The exact process you will go through can be different depending upon where you live, and the type of adoption you choose (open vs. confidential). This page lists the basic steps that are most common in the adoption process.
The Adoption Process
What People Hoping to Adopt Typically Do:
- Adoption is a lifelong process and doesn't end when you are given custody of a baby. Some developmental stages of your child will be common to all children and some unique to children who are in adoptive families. You should attend classes and workshops, talk to other adoptive families and read books about all aspects of adoption.
Learn About Adoption.
Only a licensed adoption professional (adoption agency, adoption attorney etc.) can do the paperwork required to legally adopt (see "The legal steps to completing an adoption"). They can also provide or help you with other services as well. There are many ways to find these professionals. Use the phone book, talk to a counselor or religious leader, or use an online directory such as AdoptionProfessionals.com.
Find an Adoption Professional to Assist You.
Although specifics may vary, an adoption homestudy is a process you must go through in order to qualify for adoption. A home study may include analysis of your relationship, health, living conditions, employment and mental status. Criminal background checks are also typically performed. You will probably be asked to write about yourself and/or partner including your hopes, aspirations, strengths and weaknesses. This is also when you will write your "Dear Birthmother" letter.
Begin Your Adoption Home Study.
At this point your networking efforts should be in high gear. You can use many methods to find potential Birthparents and should use at least 2 different resources to maximize your opportunities. For example, your adoption professional should be showing your profile to potential Birthparents and you should be doing some personal networking using newspaper ads and/or online sites such as Adoption Online. Our helpful "Adoption Advice, Tips and Hints" page can help you with this stage of the adoption process.
Make Contact with a Potential Birthparent.
- When you have established a mutually satisfactorry relationship with a potential Birthparent there will still be many legal and emotional challenges ahead. This is where your adoption professional can be especially helpful.
Choose a potential Birthparent.
- A number of steps are required for all adoptions to be completed legally. You must follow the specific requirements of the state in which the adoption will occur but in general, all states follow a similar process.
The legal steps to completing an adoption.
Notice of Adoption ProceedingsNotice of adoption proceedings is given to all parties who have a legal interest in the case except the child. In the case where the birthparents are not living together or married, reasonable attempts are made to give notice to both birth parents if they can be located.
Some statutes provide that a birth parent who has failed to support a child is not entitled to notice. Ordinarily, a birth parent who has lost custody of a child in a divorce or separation case is, however, entitled to notice. Similarly, an adoption agency that has custody of the child is entitled to notice.
Petition to AdoptThe parents seeking to adopt must file a petition in court that supplies information about their situation as well as the situation of the child. The filing of a proper petition is ordinarily a prerequisite to the court's jurisdiction.
The petition indicates the names of the adoptive parents, the child, and the birth parents, if known. In addition, the child's gender and age are stated, and some states mandate that a medical report on the child must also accompany the petition.
Consent to AdoptWritten consent of the adoption agency or the child's birth parents accompanies the petition for adoption. Consent of the birth parents is not required if their parental rights have been involuntarily terminated as a result, for example, of abandonment or abuse of the child.
Adoption HearingA hearing is held so that the court may examine the qualifications of the prospective parents and either grant or deny the petition. There must be an opportunity for the parties to present testimony and to examine witnesses at such a hearing.
Adoption proceedings are often confidential. In those instances the hearing is conducted in a closed courtroom.
In some states, the records of an adoption hearing are available for inspection only by court order. Confidentiality is thought to promote a sense of security for the child with his or her new family. Over the last 10-15 years, research has provided strong evidence that confidentially is often not in the best interests of the child and these laws are gradually changing state-by-state as a result.
- ProbationMost states require a period of Probation in adoption proceedings. During this period, the child lives with the adoptive parents, and the appropriate state agency monitors the development of the relationship. The agency's prime concern is the ability of the adoptive parents to properly care for the child. If the relationship is working well for all concerned parties, the state agency will request that the court issue a permanent decree of adoption.
If the relationship is unsatisfactory, the child is either returned to his or her previous home or is taken care of by the state.
Adoption DecreeAn adoption decree is a judgment of the court and is given the same force and effect as any other judgment.
Birth Certificate / Certificate of AdoptionFollowing the adoption proceedings, a certificate of adoption is issued for the adopted child, to replace the birth certificate. It lists the new family name, the date and place of the child's birth, and the ages of the adoptive parents at the time the child was born.
Generally, the certificate of adoption does not indicate the names of the child's birth parents or the date and place of adoption. A child may never know that he or she was adopted unless the adoptive parents reveal the information, since the original birth certificate is sealed away and may be opened only by court order. Not all states require adoption records to be sealed.
If all the issues have been resolved, and the Birthparent(s) have terminated parental rights it's time to get started enjoying your new family. Remember that even though this is a most joyous time for you, it may be just the opposite for the Birthparent(s). If you have an Open Adoption, don't neglect the commitments you have made to keep in touch. Adoption is a lifelong journey so its important to keep reading and learning.
Start Your New Family.