between the birth parent(s) and adoptive parent(s) are desired.

2. Find a Child Available for Adoption

First and foremost, states have a variety of requirements that make a child eligible for adoption. Assuming this requirement is met, there are a number of options for locating a child for adoption. Some examples of how to find a child available for adoption include consulting with attorneys, talking to friends or coworkers, and going through a county's children's services department or adoption agencies. There are also a number of steps you can take to obtain background information on children who are available for adoption.

3. Participate in the Home Study Process

Many states require prospective adoptive parents to participate in a "home study." This process has three purposes: to educate and prepare the adoptive family for adoption, to gather information about the prospective parents that will help a social worker match the family with a child whose needs they can meet, and to evaluate the fitness of the adoptive family. The specifics of the home study process are dependent on the adoption agency conducting it; however, it generally includes the following elements:

  • Parental training;​
  • Interviews of the adoptive parents;
  • Home visits;
  • Health, income, and autobiographical statements;
  • Background checks; and
  • References​.

The findings are then compiled into a home study report. While the home study process may seem burdensome, it is an integral process of the adoption journey to ensure the child is going to a nurturing, stable, clean home that will provide a wonderful environment for them in the future.

4. Obtain Consent to Adoption

Consent in the adoption context refers to the agreement by a birth parent to relinquish the child for adoption and to release all rights and duties with respect to that child. Each state has laws related to who must consent, how consent may be given, and when it may be given. The termination of parental rights ends the legal parent-child relationship between a prospective adopted child and their birth parent(s). Once the relationship has been terminated, the child is legally free to be placed for adoption.

5. File an Adoption Petition and Obtain Court Approval

No matter what type of adoption, eventually the adoption will need to be approved in the appropriate court. In most states, parents adopting a child will file an adoption petition in court. Although it'll depend on the particular jurisdiction, the petition will usually include:

  • The name(s), age(s), and address of the adoptive parent(s);
  • The legal purpose behind the termination of the child's biological parent's rights;
  • The relationship between the child and the adoptive parents;
  • That the adoption is in the best interest of the child; and
  • That the adoptive parents are the right people to adopt the child.

After filing the petition, the prospective parents must usually go through an adoption hearing before the adoption may become final.

Parenting After Adoption

No one can ever be completely prepared to take on the responsibilities of parenthood, whether it be with a biological or adopted child. There are, however, a number of things for new parents to keep in mind when raising an adopted child. Some things adoptive parents should keep in mind include what to watch for at key stages in the child's development, how to discuss adoption with the child, and how to deal with adoption-related issues that might arise at school.

Adoption Law: Related Resources

If you're interested in adopting a child, the information above may not answer all of your questions. Click on the links below for specific information on the following adoption-related topics:

Questions About Adoption? Get in Touch with an Attorney

There are a variety of challenges when it comes to adoption, from the process of locating a child to the process of obtaining court approval for the adoption. While this adoption law checklist is helpful in giving you a basic understanding about adoption, every situation is unique.

Reach out to an experienced adoption attorney to get your questions answered and to receive help with the adoption process.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified attorney specializing in adoptions.

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