When an individual or couple decides to build a family through adoption, there are several options from which to choose. Prospective parents can work with a licensed public or private agency, do an independent or private adoption (no agency involvement), do an identified adoption (an open adoption either through an attorney or a licensed agency), or a foster child adoption. An adoption may be closed (no contact between birth and adoptive families), semi-open (limited and non identifying contact between birth and adoptive families), or open (complete identifying information shared between birth and adoptive families). The adoption may be domestic (U.S.) or international, of an infant or of an older child, of a healthy child, or a child or children with special needs. There are strengths and weaknesses to each kind of adoption, and it is up to the prospective adoptive parent to decide which type of adoption best suits his or her own situation. The basic types of adoption are discussed below
There are two kinds of adoption agencies, public agencies and private agencies. Public agencies, supported by the taxpayer, exist in each of the 50 states and are either county-run or centrally located at the state level. Private agencies are licensed through the state
Independent adoption is adoption made “independent” of an adoption agency. It may be facilitated by an attorney, doctor, or clergyman, or involve a direct link between the birth parents and adoptive parents. In some states independent adoption is illegal, so prospective adoptive parents should contact the adoption agency licensor in their state of residence to determine what laws apply.
Identified or Open Adoption
Identified and open adoptions are those in which expectant and prospective adoptive parents identify (find) each other and then obtain the services of an independent adoption facilitator or adoption agency in arranging and finalizing an adoption. Such adoptions usually involve healthy infants, but some involve older children as well.
Identified adoptions begin with “openness,” which refers to face-to-face contact between the birth and adoptive families of the child. Open contact may be frequent or infrequent, through letters or telephone calls or through personal visits, and may or may not involve exchanging complete identifying information.
International adoption, comprising about 10 percent of all adoptions in the United States, refers to the adoption of children from countries outside the United States. International adoption began with the adoptions of American children fathered by American servicemen in Japan, Korea, and later, in Vietnam during the American occupations of these countries. Private organizations, individuals and church groups sponsored early international adoptions. Today, most international adoptions are facilitated through licensed adoption agencies. It is a very complex process. The laws of the child’s home country as well as the US laws on adoption and immigration must be complied with. Once all the formalities are completed, the child will receive US citizenship when he or she enters the United States. Agencies providing international adoption services to US residents must be approved by the State Department. Parents seeking to adopt a child from overseas must demonstrate that:
• The biological parents have been counseled by the agency
• The agency has obtained the legal consent of the biological parents
• The agency considered local placement for the child in the child’s home country
• The child is cleared for adoption
It is possible to adopt from overseas without an agency. However because of the complex nature of international adoptions, it is advisable to use an agency.
Step parent adoption
In a step parent adoption, a person adopts his or her spouse’s child from a different partner. The consent of the child’s other birth parent is required for a step parent adoption. If the other birth parent refuses permission, then it will involve litigation.
Same Sex Couple adoption
Presently Mississippi and Florida have a total ban on adoption by homosexuals. In Utah a couple living together but not legally married cannot adopt. This can be interpreted to include adoption by same sex couples. In Connecticut although the state laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, there is no bar on considering the sexual orientation of the prospective adoptive parent. In most states the procedure for same sex couples is different. To know more, see same sex parenting and adoption.
Relative adoptions are also known as kinship adoptions. The child is adopted by a relative. This type of adoption generally takes place on the death or incapacitation of the birth parents and a relative steps forwards to adopt the child. The adopting relatives can be the grandparents, aunts and uncles. The process is simpler than other adoptions.
Although rare, most states allow adult adoptions. Generally there must be a 10 year gap between the adoptee and the person adopting. It must be shown that the adoption is in the adult’s best interest. State law imposes many restrictions on adult adoptions in an attempt to prevent people from taking advantage of older persons.