The adoption process is fairly is straightforward, but not automatic. Whether handled by a third party agency or simply by independent parties, a court must be involved. Whatever your situation, you should carefully review the following:

  • Understand your state's laws: There are several state laws and regulations that govern U.S adoption and it is important to learn about your State’s law and the States that are involved in the adoption process. This can be acquired through a State Statute Agency Search.
  • Financial Implications: Understand the financial implications of the type of adoption you are getting. This includes the adoption agency application fee and attorney fees if you are getting an attorney.
  • Filing of a petition: The parties wishing to adopt must file a petition with the court asking the court to approve their desire to adopt a particular child.
  • Notice period: After the petition is filed, anyone with a vested interest in the child well being (e.g., a parent, guardian, legal representative, adoption agency, or in most states the child herself if over 12 years old) must receive notice of the petition. Exact notice requirements vary by state.
  • Adoption hearing: During the hearing, the judge determines if the adoption is in the child's best interest. If satisfied, the judge will then issue an order, called a final decree of adoption, approving and finalizing the adoption.

What Are the Ways to Adopt?

There are many ways and agencies that provide services and help to adopt a child. The most common:

  • Agency Adoptions: Both private and public agencies offer adoption services. These agencies are heavily monitored and regulated by the government, and are generally less expensive than other resources. As a drawback, agency adoptions usually involve long waiting periods, a complicated application process, and home study procedures.
  • Private Adoptions: With private or independent adoptions, a child is placed with adoptive parents without the involvement of an agency. As a result, the adoption process is often faster and more efficient. The major drawback is that private adoptions are usually more expensive because of the absence of government subsidies and support services. Private adoptions are also illegal in several states.
  • Stepparent Adoptions: It is becoming more common for parents to remarry and have their new spouse adopt their child from a previous relationship. In order for a stepparent to adopt, he or she will need the written consent of the other biological parent. If this consent is denied, the stepparent must petition the court to terminate the parental rights of the biological parent.

What Are the Types of Adoptions?

In the United States, there are several types of adoptions:

  1. Foster Care Children: These are children who live in foster care homes. Their birth parents cannot take care of them and parental rights have been terminated. These children are waiting to be adopted.
  2. Infant Adoption: These are newborn babies that are available for adoption as soon as they are born. Infant adoptions are very competitive since there are a lot of people who want infants than there are infants available.
  3. Foster- Adoption: These are children placed in your home as foster children, but will be legally free and available for you to adopt them if you chose to do so.
  4. Independent Closed Adoption: The adopting parents will receive no information about the birth parents and there will be no association between birth parents and adoptive parents.
  5. Open Adoption: The birth parents and adoptive parents can contact each other and share letters, photos, phone calls, and different information about the child through the child's life.
  6. Stepchild Adoption: A stepparent can legally adopt the step-parents birth child after marriage.

What Information Does the Adoption Petition Usually Contain?

The information contained in a standard adoption petition is usually straightforward and uncomplicated. The following information is typically included: 

  • Names, ages and address of the adoptive parents
  • Relationship of the adoptive parents and the child to be adopted
  • Reason that the birth parents' rights have been terminated
  • Statement indicating that the adoptive parents are the appropriate people to adopt the child
  • Statement that the adoption is in the child's best interests

Do I Need to go to Court for an Adoption?

All adoptions must be approved by a court. The adoptive parents must petition for approval from the court as well as participate in an adoption hearing. Additionally, prior to any hearings, anyone who is required to consent to the adoption must receive notice. This includes any biological parents, adoption agencies, the child's legal representative (if a court has appointed one), and the child if he or she is old enough.

Do I Need an Attorney to Handle the Adoption of My Child?

Adoption can be a very difficult and complex process. An experienced family lawyer can help you work with an adoption agency or draft an agreement between independent parties. An experienced lawyer can also represent you in court.