The Definition of Adoption and Other Related Concepts
Obviously, adoption is when an individual or family goes through the process of making a child a legal part of their family unit. However, there are different types of adoption — such as open adoption and closed adoption.
What Is Adoption?
The Child Welfare Information Gateway, which is published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, defines adoption as a “social, emotional, and legal process.”
Every situation is unique, but as families prepare to accept a child into their home and take on all the legal responsibility that comes with calling that child a permanent part of their family, there are numerous processes and considerations. They can include:
- Social considerations. Adding someone to a family can change the dynamics of that family in the social community at large. A couple without children, for example, may not have a community built around supporting parents, and they may want to seek that type of community as they move into adoption. Families may also want to learn more about adoption language and other ways to support a positive adoption so they can help their friends and family understand how to do the same.
- Emotional considerations. On both sides of the equation, there needs to be an emotional commitment to the process. While this is a very personal matter and each family must make their own decisions, it’s typically not ideal for a family to adopt a child they are not emotionally ready to support in all ways. Getting ready for the process of adoption might involve seeking family or individual counseling and other support.
- Legal processes. The legal process of adoption can be complex and includes detailed paperwork and court procedures. It’s not at all like you might see in the movies, where a family signs on the dotted line and walks away feeling completed in a simple montage.
Some Types of Adoption
Numerous types of adoptions can occur. Here are a few:
- Open adoption. In this process, adoptive and birth families have contact on some level. They may collaborate during a pregnancy or even support ongoing communication between birth parents and children throughout life.
- Closed adoption. This type of adoption does not include communication between the adoptive and birth parents. In most cases, records are sealed and information is confidential.
- Foster care adoption. These adoptions occur when a family adopts a child out of the foster care system. Most of these adoptions are handled by social service or child welfare organizations at the state or local level.
- Stepchild adoption. This type of adoption occurs when a stepparent adopts a child, making that child legally their own.
- Domestic adoption. These adoptions occur when parents in the U.S. adopt children in the U.S. They are in contrast to international adoptions, which occur when a parent in the U.S. adopts a child from overseas.
What Is an Adoption Agency?
Adoption agencies are official entities that support adoption processes by providing services such as:
- Counseling services to birth and/or adoptive parents as they consider, enter, and go through the adoption process
- Assessment of potential adoptive parents to ensure they are appropriate candidates to adopt a child — including emotional and mental health evaluations, financial considerations, and home studies, as required
- Preparing children for adoption and walking children and families through the actual adoption process
Adoption agencies are regulated, which means they typically must meet certain requirements to operate legally.
What Is an Adoption Record?
The adoption record is a series of documents about the child involved in the adoption as well as the adoption itself. The record may include, but isn’t limited to, information such as who the birth parents are, whether the child had any genetic siblings, when and where the child was born, and medical considerations.
Adoption records can be open — available in their entirety to the adoptive family and adopted child — or sealed. In some cases, they may be partially sealed. It’s likely that adoptive families and children would be able to know information such as the child’s date of birth and location of birth, for example, without having access to any other information if the adoption was closed.
What Is an Adoption Petition?
An adoption petition is the legal document you file with the court to start the process of legal adoption. Typically, you have to file a petition in either your county or the county where the child currently lives. In some cases, you may need to file a petition in the county where an agency has custody of a child, which isn’t always the county where you or the child are living at that time.
Does Adoption Cost Money?
You will need to pay adoption fees and court filing feels. If you hire a lawyer, which can be a good idea to protect the interests of your family and the child when you go through adoption, you will also have to pay attorney’s fees. In cases where you are dealing with a private adoption agency, you may need to pay fees for their services. How much adoption costs depends on the factors of each case, what type of adoption you’re dealing with, and whether anyone is contesting the issue.
What Does an Adoption Attorney Do?
Adoption attorneys work with you throughout the adoption process. They can answer your questions about the legal aspects of the case, help connect you with resources, prepare and file paperwork, and negotiate or argue your case if necessary. An attorney may be able to help facilitate background checks and will ensure that you have a full understanding of all the federal, state, and local laws that could impact your adoption so you have the best chance of success.
For more information about how we can help you succeed in an adoption journey, reach out to the Law Offices of Deidra N. Haynes, LLC, by calling 317-785-1832.