What is adoption? In the United States, legal adoption is the process where a person legally and fully assumes parenting responsibilities for a minor child from the child’s biological or legal parent or parents. Adoption is permanent, and a good adoption attorney can explain to you how to adopt and how to overcome the barriers to adoption that prospective adoptive parents sometimes encounter. Adoption can be simple in Indiana, but at the same time, be a very tedious process.
Whether you wish to adopt a child who is related to you, a stepchild, or a foster child, it’s important to work with an experienced family law attorney to make sure that your adoption is fully compliant with the law and that no legal problems with the adoption will pop up in the future. There are several different ways to bring a child into your family or to adopt a child you are already raising. Here is a look at several of the ways that adoption happens:
- Adopting a relative: In a relative or kinship adoption, a member of a child’s family seeks to adopt the child. Grandparents often adopt grandchildren if the parents pass away or cannot care for the children for other reasons such as incapacitation, incarceration, or addiction. In most states, relative adoptions are the easiest type of adoption procedure.
- Adopting a stepchild: A stepchild adoption is relatively quick and simple if the child’s other birth parent consents to the adoption. If the other birth parent cannot be located or will not consent, the procedure can become quite complicated.
- Adopting through an agency: Public agencies and licensed, regulated private agencies including charities and faith groups routinely place children with adoptive parents. Public agencies often handle children who are wards of the state because they are orphans, abused, or abandoned. Expectant mothers and sometimes other parents seeking to give up their children for adoption often work through private agencies.
- Adopting independently: Independent adoptions are often a direct agreement between the birth parents and adoptive parents. A clergy member, social worker, doctor, or lawyer may act as a go-between, but you’ll need a family law attorney to review and help you finalize an independent adoption. Family law is different in every state, and independent adoption is not allowed in some states. In an open adoption arrangement, the adoptive parents maintain some level of contact with the birth parents after the adoption.
WHAT ARE THE GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR ADOPTION?
Those who are seeking to adopt a child do not have to be affluent or own their own homes. However, prospective adoptive parents must show that they can provide a stable home for a child and a safe environment that supports and facilitates the child’s physical and mental health as well as social and educational needs. No adoption can be final until a child’s birth parents have been identified, located, notified of their rights, and offered a chance to have a say in the process.
When you make the choice to adopt, at the very beginning of the process, consult an experienced family lawyer, and in Indiana, meet with an experienced Lake County family law attorney. Family lawyers routinely handle adoptions so they know what is required, what to expect, and how to avoid the mistakes and misunderstandings that can unnecessarily prolong the adoption process.
In Indiana, relative adoptions and stepchild adoptions can be handled directly by a family law attorney, but all other adoptions must involve a licensed private agency or the Indiana Department of Child Services. Both the state and the private agencies require parenting classes to help potential parents with concerns that may emerge during or after the adoption process. These classes help families make the adjustment to suddenly having someone new in the household.
WHAT ARE THE OTHER ADOPTION REQUIREMENTS?
The agency adoption process in Indiana also includes a “home study” where a social worker or another agency representative meets with the adoptive family to learn more about their home. Prospective parents will need to confirm their income, obtain a health statement from their doctor, be fingerprinted, and provide references. Prospective parents must also produce marriage licenses, divorce decrees, birth and sometimes death certificates and criminal record clearances.
You’ll need to be patient because the adoption process in Indiana can take some time. In 2014, children who were wards of the state spent an average of twelve months in foster care while awaiting adoption. Therefore, families who are considering agency adoption in Indiana should plan on nine to eighteen months to complete the home study, parenting classes – usually 24 to 30 hours over several weeks – and orientation requirements.
WHAT ABOUT INTERNATIONAL ADOPTIONS?
It’s important to remember that there are children all over the world who need families and homes. Your child may be found in a different state or even in a different country. In an international adoption, the parents adopt a child who is a citizen of a foreign country. The adoption requirements of both the foreign nation and the parents’ U.S. home state must be satisfied, and the parents must acquire an immigrant visa for the child through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). When the visa is issued, the child is automatically a U.S. citizen upon entry into the U.S.
Those desiring to adopt a child from a foreign nation will need the advice and insights of an adoption lawyer experienced in international adoptions. The process can often be frustrating, as the immigration rules are complicated, and occasionally a lawyer, judge, or birth parent in the foreign country can disrupt the entire procedure. Consult an experienced adoption attorney before you make any final commitment or decision about an international adoption.
ARE YOU READY TO BE A PARENT?
Are you ready to be a parent and adopt a child? Thousands of children in the United States foster care system need good, caring homes, along with many more children around the world. Right here in Indiana, scores of children are hoping to be adopted, and you might be their answer. If you are considering any kind of adoption in Indiana, or if you simply wish to learn more about adoption and adoption law, consult with an experienced Indiana family law attorney for the legal insights and the adoption services you’ll need.