Requirements for Adopting a Child

It takes a lot of patience, strength, but most of all, love.

Meghan Rivard February 12, 2019
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What does it take to be a parent?

It takes a lot of patience, strength, but most of all, love. It requires commitment and putting someone else’s needs before your own. Children do not come with a “handbook” or manual, but parenting is something that is learned and developed as the parent learns and grows with the child. But what does it take to adopt a child? What are the requirements for adopting a child?

Requirements for adopting a child vary with the type of adoption (international, domestic, foster) you are completing, what state you live in, and if you use an adoption agency versus an adoption attorney.

With international adoption, each country has different requirements that will need to be met to adopt. I will give you a few examples of countries: In China, some of the requirements for adopting a child are that the couples must be married for at least two years or at least five years if one has been divorced, and couples must be between 30 and 50 years old. Certain medical conditions would also prevent one from adopting such as obesity or a high BMI. In Ukraine, the requirements include being at least 18 years old and 15 years older than the child a parent is adopting. In South Korea, they only allow married couples who have been married for three years or more, and a person must be between the ages of 25-45 years old. For India, they will allow married couples or singles, but there must not be more than three children already in the family.

In domestic adoption, there are no specific requirements of age or marriage. In most domestic adoptions, once the home study is complete, the family will make a Lifebook about themselves which will be shown to expectant mothers who will then choose a family. Adoption.com also has a page called Parent Profiles which shows families who are ready and waiting to adopt a child.

A big concern of most people wanting to adopt is the cost, can they afford it, and will they qualify for the financial requirements of adopting a child. When dealing with international adoption, families typically need to adhere to their home study agency’s requirements, USCIS requirements, and any requirements set by the country in which they are adopting. It will vary by agency and by the state in which you live (as cost of living varies), but it is typical for agencies to look for families to make a minimal income of $30,000 plus $10,000 for each child in the home.

Additionally, when adopting internationally, USCIS will also look for the family to have an income equal to or greater than 125% of the poverty guidelines. Basically, agencies and the government officials are wanting to ensure that the families are able to support themselves and support the number of additional children they are approved to adopt.

Another major requirement for adopting a child is the medical report and medical requirements. When completing your home study and also usually for the dossier, you will most likely need a physical/medical report completed by their physician. If someone has a history of depression or a type of mental illness, a psychological evaluation also may be needed. If you have a history of cancer, the country may look for a certain number of years being cancer free before proceeding with an adoption. Specific countries may also have specific requirements, such as China has a BMI requirement. A forum stated, “As far as the form for your home study, the content will be mandated by your state and your home study agency’s policy. There will probably be some checkoff boxes plus an area for the doctor to indicate whether you are likely to have a normal lifespan and if there are any other barriers to adoption. Very few home study agencies will have a problem with treatment for anxiety or depression, as long as there is no history of suicide attempts or inpatient therapy. Most social workers would rather see a person get help than go through life anxious and depressed and feel strongly that therapy or medication can make a person a better parent.”

In addition to the medical requirements are the criminal background requirements. For the home study and dossier, criminal background checks will need to be completed. Fingerprint checks are completed to search criminal history as well as background checks completed by Child Protective Services (CPS). The background checks will search for any type of infraction (anything from a speeding ticket to a felony). The CPS check will search if there is or was any history against the person for child abuse or neglect. There are some criminal records that will exclude someone from adopting, but other records, that is if enough time has passed, will be able to be approved for their home study. It is best to discuss with a local adoption agency or adoption attorney if questions arise.

Another issue that many ask about when adopting a child is about the home environment and what is needed. Are there size or room requirements? What do agencies look for during their home study visit at the home? Agencies and each state have requirements or things that they will look for during the home study visit at the family’s home. They are not looking for dust but are looking for safety. They will look for smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. They will look for a fire extinguisher. They will ensure any guns or weapons are locked away and are kept separately from the ammunition. The worker will see if there is a bedroom for the child or children the family wants to adopt. An average bedroom size is 50 square feet per child. Typically, unless very young, they like to have only same gender siblings share a bedroom. On one forum, the size of the home was discussed, and someone asked if having a “starter home” or smaller home, is a hindrance to adopt. One of the responses stated, “For us, size didn’t’ matter…we basically needed a bedroom for a child that has two entrances/exits into it (door and window). Our state had other requirements, but it was basically just making sure our furnace was fine and that we had smoke detectors/carbon monoxide detectors on each floor.”

Foster care has different requirements for fostering and adopting a child. Looking broadly, everyone must be a U.S. Citizen and legal resident. There are no regulations about relationships or marriage requirements. You can be married, single, or with a partner. Anyone that would like to become a foster parent needs to be typically over the age of 21, but every state has different requirements. They will be required to get a physical to ensure the health and stability of the family. Additionally, the requirements to become licensed foster parents include completing training hours and completing and passing background safety checks.

Another adoption area on the rise is older parent adoptions. With the aging of baby boomers, there continues to be a rise of older parent adoptions. While there isn’t typically an age restriction for parents who want to adopt domestically, there may be a longer wait which can lead to more expense. In international adoption, many countries are updating their requirements for adopting a child. For example, China has no published upper age limit. There are many positives about an older parent adoption. “Many older persons with grown children are encouraged to adopt from the foster care system and especially urged to consider older children or children with disabilities because their past parenting experience has equipped them with skills to meet challenges.”

A requirement for adopting a child is picking an adoption agency or adoption attorney. There are many differences, and you need to gather information about both options and choose what is best. For example, if a person is not approved by an adoption agency due to marital status or sexual orientation, they can use an attorney. It may take less time using an attorney versus an agency, as paperwork and education or training may be less extensive. On the other hand, adoption agencies are inclusive, so they will encompass everything from the home study to support and post-placement resources and reports. Additionally, most agencies will have a financial/cost page so you know in advance what the fees are and when they are expected to be paid in the process.

If you choose to go with an adoption agency, it is important to research agencies and gather information from them to find the best fit for you and your family. Some of the most popular agencies include Nightlight, Holt, and Children of All Nations. Nightlight Christian Adoptions is an agency with a large international program, including Ukraine and India. They are a large agency but with a caring and friendly staff. Holt is another well-known and popular agency. They are licensed in all 50 states and have programming in countries such as Columbia and the Philippines. Children of All Nations is located in Texas and works with programs in Burundi and the Dominican Republic.

Adopting a child is a huge leap of faith, and it is important to know the requirements for adopting a child before you begin. There are many resources available as well as many agencies and attorneys that can guide you through the whole process.

Visit Adoption.com’s photolisting page for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families.  

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Meghan Rivard

Meghan is an adoptive mother and a big advocate of adoption and foster care. She resides in Indiana with her husband, their one-year-old daughter who is the center of their lives, and their dog Max. She has a Bachelor's and Master’s Degree in Social Work. Meghan stays at home with her daughter but is so happy she found this outlet to share her personal adoption story and educate about adoption!


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