From Kansas City to St. Louis and everywhere in between, this guide will help you navigate adoption laws and processes in the Show-Me State. Find the important Missouri adoption information you need, along with answers to common adoption questions regarding adoption qualifications, birth parents’ rights and the home study process in Missouri.
Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Adopting a Child in Missouri
Adoption laws vary from state to state. If you are interested in adopting a child in Missouri, these guidelines will help you understand the laws and qualifications regarding who can adopt and how they can adopt in the Show-Me state.
What are the laws and qualifications for adopting a child in Missouri?
In Missouri, any person, regardless of residence, may be eligible to adopt. Married couples may adopt jointly. If a married person files a petition to adopt without his or her spouse, the court may order joinder for the spouse to join the petition. If the order is not complied with, the court may dismiss the case.
Prospective parents must also complete a home study and approval process. See “Home Study and Post-Placement Requirements in Missouri” for more information.
What adoption expenses can be paid by adoptive families in Missouri?
Every state regulates the expenses that can be paid by adoptive parents in connection with adoption. Missouri statutes do not exclude specific types of expenses, but do indicate that the court may disallow expenses that are unreasonable or are not expressly permitted by law. Permissible payments include:
- Birth parent expenses, such as:
- Counseling services for the parent or child for a reasonable time before and after placement
- Pre- and post-placement study expenses
- Reasonable legal expenses, court costs, travel and other administrative expenses related to the adoption
- Reasonable food, shelter, utilities, transportation and clothing expenses that are within the norms of the community in which the birth mother resides
- Any other services or items the court finds reasonably necessary
It is unlawful to give or receive anything of value in exchange for consent to adoption or the termination of parental rights. It is also unlawful for any organization to engage in child trafficking by soliciting, offering or giving money for the delivery of a child for adoption.
What are the laws to become a foster parent in Missouri?
To become a foster parent in Missouri, you must:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Be in good health
- Complete a child abuse and neglect check and criminal record check, including fingerprints
- Have a stable income
- Complete a training and assessment process
What are the requirements to finalize an international adoption in Missouri?
Missouri will recognize foreign adoption decrees that have been issued in compliance with the laws of the United States and the country that granted the adoption.
Adoptive parents may petition the court to request a change of name for the child. To request a birth certificate for the adopted child, the adoptive parents should submit proof of adoption, including:
- A copy of the original birth certificate and adoption decree
- An English translation of the birth certificate and adoption decree
- A copy of the approval of the immigration of the adopted person
These documents will be filed by the state registrar. A birth certificate will be issued upon request of the adoptive parents or the adopted person when he or she is of legal age.
Is it legal to use advertising or facilitators to adopt in Missouri?
Yes, it is legal for adopters to advertise for birth parents in Missouri. However, Missouri law regulates the activities of intermediaries by limiting the compensation they are allowed to receive.
Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Placing a Baby for Adoption in Missouri
What are the rights and roles of birth parents in the adoption process? What are the rules for placing a child for adoption in Missouri? If you are considering adoption for your child, these questions have likely crossed your mind. Find the answers you need below.
When and how can birth parents consent to the adoption?
In Missouri, the birth mother can give her consent to the adoption 48 hours after the baby’s birth. The father can consent to the adoption at any time.
The consent must be given in writing and executed in front of a judge or a notary public. If a judge or notary public is not present at the time of consent, two adults who are present at the execution and who certify that the consent is knowingly and freely given may sign as witnesses. The adoptive parents and any attorney involved in the adoption process cannot serve as witnesses.
The consent will be reviewed and approved by the court within three business days.
Who must consent to the adoption?
In Missouri, consent must be given by:
- The mother
- The man who is presumed to be the father, if he has acted to establish paternity within 15 days of the child’s birth or has filed with the putative father registry
- The child’s current adoptive parents or other legally recognized parent
In an older child adoption, the child must consent to the adoption if he or she is 14 or older except when the court finds the child is not mentally capable of giving consent.
(See “What rights does the father of the baby have in Missouri adoptions?” for more information about when parental consent may not be necessary.)
When does the birth parents’ consent become irrevocable? If a birth parent revokes consent, is the child automatically returned to the birth parent?
The court must approve the consent within three days or set a hearing; consent may be withdrawn any time prior to being reviewed and accepted by the court. Return to the birth parents is assumed to be automatic.
What rights does the father of the baby have in Missouri adoptions?
In Missouri, a man is presumed to be a child’s father, and therefore has parental rights, if:
- He is or was married to the child’s mother and the child is/was born during the marriage or within 300 days of the end of the marriage
- He and the child’s mother attempted to legally marry each other before the child’s birth, but the marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days of the end of the marriage or cohabitation
- He has acknowledged his paternity of the child in writing
- He gives consent to be named as the child’s father on the birth certificate
- He makes a written voluntary promise of support or is ordered to support the child by a court
- A genetic test indicates a 98 percent chance or higher that he is the father
In Missouri, a father may voluntarily acknowledge paternity or the possibility of paternity of a child born out of wedlock through the putative father registry. Registering with the putative father registry ensures the man’s right to receive notice of court proceedings regarding the child, petitions for adoption and actions to terminate parental rights. In Missouri, filing with the registry is the sole means for establishing this right of notice.
Lack of knowledge of the pregnancy does not excuse the failure to file a claim of paternity in a timely manner. Failure to file a claim of paternity with the putative father registry in a timely manner will forfeit a man’s right to withhold consent to an adoption, unless he was led to believe through the mother’s misrepresentation or fraud that:
- She was not pregnant, when in fact she was
- The pregnancy was terminated, when in fact the baby was born
- The child died after birth, when in fact the child is alive
The father’s written consent is not needed for an adoption when:
- His identity is unknown and cannot be determined at the time of the filing of the adoption petition
- He has not been established to be the father, is not presumed by law to be the father and has executed a verified statement denying paternity of the child
- He has not executed consent and fails to respond to notice
- He has a permanent or irreversible mental condition that renders him unable to provide the child with care, custody and control
- Immediately prior to the filing of the petition for adoption, he has willfully abandoned the child or neglected to provide the child with necessary care:
- For a period of at least six months for a child age 1 or older
- For a period of at least 60 days for a child under age 1
Home Study and Post-Placement Requirements in Missouri
A pre-placement and post-placement evaluation is required for all prospective adoptive or foster parents before they are eligible to begin the adoption or foster process. Your home study will assess your ability to provide a stable, nurturing home to a child.
What is included in the Missouri home study process?
In Missouri, the home study includes a family assessment process, a social history on each applicant and supplemental documentation. The home study must include the following:
- Confidential interviews with all members of the household
- A visit to the residence and complete inspection of the home
- A minimum of at least two separate visits on nonconsecutive days
- A description of the family, including family structure, values, child rearing, past and present relationships and discipline methods
- Education and occupational history
- Marital history
- Interests and hobbies
- Health information, including any psychiatric treatment and extent of drug and alcohol use
- Emotional stability and maturity
- Religious beliefs and practices
- Parenting background, including motivation to adopt
- Description of physical residence, community and school district
- Financial status and management
- Reference letters, including one employment-related reference per applicant, one relative and one nonrelated personal reference
- A child abuse and neglect background screening check, completed within the past six months
- Written medical reports on all adult members of the household from within the past 12 months
Who is included in the home study process?
In Missouri, all household members, regardless of age, must be included in the home study.
Who will conduct the home study?
The home study must be performed by a child-placing agency or adoption intermediary.
On what grounds will the home study not be approved in Missouri?
Information obtained through the home study process regarding harmful acts to a child will be provided to staff completing the home study. Findings of harmful acts will not automatically lead to the home study being disapproved, but will be taken into consideration during the home study approval process.
When should the home study be completed? When must the home study be renewed?
In Missouri, home study assessments must be updated annually to be current. The assessment will also need to be updated if there is a significant change in the family situation.
The following will need to be included with each update:
- One or more interviews with all members of the family
- Medical reports on all household members, unless otherwise indicated
- Child abuse/neglect reports on all adults completed within the past 30 days
- Arrest record check completed within the past 30 days
- Evaluation of any previous placements
- A summary of additional children to be adopted
What is a post-placement study in the adoption process? What are the post-placement study requirements for Missouri?
The person who conducted the pre-placement study must provide the court with a post-placement assessment after the child has been placed with the adoptive parents for the required six-month placement period.
The post-placement assessment includes an update of the pre-placement assessment, as well as a report on the child’s mental, emotional and physical state. A child-placing agency will maintain contact with the family during the supervision period.
For children younger than age 3, the agency will:
- Conduct quarterly home visits until the adoption is finalized
- Conduct monthly telephone calls between home visits
- Receive regular written reports from the child’s pediatrician
For children age 3 or older and children with special needs, the agency will:
- Conduct one home visit within the first 10 days of placement and then quarterly (at minimum) until the adoption is final
- Conduct monthly telephone calls between home visits
- Receive regular written reports from the child’s pediatrician
The agency will conduct interviews with all members of the adoptive family’s household, including the adoptive child, as age appropriate, addressing:
- The impact the addition of the child has had on marital and sibling relationships
- Extended family and friends’ reactions to the adoption
- The role each family member has assumed in child care
- The parents’ adjustment to additional responsibilities, stresses, etc.
- How the family is imparting knowledge of the child’s history, as age appropriate
- The child’s adjustment, including health, school and family
What are the home study requirements for stepparent or relative adoptions in Missouri?
With the exception of the criminal background check, the home study assessment and report may be waived by the court in a stepparent adoption.
What are the home study requirements to adopt a child from another state?
When a Missouri resident adopts a child from another state, or when out-of-state parents adopt a child in Missouri, the child-placing agency must submit a written request for assessment to the state in which the child is being placed. This assessment will evaluate the prospective placement’s ability to meet the needs of the child.
When the child’s birth state requests the assessment from the adoptive parents’ home state, the parents’ state will initiate an assessment. The parents’ state may request additional information from the child-placing agency in the child’s birth state to complete the assessment. This assessment must be completed within the timeframe established by the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.
What are the requirements to adopt a child that is currently in my care?
If a child becomes eligible for adoption while in foster care, the foster family will be given preferential consideration as adoptive parents when:
- The foster parent has cared for the child continuously for a period of nine months or more, and
- Bonding has occurred, as evidenced by the positive emotional and physical interaction between foster parent and child
The final determination of the adoption of the foster child will be within the discretion of the court.
To start the home study process, contact one of these trusted Missouri home study providers:
- American Adoptions
American Adoptions is one of the largest domestic adoption agencies in the country and is licensed to provide home study services in Missouri. They perform both international and domestic home studies.
- All Blessings International
All Blessings International is a Christian, nonprofit adoption agency that provides international adoption services for families throughout the United States, as well as home study services to families in Missouri.
Missouri Adoption Professionals
If you would like more information about adoption, or if you are ready to begin the adoption process, you should contact an adoption professional for additional guidance and support. These local adoption professionals can help ensure that you meet all of the legal and home study requirements for adoptions in Missouri:
For more information about foster care in Missouri, visit:
Things to do in Missouri
If you are adopting a child in Missouri, you may need to spend some time in the state as you visit prospective birth parents or wait for ICPC clearances to return to your home state. Here are a few fun ways to spend your time in the Show-Me State:
- Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City)
- Louis Zoo (St. Louis)
- Silver Dollar City (Branson)
- Ha Ha Tonka State Park (Camdenton)
- Gateway Arch (St. Louis)
- Lake of the Ozarks
- Worlds of Fun (Kansas City)
For more information about traveling to Missouri, visit www.visitmo.com.