What Is the Adoption Process?
Adoption is a wonderful way to grow your family. But as most adoptive parents will tell you, it can be lengthy, complicated, and expensive.
This page gives a broad overview of the adoption process. It also links to more detailed articles that can help you answer specific questions. Adoption laws vary by state. So, you should consult a qualified local adoption attorney to answer your questions and provide legal advice.
There is no legal difference between adopted children and biological children. Adopted children have the same legal rights and relationships with their parents as biological children.
What Are the Steps To Adopt a Child?
The first step is to determine which of the following four available adoption paths you want to take:
- Public/foster care adoption through a state-run foster care system
- Local adoption through an agency
- Private adoption through an adoption attorney
- International adoption or Hague adoption, where you bring the child home from another country
The next step should be to become familiar with the relevant laws for your adoption type. For example, state laws will apply if you adopt within the United States.
Each state has its own adoption laws. Take revocation, for example. Many states allow the birth mother to revoke consent within a specified timeframe after giving up her child in a private adoption. Some states only allow a revocation under special circumstances.
California's adoption laws permit a birth parent to revoke their consent within 30 days of signing the consent to the adoption.
In Florida, the birth parents cannot change their mind after signing the legal consent to the adoption unless the child is more than six months old. If the child to be adopted is more than six months old, then the birth parents can revoke their consent to the adoption within three business days. The birth parents can also have the consent to adoption set aside if they can prove fraud or coercion.
For an adoption in Texas, when a birth parent signs an affidavit consenting to the adoption of a child, the affidavit granting consent to adopt must state whether the consent is revocable (and if so, how long the birth parents have to revoke their consent to adoption but it cannot exceed 11 days after signing the affidavit consenting to the adoption) or irrevocable.
International adoption is more complicated because you must meet the adoption requirements of the United States and the country from where you are adopting. Understanding those requirements is essential when adopting from another country.
For example, if you are adopting from China, you must meet the U.S. government's and China's requirements. In this example, the U.S. requires that one adoptive parent must be a U.S. citizen and that both adoptive parents must be at least 25 years old. The Chinese government requires both parents to be at least 30 years old. So, if you are adopting from China, you must be at least 30 years old.
Ukraine generally does not allow adoption by single parents, while China does. China no longer has a maximum age for adoption.
China also may deny adoption to those whose body mass index (BMI) is over 40. BMI is a measure of body fat based on weight and height. Most other countries don't have a BMI rule.
Getting an exception is possible in some circumstances if you fall short on a requirement.
You can only adopt from some countries. Two popular options for international adoptions closed their doors to Americans in the last decade. Russia banned Americans from adopting children in 2013. Ethiopia did the same in 2018, with exceptions possibly given to US Citizens who are of Ethiopian descent or residing in Ethiopia.
Some nations have strict requirements for the adopting parents' sexual orientation. These nations are mainly in Asia and Africa. Unfortunately, international adoption for same-sex couples is currently unlikely.
Closed or Open Adoptions?
You can have an open or closed adoption. In a closed adoption, the birth parents do not want further contact with the adoptive parents or child. If the adoption is open, the birth parents are open to communication as the child grows.
Most international adoptions are closed. That's because most adoptive parents adopt the child from an orphanage. In that case, the birth parents no longer have parental rights, including the right to communicate with the child.
What Is an Adoption Home Study?
Another essential step that all adoptive parents must complete as a part of the adoption process is the home study. A home study is when a social worker investigates the following aspects of your life:
- Criminal background
The adoption home study also includes references from friends and family.
The investigation concludes with a written report from the caseworker. The report includes their recommendation for what children you can best parent.
For example, under one set of circumstances, the caseworker might approve you for adopting one child under nine years old. While under other conditions, the caseworker may approve you to adopt two children under the age of five.
The home study process takes between three and six months to complete.
Cost of the Home Study
Home studies for public adoptions are generally free or very low cost. You might have to pay for the criminal background check. But that fee is often reimbursable after you have completed the adoption.
If you're working with a private agency or a social worker, the home study cost is often between $1,000 to $3,000, sometimes more.
Training Classes for Adoptive Parents
Whether domestic or international, adoptive parents must complete some form of training. The training varies in length in each state. The training classes are generally free in domestic adoptions. But there is a charge for the training in international adoptions.
Cost of Adopting
Adopting through foster care is less expensive than a private, agency, or international adoptions and often comes with subsidies. But the costs associated with the other types of adoption can be considerable.
- An agency adoption can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000.
- A private adoption might cost $25,000 to $45,000.
- An international adoption ranges from $20,000 to $50,000.
Retaining an adoption lawyer can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000. The price depends on their expertise and level of involvement.
Affording adoption is a common issue for adoptive parents undertaking an international adoption. Many parents who want to adopt use strict budgeting, taking on extra work, or fundraisers to raise money. There are also grants and low-interest loans available. Many employers also offer an adoption subsidy.
Because adoption laws vary by state and country, you can feel overwhelmed by the process. Private or international adoption can be even more complex. We suggest you consult a local adoption attorney to understand the process better.