The adoption process requires careful screening and consideration on both sides.
Adopting a child can be a long and emotional process, but it can also be one of the most rewarding acts of a person's life. Considering the many avenues available on this journey, including domestic or foreign adoption and private agencies, it's best to take time to consult as many resources as possible.
In the U.S., prospective adoptive parents can choose a domestic or international adoption, a closed or open adoption, or an agency or private adoption. More information about domestic adoption is available at Adopt.org. Comprehensive adoption information is also available at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Next, select an agency licensed in the given state. A state-by-state list of public and licensed private agencies, as well as information about adoption in a given state, is available at Childwelfare.gov. All prospective adoptive parents, regardless of adoption type, are legally mandated to participate in a home study. This process, which can take anywhere from two to 10 months, includes interviews, home visits, background checks and other protocol designed to educate and evaluate the adoptive family. The home study is intended to prepare the family for the coming changes and determine what kind of child would thrive in its home. Once the home study is completed and approved, the search for a child can finally begin. Depending on the type of agency chosen, it will either have children in its care or can work with other agencies to find the right match.
Prospective parents can take an active role in the search by using Web sites such as AdoptUsKids.org and Adopt.org, which have searchable databases of children of all ages who need a home. At this point, the adoption process becomes more personal. Once a child is located, an initial meeting will be followed by several visits throughout the following weeks or months. Expect to fill out paperwork during this stage that may or may not require an attorney, depending on the type of agency being used. Each state creates its own adoption laws, and policies can vary widely among states or even counties.
To learn about laws specific to a state or jurisdiction, visit the Web site of the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Once a placement is received, the final stages of the adoption process begin. At this point the child moves in with the adoptive parents, and the agency will continue to supervise the placement and provide support for several more months. During this time, the new parents will file a petition for legal intent to adopt and appear in court before a judge for finalization. Once the adoption is complete, a certificate of adoption and an amended birth certificate for the child will be received.