By clicking this article, you may feel you have more questions about adoption than you have answers, including: What are the requirements to adopt? Whom should I contact? Where do I start?
The following is a guide to help determine if you are legally eligible to adopt, emotionally ready to adopt, and financially prepared to adopt. By meeting the following adoption requirements, you will have everything you need to begin your journey toward adopting a baby.
1. Legal Requirements for Adoption
First, make sure you meet the adoption requirements for the state where you live. While most people can legally adopt regardless of marital status, age, sexual orientation, or disabilities, some states disallow certain adoption situations.
- What are the age requirements to adopt? – Only a handful of states have specific age requirements. In six states, including Washington, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey and Montana, the adopting parents must be at least 18 years old. In three states, including Delaware, Colorado, and Oklahoma, the adopting parents must be at least 21 years old. Finally, Idaho and Georgia require adopting parents to be at least 25 years old. There are also some states, including California, New Jersey, Georgia, South Dakota and Utah that require the adoptive parents to be at least 10 years older than the adoptive child.
- Are there marriage requirements to adopt? – While a few states require that married adoptive couples have been married for 2 to 3 years, most states place no restrictions on non-married people or couples from adopting a child.
- Can same-sex couples adopt? – Other than in Mississippi, there are no state laws that prohibit same-sex couples from adopting a child. However, be sure to speak with your adoption professional for more information about this topic.
- Can a person who has served jail time adopt? – These situations ultimately depend on several factors, including the nature of the crime, how recently it occurred, and many more. If this describes your situation, you should still contact an adoption professional who will provide advice on whether they believe you will be able to complete a home study in which these issues are addressed.
Finally, here is more information about who can legally adopt in each state.
2. Emotional Requirements for Adoption
Now that you know you are legally eligible to adopt, you then need to make sure you are emotionally prepared to adopt. Depending on your situation, you may need to take some or all of the following steps to ensure that you are in the right emotional mindset for adoption:
- Move on from infertility – If you’ve struggled with infertility, it’s important to be sure that you have given yourself time to grieve from the dream of having a baby biologically and are prepared to move forward with the dream of having a baby through adoption.
- Be on the same page as your spouse – It is common for one spouse or partner to be more enthusiastic about adoption or have fewer reservations than the other. An adoption will only be successful if both spouses or partners are on the same page in regards to their excitement and goals of the adoption. For example, if one person is open to adopting a child of any race and the other is only open to adopting a child of a specific race, this could greatly affect not only the upcoming adoption but also their lives after the adoption. An adoption specialist or counselor can help make sure you and your spouse or partner agree on the same adoption plan and are truly ready to adopt.
- Decide how to talk to loved ones – Depending on your comfort level, you may want to only disclose your adoption plans with certain family members and friends. Don’t feel like you need to tell everyone as soon as you begin the adoption process, as nothing is ever guaranteed. For example, if you tell everyone you have found a match with a prospective birth mother, and then later she changes her mind, you will then need to tell all those people about (and relive) the disruption. Therefore, we recommend only telling more and more people as the adoption process progresses.
- Know there will be ups and downs – Adoption brings with it incredible joys as well as difficult challenges. With so much at stake and so many people involved, surprises are bound to happen, whether it’s new information about a birth mother’s health background, a birth father contesting the adoption, or even the birth mother changing her mind. Because every adoption is different and so many factors are possible, it’s best to work with an experiencedadoption professional to help you prepare for and work through these challenges.
3. Financial Requirements for Adoption
The costs of adoption are understandably one of the most asked questions about adoption, as adoption does require a significant sum of money. Do plenty of research about the costs of each type of adoption and adoption professional, and also do some research to be prepared for any unexpected costs. Domestic adoption can range between $25,000-$50,000, and international adoption can cost even more with travel costs.
If you are a bit short on the financial requirements of adoption, there are multiple options to help you finance an adoption, including:
- Adoption tax credit – The adoption tax credit has helped prospective parents build their families by alleviating some of the cost. Stay up to date on the tax credit so you know what you can claim for your adoption.
- Grants and loans – Many different kinds of loans and grants are available to families looking to adopt, so search for ones for which you qualify.
- Fundraisers – Some families conduct events like bake sales, car washes, and other community events to raise money for their adoptions.
I’m Ready – What Now?
Once you have met the legal, emotional and financial requirements for adoption, you can take the preliminary steps to prepare your home for a new addition to the family. By finding an adoption professional and completing a home study, you can ensure that you will have everything in place for when an adoption opportunity arises.
Pick a Professional
The type of adoption professional you select will depend on your needs and desires as adoptive parents. The types of adoption professionals you can consult include:
- National agencies – National adoption agencies connect with birth parents and adoptive families across the country, and they can provide you with matching services, counseling, legal help, mediation of contact, and much more.
- Local and regional agencies – Local and regional agencies provide most of the same services as national agencies, but they work within one state or region. which can limit the number of birth mothers they work with.
- Attorneys – An adoption attorney is required to legally complete every adoption, and he or she may be all you need to complete your adoption goals. However, they may not offer much in regards to counseling, case management, and more.
- Facilitators – While facilitators do not provide the variety of services that agencies do, they can help to match you with a birth mother.
Complete a Home Study
You must complete a home study to ensure your state and the adoption professional that they are legally eligible for adoption. Once you’ve completed your home study, you are officially ready to adopt a child. In the home study, a social worker will determine that your family and home are suitable for raising a child. This process will include:
- Collection of documents – An evaluation of documents, such as birth certificates, social security information, and background checks, will ensure that you are fit to parent.
- Home inspection – While many families worry that their house has to be immaculate and spotless, this is not the case. Your social worker will see that your home is reasonably safe and will help you to make any necessary changes.
- Interview – The social worker will speak with everyone living in your household to get an idea of what life in your home will be like. You and your spouse will likely be interviewed separately and jointly.
Once your home study is finished, you will have officially taken the first steps of the adoption process. You will have a long and exciting journey ahead of you, and at the end of it is a child waiting to become a part of your family.