Chances are that if you are reading this you are considering adoption in NC (North Carolina), or you are already in the NC adoption process and needed a thumbnail guide to which you could refer. In either case, I am glad that you found this page. Adoption is a beautiful gift both for the child who needs a family and the family who needs a child. However, adoption is also a complex world filled with variables. Each state has its own set of laws and regulations regarding each type of adoption. This article will endeavor to give you a concise guide to help you navigate your adoption process.
(Please note that, while I have tried to be thorough, this article is no substitute for working with a licensed adoption professional.)
General state laws regarding Adoption in NC
North Carolina adoption laws stipulate that an adoptive parent must be at least 18 years old. Husband and wife may adopt jointly, or—as in a stepchild situation—one parent must give their consent. Single persons are permitted to adopt. All adoptive parents must reside in North Carolina for six months before filing the petition to adopt and must live in their current house for 90 days before adoption finalization. (Certain situations may allow for the waiving of the residency requirements.)
North Carolina law states that “any person is eligible for adoption, including adults. If an adult is adopted, that adult must give their consent. However, spouses may not adopt each other….The age of the adoptive child and adoptive parent does not matter.”
Domestic Infant Adoption in NC
Once you have decided to adopt domestically, you will need to choose either to work with an adoption agency or an adoption lawyer. When working with an agency, you can expect fees to range from $20,000 to $40,000. Many agencies have an income-based sliding scale that they use to determine fees per family. Should you choose to work with an adoption lawyer, the fees will “vary by state, experience, and time frame. It all really depends on which [lawyer] you choose….There isn’t one set rate, so it is important to consider multiple adoption lawyers before you settle on one….Explore your options so that you can be confident and comfortable in your final decision.”
Whether you go through an adoption agency or use an adoption lawyer, you will need to complete a home study. The fees to complete a home study range between $2,000 and $3,000. The home study must be updated every 18 months or if there is a significant change in your family, such as relocation. The cost of the home study update may range from $200 to $300. Once this step is done, you will be approved to begin waiting for a match to be found.
Because North Carolina has a considerable Native American population, you must also consider the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) if you are matched with a child of known Native American descent. “If a child being adopted has Native American heritage and eligibility as a member of a tribe, the regulations of the Indian Child Welfare Act must be followed. ICWA helps preserve Native American tribes by involving them in the placement of any Native American children. An adoption attorney will guide families through this legal process if it is required for their adoption finalization.”
Once a match has been made and the baby has been born, there is a length of time called the revocation period. A birth mother cannot terminate her parental rights until after her baby is born. Even after she signs, North Carolina law allows a birth mother to have up to seven days to change her mind and revoke the adoption consent. Once the seven days have passed, her rights are terminated. Birth fathers, if they are known, may relinquish their rights at any time in the adoption process. From this point, there is the standard required post-placement visits that will need to be completed before the adoption can be officially finalized. You will not need to stand before a judge for finalization in NC.
Foster Parenting and Foster Care Adoption in NC
If you would like to adopt from foster care in North Carolina, you must first be a licensed foster parent in North Carolina. According to NCDHHS, “the process of becoming a foster and or adoptive parent in North Carolina involves a thorough assessment and mutual selection process that includes home visits, interviews, and criminal background checks. North Carolina does not have a dual licensure process. This means that there are two separate approval processes for foster care and adoption. Some agencies streamline those two processes as much as possible, while others maintain two distinct tracks. North Carolina law requires that foster parents are licensed by the NC Division of Social Services with families working through their local county DSS or a licensed private agency. Adoptive parents are approved through their local county DSS or a licensed private agency.”
Foster parenting regulations state that the foster parent must be at least 21 years old, have a clear background check, and complete a mandated 30-hour course. Foster parents must participate in a “Trauma-Informed Partnering for Safety and Permanence/Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (TIPS-MAPP),” that is designed to develop participants’ skills to help them become successful foster or adoptive parents and assess families to determine if fostering or adopting is the best fit for their family.
The cost of adoption through foster care in NC ranges from $0 to $2,000, with most cases being on the lower end. The child also usually receives a monthly stipend through the state. You will need to hire a lawyer to finalize the adoption. These fees will vary per lawyer and location but will run an average of $200 to $500, with some costing as much as $1,500.
International Adoption in NC
When it comes to adopting internationally, NC is the same as most other states. The first thing you need to consider is which country you would like to adopt. North Carolina agencies are perfectly capable of navigating the various countries’ requirements and potential costs. To make the process easier, you will likely want to work with a country that participates in the Hague Convention, an international adoption treaty that was enacted in 1993 to protect children who are adopted overseas. Non-Hague countries can be adopted from, but the process can be more complex. (For a further comparison of Hague vs Non-Hague countries, please visit this web page.)
Before filling out country-specific information, you will be required to do a home study. Once you have completed your home study and are approved by USCIS and the country from which you are adopting, you will begin the waiting period. There is no way to put a time frame on this period, causing it to feel endless. Each country has a mandated time they require you to wait in the country before bringing your child home.
Once you have completed the required time in-country, you can apply to have your child immigrate to the United States. There is the standard, required post-placement visits that will need to be completed before the adoption can be officially finalized. You will not need to stand before a judge in NC; instead, your lawyer will make sure the legalities are taken care of before finalization.
Stepchild Adoption in NC
For those who are wondering whether they should adopt their stepchild, it is a wonderful thing to do; it solidifies an already beautiful relationship with the child you already love. Of course, it is important to talk with your stepchild first about her feelings and what being adopted would mean for her. In North Carolina, you must be married at least six months before you can adopt your stepchild, and the child must have lived with you for those six months. If the child is over 12 years old, he or she must give consent.
The other biological parent must agree to the adoption as well. One site says that “in North Carolina, adopting your stepchild terminates the right of the absent parent to the stepchild. Essentially, you will step into the shoes of the absent parent and that parent no longer has any rights or obligations to the child. It is important to note that if the absent parent is paying child support, by adopting the child, it will terminate any responsibility of the absent parent, including paying child support. Adoption includes being responsible for all legal and financial obligations to the child.” Stepchild adoptions will also require a home study and background check. Next to foster adoption, stepparent or stepchild adoption is usually the least expensive as well as the quickest form of adoption.
Adult Adoption in North Carolina
An adult is defined as a person who is 18 years old or older. Sometimes young adults “age out” of the foster system or are emancipated and have no forever family, but they have a good relationship with their foster family. Adult adoptions give a person a permanent attachment to a family with all of the rights and benefits of any other child in that family. Adult adoptions in North Carolina are very simple. As an adult, the adoptee can decide on his own if he wants to be adopted, and he does not need the consent of a biological parent. Adult adoptions can be finalized as soon as 45-60 days.
Embryo Adoption in NC
Many people have considered embryo adoption as a way to build their families. Embryos are frozen for families going through IVF and are made available for adoption after the donor family no longer needs them. Another site states “the pregnancy rate for embryo transfers is very good, and the whole process is considerably more affordable and less complicated than traditional adoption. Also, with embryo adoption, you do not have to do a home study as is required by traditional adoption….As a recipient…of embryo adoption, you also get to experience the miracle of pregnancy and the excitement of delivering a baby. Also, you have confidence during your pregnancy because you would have the opportunity to make sure you are getting proper prenatal care, good nutrition, exercise, and rest. The general cost of an embryo adoption ranges from $7,500-$19,000.
Agency Options for Adoption in NC
The options to build your family via adoption in North Carolina are numerous. There are many adoption agencies and adoption lawyers in North Carolina that can help you navigate through the variety of available adoption choices. Here are a few websites to help you find an adoption agency or an adoption lawyer to start you on your journey:
Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists who can help you get started on the journey of a lifetime.