Who can adopt? Are you qualified to adopt? Here are some things to consider:
Would somebody choose me to raise their child?
Parents considering placing a child for adoption will have their own views of what they’re looking for in an adoptive family. Since every birth parent is different and it is impossible to guess what they’re looking for, the best thing you can do is allow the true you to shine through. Although you might think you’re not looking all that good on paper and want to snazz up the old image, taking a nip here and a tuck there, understand that your “wrinkles” may be just what a parent is looking for.
What Can I Handle?
While you’re wondering if others will find you fit to adopt, it’s important to ask yourself about your limitations. Do you have financial, age, health, or relationship concerns? Do you recognize any limits you would not like to exceed? Are there potential situations that would stretch your comfort zone beyond the boundaries?
Although you can and should request information about the physical health of the expectant mother and a medical history from both parents, babies do not come with warranties. Nothing and no one can guarantee that your child will not develop a condition that stretches your comfort zone.
Any summation of requirements and qualifications in the adoption world has to start with a declaration: No one has a ‘right’ to adopt. Although everyone has a right to WANT to adopt, to desire to become a parent through adoption, and to attempt to adopt, but there is nothing in the whole wide world that will guarantee that it will, can, or should happen.
Now, with that out of the way …
It almost goes without saying (but it won’t) that state, federal and local laws on adoption and procedures will be in place and must be followed. If you’re adopting across state lines, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children will dictate how this is done. The legal and procedural requirements are imposed by the laws of the state and county where the adoption will actually take place, which is generally the county and state where the adoptive parents reside.
Here’s on overview of things that will be taken into consideration for adoptions.
Married / Single
It may be easier for married couples to adopt than for singles. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but most parents considering placing a child have the two-parent household in mind. In fact, this may be a very big factor in their decision not to parent themselves.
Some agencies do choose to impose restrictions, asking that potential adoptive parents be married a certain length of time (usually three years), and that both partners be committed to the idea of adopting. Previous marriages are not usually a problem. However, some agencies may require applicants to be a certain age (25 to 40 is common) or impose a limit on the number of other children in the home.
Gay, lesbian, and transgendered individuals and families need to consult locally to learn if there are restrictions on adoption that would apply. Although federal and state laws rule, in practice the adoption climate can vary from county to county and town to town. Some countries restrict international adoptions to nations that recognize same-sex marriages.
Normally, you must be 18 years old to become an adoptive parent by law, although many agencies may require a 25th birthday to have come and gone. If you’re over 40, you may find some resistance, but this has been easing in recent years. (Rule of thumb: no more than 40 years between the age of the adoptive parents and the child, although this is not a hard and firm rule.)
You need to be healthy and have all best chances for a normal life span. You’ll have to provide a complete medical history for your homestudy, and in some cases a psychological assessment may also be required. If you are disabled, you must be able to meet the needs of a child.
Alcohol, drugs, and cigarette use can put you out of the game. Many agencies will not place a child in a home where there are smokers due to issues of second-hand smoke. Some organizations frown on any use of alcohol. Drug abusers need not even apply.
Fertility or ‘In’
Infertile couples may get top priority, both from agencies and from mothers considering placement of their child. If you can reproduce, but choose rather to adopt, you may need to explain your motivations.
Religion-based agencies and parents contemplating placement who have strong religious affiliations may choose to give preference to fellow believers.
Other children in the home
If you have kids in the home, it may impact on your adoption; one way or another. Some parents are happier placing their child in a home that has a sibling waiting and ‘experienced’ parents. However, others prefer childless couples.
Work and finances
At times, agencies or placing parents may want one parent to stay at home and care for the child for some period of time. It is not unusual for mothers to have SAHMs (Stay At Home Moms, not to be confused with Work At Home Moms) high on their list while making an adoption plan.
Although there’s no need to be rich (but wouldn’t it be nice), adopting families must be able to cover costs associated with the adoption, and prove they can afford the extra expenses that come with adding a child to the family.
Your work will also be taken into account, as stability and pay are significant. Agencies and parents thinking of placing may also have some ideas about what sort of work you do; if your work keeps you traveling, or in dangerous circumstance, it could cause second thoughts.
Unless part of a mother’s adoption plan gets very specific about where she wants her child to live, your house is not an issue. Fifth-floor apartments in the city or three-bedroom split-levels in suburbia– rented, mortgaged, or owned– it makes little difference as long as it’s safe, clean and has room for a child. If you have a pool, guns, or potentially dangerous animals around, your caseworker will have you make the environment safe.
If there’s anything in your background you don’t want your spouse to be surprised by, you’d better tell him or her before you start the adoption process.
Your past will be thoroughly checked out, and any prior legal or criminal problem, child abuse, financial instability, or substance abuse will come to light.
If there are skeletons rattling around in the back of a closet somewhere, pull them out, dust them off, and talk to your spouse and your social worker or adoption professional honestly about them. You do not want these to pop up without an introduction … looking like you’ve been hiding things is not what you’re going for here.
Foreign nationals residing in the US are allowed to adopt a US born child. Courts and agencies will require proof of legal residence, but with that in hand non-US citizens are permitted to add to their family in this way during their time in the country.
Finding an agency to work with the special circumstances presented by different nationalities will be important, but don’t rule out the possibility. Some expectant parents may very well like the idea of having their child grow up in the bigger world of multi-nationalism.
In short, many people who consider the adoption option are eligible to adopt. The most important requirements are just that you (and your spouse) both want to adopt, and you have the ability and means to care for a child.