What Is the Process for Adoption?

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Specific laws about adopting vary from state to state and depend on whether the child is adopted from foster care, a private adoption agency or an international adoption organization. Generally, the adoption process includes a formal application, a background check, a home visit, a personal evaluation, approval from the adoption agency and legal paperwork finalizing the adoption.

Those who are already taking care of a foster child should speak to the child's social worker about the possibility of adoption. In some states, potential parents receive approval for both fostering and adoption at the same time. This can expedite the adoption process, as dual-certified parents have already undergone a background check, a home visit and personal evaluation.

Interested parents who are not foster parents and who wish to use a private adoption agency should expect a lengthy evaluation process. Potential parents must complete an application and demonstrate the emotional, physical and financial ability to care for a child. After the parents are approved by the agency, their profiles are entered into a database at the adoption agency. Birth parents select adoptive parents from this database. At Spence-Chapin, most couples are selected 6 months to 2 years after agency approval.

Those who wish to adopt from other countries must first receive approval from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Potential adoptive parents are then subject to the laws where the adoptee was born. For example, in China, only heterosexual married couples between 30 and 50 years old are eligible to adopt non-handicapped children.