Written by Jonathan Breeden
Celebrating a new addition to your family through adoption is a joyous occasion. It’s also a big undertaking, and several options are available, depending on your situation. Learning about some of the most common ways to adopt is an excellent way to begin the journey.
According to the National Council for Adoption, over 400,000 children live in the U.S. foster care system. The goal of foster care is to resolve family challenges and prevent breaking apart families, but reunions are not always possible or what’s in the child’s best interests.
Tens of thousands of children of all ages hope to find their forever families through adoption.
Adopting a child from the foster system is a life-changing event for everyone. Many parents find that adopting a child from the foster care system is a mutually enriching experience despite the challenges.
Each state has requirements for adopting children from foster care, but in North Carolina, eligibility includes:
North Carolina allows single, married, divorced, or widowed people to adopt. You don’t have to be a foster parent to adopt a child from its system. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services lists certified foster adoption agency providers.
Between 1999 and 2014, U.S. families welcomed more than 250,000 million children through international adoption.
Parents looking to adopt a baby or child from another country should prepare for additional travel expenses. You may have to make multiple trips before the adoption is finalized, and it takes time to secure visas and other travel documents.
The U.S. State Department of State provides security and travel updates to China, South Korea, India, and other countries that participate in international adoptions with American families.
Some families choose international adoption to avoid the risk of birth mothers changing their minds, which can happen in domestic adoptions. Unlike domestic adoptions, inter-country arrangements are usually closed – children will never know their birth parents’ identity, let alone have any contact with them.
By contrast, many domestic adoptions are open. Depending on state law, adopted children in an open arrangement may find specific information about their birth parents upon turning 18.
Some parents prefer that their child does not have any knowledge or contact with their biological parents. International adoptions are more likely to facilitate this wish.
Some adoptions involve family members adopting their relatives or kin. The reasons behind the decision to adopt this way vary considerably based on the situation, but relatives are usually the first option for children in foster care. They also have the first legal consideration to adopt, thanks to the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980.
Adopting a family member begins by filing for adoption in your county clerk’s office. You’ll be expected to provide background information, a financial statement, and in some instances, character references. Some family courts require interviews with adoptees if they are old enough to understand what’s happening.
There are no hearings if everyone involved agrees to the adoption. You won’t need a pre-placement assessment in some cases, particularly if the child is already living with you.
Another family choice is private or independent adoption, usually through an adoption agency. Unlike adoptions through the foster care system, private adoption accommodates parents seeking a newborn. Adoptive parents can bond with their baby immediately after birth.
Adoptive parents often choose an open or semi-open relationship with the biological parents, although this is a deeply personal decision.
Private adoptions may cost as much as $40,000 or more. Prospective parents may bring a birth mother into the process, but agencies also advertise for applicants and pay for advertising to find a birth mother. Once they locate a candidate, they usually cover her medical, food, and housing expenses. There are travel and hotel expenses for the adoptive families if they don’t live nearby.
However, private adoption is a preferred choice for families with the means and patience to welcome a baby or child into their home.
Adult adoption legally establishes a parent-child relationship between two adults who consented to the arrangement. The “child” in this situation must be at least 18 years old. Some states require that the adoptive parent be at least ten years older than the adoptee.
Although it might seem unconventional, adult adoption happens more than you might think. Foster parents who raised a child into adulthood may want to formalize the relationship. Stepparents who previously could not adopt for legal reasons can finally solidify their bond with a stepchild. Adult adoption ensures a next-of-kin bond for personal, legal, and financial reasons.
Unlike adoptions involving minors, adult adoptions require just three people: the adoptee, the adopting adult, and the adopting adult’s spouse. While some courts require that you give notice of the adoption to the adoptee’s parents or their spouse, you don’t need their consent.
Most adult adoptions are as simple as filing a petition for adoption in the county where you live. The adoptee and the adopting adults complete the consent documents. In some instances, all parties must appear in court to finalize the adoption.
Adoption attorneys have a deep understanding of family law. They can draft binding agreements to terminate the birth parent’s rights. Adoption lawyers also ensure that all paperwork and documents are correctly completed, notarized (when necessary), and filed with the appropriate court within the legal deadline. Finally, working with an adoption attorney lets you focus on welcoming and bonding with your newest family member without fear of missing a deadline or overlooking a form.
For compassionate, knowledgeable, and effective legal help for a North Carolina adoption, reach out to the Breeden Law Office.