Family Building Alternatives: Adoption

Adoption is the process of establishing a parent-child relationship where none existed previously. The child becomes the child of the adoptive parent(s), and upon the finalization of the adoption, a new birth certificate is issued referencing only those adoptive parent(s) as the child’s parent(s). This process is recognized in all fifty states, although it is highly codified and there are significant differences among the states in the details of the legal arrangement.

There are several ways of planning for adoption, and which method is suitable for any given prospective family is a matter of personal choice, finances and practicality. This brief overview is meant as an introduction to the topic, and the information is not inclusive. More complete details should be provided by your attorney or agency.

Independent adoption (also called private adoption) is the method most often chosen by placing (or “birth”) parents. There is no agency involved, the parties locate each other through independent means, and the attorneys representing each party assist them in navigating the complicated arrangements with the delivery hospital, the court process and any interstate issues.

Private agency adoption means that a child-placing agency (“adoption agency”) has located a placing birth family, and matches them with a prospective adoptive family. The agency will have performed a homestudy for the adoptive family, and provided approval for the placement. When the child is born, the agency assumes guardianship and oversees the placement for a statutorily-determined period of time. So long as the agency investigation and reports are positive, then, the agency consents to the finalization of the adoption. Thereafter, the adoptive family may finalize the adoption, usually with the assistance of an experienced adoption attorney.

Public agency adoption means that a child is available for adoption after the biological parents’ rights have been terminated by the state. Families who hope to adopt these children will have been previously approved by the state as foster parents. Although many foster children are ultimately never available for adoption, significant numbers of them will eventually need the permanency of an adoptive home. Most often, these children are not newborns, may be part of a sibling group and might have emotional or physical issues requiring on-going treatment. State and federal subsidies may be available for the adopted child.

Inter-country adoption, meaning when an orphan child is adopted from a foreign country, is another option. Although a number of countries have tightened their policies about this practice, there are still waiting children available for international placement. These types of adoptions are best handled by a qualified and experienced agency, and since the majority of countries are signatories to the Hague Convention, it is best to select an agency that is Hague accredited. Completing an adoption in the U.S. when the child enters on an IR-4 visa, or refinalizing the adoption of a child with an IR-3 entrance visa, is most easily and efficiently handled by an attorney with specific experience in this area.

For more information go to the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys website.