Types of Adoption

Birth parents, and adoptive parents, have different types of adoption available to them.

FindLaw's types of adoption sub-section include a variety of articles and resources about the different types of adoption. This sub-section will help all parties in the adoption process make informed decisions.

Agencies can broker an adoption. Parties can adopt on their own (independent adoption). Prospective adoptive parents can adopt within the country or from a foreign country. Articles in this sub-section include:

  • Kinship adoptions
  • Stepparent adoptions
  • Independent adoptions
  • Domestic vs. international adoptions
  • Foster parent or public agency adoptions

This article provides a brief overview of the adoption process and different types of adoptions.

Adoption Process Overview

While prospective adoptive parents can pursue different types of adoptions, the core adoption process doesn't change. Before placing a child in an adoptive family, the prospective parents go through a vetting process. Most prospective parents attend an orientation before the process begins. Orientations introduce the prospective parents to the adoption process. Orientations are a time to ask questions about what to expect during the process.

Home Study

Almost all prospective parents complete a home study. The home study includes the following:

  • An autobiographical statement
  • A background check, including criminal history
  • Submission of financial statements
  • Training
  • Interviews with a social worker
  • Recommendations

After the social worker has gathered all relevant information, they will prepare a report for the agency. This report provides the child-placing agency with information to make the best match.

The Adoption Process

Once the prospective parents complete the home study, they are eligible for placement. The adoption process starts with an adoption petition filed in family court. Through this legal process, the court can decide if the adoption is in the best interests of the child. If the court grants the petition, the adoption is finalized.

Post-adoption, adoptive parents can ask the Office of Vital Records to issue a new birth certificate. This office is usually part of the Department of Health. If the adopted child's name changes, the adopted parents need a new birth certificate with the new name.

Agency vs. Independent Adoption

Adoption through either a public or private agency is common.

Private Adoption Agency

Private agencies are one way for birth families to select their child's adoptive parents. Many infant adoptions go through private adoption. The birth family or birth mother can sign up with an agency during her pregnancy. The biological parents may receive more help through a private agency.

Many adoptive parents provide financial support for the birth mother. This support can include medical expenses and living expenses. Birth fathers may benefit if they are with the birth mother.

Private agencies provide support and counseling. They are also selective about who they represent. They may limit availability to the wealthy or those of a particular faith. They can also specialize in helping marginalized families adopt an infant or child.

Public Adoption Agency

Public agencies support the adoption of children in foster care. Foster care adoptions are different from private adoptions in many ways. First, foster children are wards of the state where they live. Second, child welfare agencies are more involved in foster care adoptions.

Public agencies deal with older children and children with special needs. Prospective parents will encounter sibling groups in the foster care system. Older children often have relationships with family members or their foster parents. Termination of the biological parent's parental rights occurs before an adoption.

Independent Adoptions

Independent adoptions involve closer interpersonal relationships. In independent adoptions, prospective adoptive parents and birth parents find each other. There is no agency helping them. As a result, adoptive parents may form a relationship with the child's birth parents.

Waiting times are one advantage of independent adoptions. Private agencies have waiting lists for infant adoptions. With independent adoptions, there are no waiting lists. Four states, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and North Dakota, forbid independent adoptions.

Open vs. Closed Adoption

In an open adoption, the birth parents and the adoptive parents establish and often maintain a relationship. In some open adoptions, the agency will prepare biographies of prospective adoptive parents. Then the birth parents determine with which family they are the most comfortable.

There is no contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents in closed adoptions. Closed adoptions preserve the confidentiality of adoption information. Most states have procedures that permit the opening of sealed adoption records. Procedures vary between states.

If a stepparent wants to adopt their stepchild, they face less scrutiny than in other adoptive situations. The biggest obstacle is getting consent from the birth parent. Children over 10 must consent. If the birth parent refuses to consent, there are other options to end their parental rights. A court may use evidence of their abandonment of the child or unfitness to end their rights.

Domestic Adoption vs. International Adoption

State laws regulate domestic adoptions and take place within the United States. An international or intercountry adoption takes place in a foreign country. Besides following local adoption laws, adoptive parents are subject to foreign adoption laws. More about these types of adoption can be found here.

Learn About the Types of Adoption

  • Agency Adoptions: Overview of the costs and procedures when choosing an agency adoption; the difference between private and public adoption agencies
  • Independent Adoptions: Information about independent adoption, the main alternative to agency adoption
  • Open vs. Closed Adoption: A comparison of open adoption to closed adoption with no contact
  • Stepparent Adoption FAQs: Answers to frequently asked questions about stepparent adoptions, including rules for getting the birth parent's consent
  • International Adoptions: Collection of articles and resources about international adoption, including articles on adopting a child from a different race or culture

Get Help

An experienced adoption attorney can help prospective parents understand their options and rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a local lawyer who can help.

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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.

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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.

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