Step-By-Step Checklist for the Adoption Process

Adoption can be a rewarding experience, but it also involves a complex legal process. An adoption checklist can help adoptive parents keep track of the forms and tasks along the way.

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

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

Adopting a child can benefit both the children who need parents and their adoptive parents. But adoption involves more than deciding or wanting to adopt a child. There is a process involved that may be complicated depending on your situation. These are a few topics you can incorporate into your own adoption checklist. 

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

Many possible adoption types are available for prospective parents, such as:

  • Agency adoption
  • Independent adoption
  • Adopting through identification
  • International adoption
  • Stepparent adoption
  • Adult adoption
  • Same-sex couple adoption
  • Relative adoption

The type of adoption you choose can affect the exact steps you’ll complete. For most adoption types, you can work with an adoption agency. You may also seek independent adoption without the involvement of an agency. Many parents choose to adopt a child who is in foster care. Family members can adopt children in foster care.

In adult adoptions, the adoptive parent and the adult adoptee face less stringent rules. This is an independent adoption that the adult adoptee and the adoptive parent agree to.

Adoption can be open or closed, depending on how many contacts are desired between the birth parent(s) and adoptive parent(s). The birth parent will ask for updates, pictures, and periodic visits in an open adoption. In closed adoptions, birth parents don't want any contact or updates.

2. Find a Child Available for Adoption

States have a variety of requirements that make a child eligible for adoption. If the adoptive parents meet the requirements, there are several options for finding a child for adoption. Some examples of finding a child available for adoption include:

  • Consulting with attorneys
  • Talking to friends or coworkers
  • Going through a county's children's services department
  • Adoption agencies
  • Department of Health and Human Services

There are adoption agencies for children in foster care. You can get background information on children who are available for adoption. Prospective adoptive parents should get a waiver of parental rights from the father, if necessary.

3. Cooperate With the Home Study Process

Many states need prospective adoptive parents to take part in a home study. This is one aspect of proving your eligibility to the child-placing agency.

A home study has three purposes: to educate you, to gather information about you, and to check the fitness of the adoptive family. The home study's specifics depend on the adoption agency or the Department of Human Services (DHS). A social worker often conducts home studies.

You can generally expect the following elements during a home study:

  • Parental training
  • Interviews of the adoptive parents
  • A request for a certified copy of your marriage certificate, if applicable
  • Home visits
  • A request for a certified copy of your health and income information
  • Autobiographical statements
  • Background checks
  • Affidavits from friends and family attesting to your character
  • Any supplemental information

The findings are then compiled into a home study report. The home study process is an integral process of the adoption journey. It ensures the adoptee goes to a nurturing and stable home that will provide an environment for the adoptee to thrive.

4. Getting Consent to the Adoption

Consent in this context refers to the agreement by a birth parent to relinquish the child for adoption. It also includes a release of all rights and responsibilities to that child. Each state has laws for who must consent, how to consent, and when it may be given. Termination of parental rights ends the legal parent-child relationship between the prospective adoptee and the birth parent(s). Once the relationship is terminated, the child is legally free for adoption placement.

5. File a Petition for Adoption

Adoptive parents can choose the type of adoption they prefer. But, the petition for adoption must be approved by the court. In most states, parents adopting a child will file a petition for adoption in court.

Although the contents may vary by state, the petition will usually include:

  • The names, ages, and address of the adoptive parents
  • The legal purpose behind the termination of the child's biological parent's rights
  • The relationship between the child and the adoptive parents
  • Why the adoption is in the best interests of the child
  • That the adoptive parents are the right people to adopt the child

After filing the petition, there is an adoption hearing before the court issues a final order.

6. Get Court Approval

After the finalization hearing, the court will issue an order of adoption. The adoptive placement is now completed.

The adoptive parents will receive a copy of the new birth certificate. This birth certificate will have the names of the adoptive parents and the adoptee. The death certificate will also have the names of the adoptive parents.

In the eyes of the law, the adoptive parent and the adoptee are now parent and child. The birth record changes. The adoptive parents are responsible for all the child's needs. This includes child support and applying for social security if necessary. You must care for your new child. While your mandatory support might end when the child is 21 years of age, you may continue to provide voluntary support.

7. Prepare for Parenting After Adoption

No one can ever be completely prepared to take on the responsibilities of parenthood, whether with a biological or adopted child. New parents must remember many things when raising an adopted child.

Post-adoption, you should know what to look for at critical stages in your child's development. You should have a plan for discussing adoption. You should also have a plan for dealing with potential adoption-related issues.

Adoption Law: Related Resources

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

Questions About Adoption? Get in Touch With an Attorney

There are challenges in the adoption process, from locating a child to obtaining court approval for the adoption. While this adoption law checklist gives you a basic understanding of 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.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • It is a good idea to have an attorney for complex adoptions
  • An attorney can ensure you meet all legal requirements and that your adoption is finalized appropriately
  • An attorney can help protect the best interests of adoptive children, adoptive families, and birth parents
  • For simple adoptions, you may be able to do the paperwork on your own or by using an agency

Get tailored advice at any point in the adoption process. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

 Find a local attorney

Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Adopting a child is an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and make sure your children are provided for. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

Start Planning