Questionnaire: Am I Eligible To Adopt A Child?

Adopting from foster care has similar requirements as adopting a baby in a private adoption in many cases. 

You may be considering adopting a child and wondering if you can. You might be a legal guardian and want to adopt the child. Maybe you're a foster parent who wanted to adopt your foster child. But the biological parents refused to terminate their parental rights. If you were eligible to adopt in that scenario, you're likely to be able to adopt.

The legal process for the adoption of a child is similar throughout the country. However, adoption laws vary from state to state. Minnesota's adoption laws are different than South Carolina's, for example. And, in the case of international adoptions, the laws vary from country to country. In addition, certain agencies may apply more restrictive criteria, when seeking prospective adoptive parents, than others.

However, a few general guidelines apply in most instances, as illustrated by the statements below. Just remember the differences if you want to adopt out-of-state or out of the country. As you read through them, check all that apply. Your adoption attorney can review your responses with you and help you determine the best route for making an addition to your family.

Adoption Eligibility Checklist

_____ I am eighteen years old or older. The age limits vary from state to state and from country to country. Some countries base their age restrictions on the difference between the child's and the parent's age.

_____ I have saved enough money to cover the costs of adoption. Adoptions can be costly, and saving in advance can be prudent. It is not, however, the only way to fund an adoption. Many people borrow from their retirement savings or against the equity in their homes. Some receive loans from family members. Sometimes, a church will sponsor an adoption for one of its parishioners. Employers, too, may offer adoption benefits. The adoption tax credit can offset some or all of the financial burden accompanying the adoption process. Note that some adoptions, such as those involving special needs children or children in domestic foster care, can be achieved for a lower cost or no cost.

_____ I earn enough money to cover the expenses of raising a child. We've all heard about how much it costs to raise a child to eighteen, to say nothing of the costs of a college education (although parents are not required to contribute to a child's college education). Income is an important consideration, especially in single-parent adoptions and those involving two parents, if one intends to stop working after the child's birth or after the child arrives.

_____ My employment is stable. This concern may be relevant to determining financial stability and a general finding of responsibility and maturity. Prospective adoptive parents must be able to provide their children with a stable home environment.

_____ I am in good health. Rules regarding specific disabilities are relaxed, but you must prove that you have a reasonable life expectancy and can manage the physical demands of child care.

_____ My home is clean and safe and can accommodate the needs of a child. You do not need to live in a palace to qualify to adopt. A modest home or apartment is acceptable as long as it will provide a safe environment and room for the child to play, explore, and grow. To ensure your home is this type of nurturing environment, all prospective adoptive parents must undergo a home study in their state before they are approved to proceed forward with the adoption. Learn more about home studies in FindLaw's Home Study FAQ article.

_____ I do not have a criminal record. Although minor infractions, like unpaid parking tickets, are generally of no consequence (even though they may require a written explanation), more severe charges are of more significant concern. This is true especially for child-related offenses. If you have past due child support, that alone would not disqualify you. The court will use the “best interests of the child" standard. They will consider the child's welfare and well-being. Previous child abuse charges will likely disqualify you as an adoptive parent. The adoption agency will conduct background checks to verify this information.

_____ I am a U.S. citizen. This fact is relevant, depending on the type of adoption you are seeking. For example, suppose you want to adopt a child from another country and then bring the child back to the United States to live. You must also be at least 25 years of age if you're unmarried. If you are married, you and your spouse must jointly adopt the child. Your spouse must also be a citizen. Or they must have legal status in the country. There are initial requirements. You must meet the eligibility requirements under the federal law and the appropriate state laws.

Additional factors—such as religion, fertility status, and educational background—may be a necessary part of the home study and background check conducted by specific agencies, countries, or birth parents. For example, the birth mother and birth father may prefer that a married couple raise their baby. Or the birth family wants an adoptive family to have things in common with them. But they do not have general significance. The most important qualification to be an adoptive parent is the hardest to quantify: your capacity to love and nurture the adopted child.

See Also

More Questions About Your Eligibility to Adopt a Child? Talk to an Attorney

This checklist is a good starting point to see whether you're personally in a position to become an adoptive placement for a child. However, once you decide to do so, you will face a new range of questions. You will probably need adoption assistance. You're a stepparent preparing for a stepparent adoption. Your adoptee is from another country. Or you're nervous about the adoption home study. Whatever the situation, there are many steps in the process you will have to take before the finalization of the adoption.

For this reason, it's a good idea to speak with a local adoption attorney, or family law attorney, who can walk you through the adoption process and help you plan for what happens after the adoption proceedings.

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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