Adoption is the process by which an adult becomes the legal parent of an individual who is not their biological child. A finalized adoption severs all legal ties between the child and the natural parents, thereby terminating all parental rights. However, adoption also creates new obligations on the part of the adoptive parents. The new parent-child relationship establishes legal responsibility for child support, rights to an inheritance and/or custody. Typically, adoption laws vary by state and there are several different types or forms of adoption including agency and independent adoption
General Types of Domestic Adoption
Adoption can occur domestically or internationally. Each state has its own laws governing domestic adoptions. There are several different types of domestic adoption including:
Infant or foster care adoption
Domestic partner adoption
Relative (kinship) adoption
All forms of adoption involve different legal procedures, requirements and are governed by different laws. Two typical forms of adoption include agency and independent adoption.
Whether public or private, a licensed adoption agency is regulated by the state in which it is located and must meet certain standards. Public agencies are run by the state and they typically handle adoptions of those children who have become “wards of the state” by virtue of being abused, abandoned or otherwise orphaned. In contrast, private agencies might be run by a charity or social service organization and handle adoptions of children placed there by the natural parent(s) or unborn babies of expectant mothers. In addition to state adoption laws, adoption agencies may impose additional requirements on parents’ eligibility to adopt and may consider age, marital status, income, health and religion as factors.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Agency Adoption
Using an adoption agency to manage an adoption can involve several advantages and disadvantages. For example, using an agency may help facilitate the process by handling paperwork and necessary legal issues. However, agencies can also make eligibility requirements prohibitively difficult for prospective parents. Other advantages and disadvantages to using an adoption agency are summarized as follows.
Advantages of using an adoption agency include:
Experience in finding children and matching them with parents
Handling all or most of the legal work and advising on state requirements
Conducting studies and research for the parents
Obtaining necessary consents
Providing counseling for the birthparents, adoptive parents and children
Disadvantages of using an adoption agency include:
Selectivity of parents by imposing additional requirements for eligibility
“Lag-time” between initiation and finalization of adoption procedures which may cause the child to be temporarily placed in foster care
Potentially high costs
Unavailability of services of some public agencies due to overcrowding or low funding
An “independent adoption” is where the child is placed with the adoptive parents without using an agency. Most states allow independent adoptions, but they are illegal a very small minority of states. Typically involving an adoption attorney, independent adoptions can occur either with the birthparent(s) directly placing the child with the adoptive parents or through use of a third party intermediary. One particular form of independent adoption is an “open adoption,” which is where the adoptive parents have a relationship with the expectant mother and unborn baby during the gestation period. Typically, in the case of an open adoption, the adoptive parents and birthmother agree to keep in some form of contact throughout the child’s life.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Independent Adoption
As with all forms of adoption, independent adoptions have several advantages and disadvantages. For instance, although independent adoptions may be more intimate and personalized, they can also become emotional and complicated. Other advantages and disadvantages to independent adoption can be summarized as follows.
Advantages of independent adoption include:
Ability of birthparents and adoptive parents to retain control over the process
Avoidance of long waiting lists often associated with adoption agencies
Potentially less restrictive in eligibility requirements
A faster adoption process (typically one year from initiation to finalization)
Disadvantages of independent adoption include:
Additional state restrictions might apply such as prohibitions on adoptive parents advertising for a birthmother or limiting their financial contributions to the costs of the birthmother’s prenatal care and medical expenses
Potentially little or no counseling for the parties
Extended periods, in some states, for birthparents to revoke consent, resulting in less stable adoption agreements
Can be time consuming and costly to find a birthmother