Who can adopt? Am I qualified to adopt? Would somebody choose me to raise their child? Can I handle adopting a child? Questions like these may be flooding your mind as you consider the adoption option. Here’s some information that may help answer such questions:
Would somebody choose me to raise their child?
Every birth parent is different. Naturally, each parent considering placing a child for adoption will be looking for something different in an adoptive family. Since it is impossible to guess exactly what each expectant parents is looking for, the best thing you can do is allow the true you to shine through.
You may think you don’t look all that good on paper. Or maybe you want to snazz up the old image, taking in a nip here and a tuck there. But remember, your metaphorical “wrinkles” may be just what a parent is looking for. So, yes, somebody may choose you to raise his or her precious baby.
What Can I Handle?
While you’re wondering if others will find you fit to adopt, it’s also important to ask yourself about your limitations. Do you have financial, age, health, or relationship concerns? Do you recognize any personal 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 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 beyond your comfort zone.
Any summation of requirements and qualifications in the adoption world has to start with this declaration: No one has a “right” to adopt. Although everyone has a right to want to adopt and to attempt to adopt, there is nothing in the whole wide world that will guarantee that an adoption 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 an overview of things that will be taken into consideration for adoptions.
It may be easier for married couples to adopt than for single individuals or unmarried couples. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but most parents considering placing a child have a two-parent household in mind.
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.
The adoption climate can vary from county to county and town to town, and some countries restrict international adoptions to nations that recognize same-sex marriages. Federal and state laws rule, but individuals and families can consult locally to learn if there are adoption restrictions pertaining to relevant sexual orientation.
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 set rule.)
You need to be healthy and have all the best chances for a normal life span. You’ll have to provide a complete medical history for your home study, and in some cases, a psychological assessment may also be required. If you are disabled, you must be able to meet the needs of the 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 risks of second-hand smoking, alcoholism, or drug abuse.
Infertile couples may get top priority, both from agencies and from mothers considering placement of their child. If you can reproduce but would rather 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 your adoption one way or another. Some parents are happier placing their child in a home that has at least one sibling waiting and “experienced” parents. At the same time, others may prefer childless couples. Also, some agencies impose a limit on the number of children who are already in a potential home.
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) high on their list of priorities when making an adoption plan.
Although there’s no need to be rich, 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 circumstances, it could spark 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. Any prior legal or criminal problem, child abuse, financial instability, or substance abuse will come to light.
If skeletons are rattling around in the back of a closet somewhere, pull them out and dust them off. Talk to your spouse and your social worker or adoption professional about them honestly. You do not want these to pop up without an introduction. Looking like you’ve been hiding things is not the impression you want to make.
Foreign nationals residing in the U.S. are allowed to adopt a child who was born in the U.S. Courts and agencies will require proof of legal residence, but with that in hand, non-U.S. 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 international adoption will be important, but don’t rule out the possibility. Some expectant parents may very well like the idea of their child growing up in the bigger world of multinationalism.
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 have the ability and means to care for a child.