Adoption is the legal process of assuming parental responsibilities over a child. Through the adoption process, parental rights and obligations are transferred from the existing legal or biological parents, to the adoptive parents. The process of adoption consists of obtaining court approval to the adoption, The court gives its approval after a legal proceeding known as an adoption hearing.
The types of adoptions include:
- Agency Adoptions. Both public and private agencies offer adoption services. Public agencies are run by the state. Private agencies are regulated by the state. Both public and private agencies have the power to place children with potential adoptive parents. These agencies tend to differ as to what children they place for adoption. Agency adoptions, whether public or private, can be less expensive than other forms of adoption. However, these adoptions may take a significant amount of time to complete;
- Public adoption agencies often place children who do not have parents and instead are in the care of the state. These children may be orphans, or children who have been abandoned. These children may also be children who have been removed from their parents’ care because the parents committed child abuse..
- Private adoption agencies, in contrast, are run by organizations. These may be charitable, or religious in nature. Private agencies place children that were brought to these agencies by parents or individuals with parental rights to be adopted. These agencies then work with prospective adoptive parents to find a new home for the child.
- Independent Adoptions. Independent adoptions, commonly referred to as private adoptions, involve a direct agreement between a biological mother and the parents seeking to adopt. In some cases, an intermediary, such as a doctor or clergy member, is used. In an independent adoption, the child is placed with adoptive parents without the assistance of an agency. As a result, the process is typically faster. On the other hand, the process may be more expensive, since government subsidies and support services that come with an agency adoption are not provided. Also, many states extensively regulate these adoptions and some states prohibit them outright. Regulation may consist of requiring a birth parent to undergo extensive counseling. In addition, many states allow birth parents to negate (undo) an adoption within a certain time frame;
- Open Adoptions. An open adoption is a type of independent adoption in which the birth mother may maintain some amount of limited contact with the child, even after the adoption. In an open adoption, parental rights are possessed by the adoptive parents; and
- Stepparent Adoptions. In a stepparent adoption, a remarried parent and their new spouse adopt a child from a prior relationship. This type of adoption requires the consent of the other birth parent. That parent may deny consent. If consent is denied, the stepparent must file a petition in family court ordering termination of the parental rights of the biological parent.
Each of the above types of adoption processes consists of the following steps:
- The filing of a petition for adoption: In the petition for adoption, the individual(s) seeking to adopt provides information for a family court judge’s review. The information includes basic information such as names, ages and addresses of the birth parents, the child, and the adoptive parents. The petition also typically includes the following:
- A statement made by the adoptive parents that they understand their rights and obligations with respect to the child.
- The legal grounds or reason for termination of the biological parent’s rights.
- A description of the nature of the relationship between the adoptive parents and child. This relationship may be familial (such as a stepparent relationship) or nonfamilial, meaning the child and the adoptive parents are not related.
- A statement that the best interests of the child are being served by the adoption;
- Notice of the petition: In this step, the adoptive parents provide required notice of the petition to all legally interested parties. Legally interested parties include the birth parents, the adoptive parent, and, depending on their age, the child; and
- The hearing: At the hearing, the adoptive parents appear before the judge. The judge questions the parents, under oath, as to whether they understand their rights and responsibilities as adoptive parents. If the judge finds, that the adoption is in the child’s best interest, the judge issues an order of adoption. This order is the formal court approval of the adoption.
If you are seeking to adopt a child, you should contact a family law attorney. An experienced family law attorney in your area can explain the types of adoption, the steps in the adoption process, and can represent you in court.