For many individuals or couples, adoption is becoming a very attractive option for expanding the family. This author has helped individuals and couples decide whether adoption is right for them, and if so, has also helped accomplish the legal aspects of the process. Adoption comes in various sizes and shapes; this article is intended to explain these contours for laypersons so that the idea of adopting can be considered with important information in hand.

First, there are foreign countries where children may be adopted by Americans. Sometimes these countries have peculiar facets, for example, adopting from China usually means adopting a female child due to the cultural preference in China for males. The most incredibly precious Chinese girls have come into this country via adoption and are now thriving in American families. Sometimes certain foreign countries “close” for a period of time, meaning that they will not allow adoptions by Americans (or perhaps other countries as well) at that time. This can occur when there is a horrific fact situation (e.g., using an adopted child to be a carrier of drugs, or using the child in some other horrible manner) or when there are foreign diplomatic issues that arise between the country and the United States.

If a foreign adoption is contemplated, it is necessary to work with some individual or agency in that country to facilitate the process, which involves visits to the orphanages (usually after selection of the potential child), accommodations while in the foreign country to visit the child, handling of the legal aspects of the adoption in that foreign country (usually the individual or agency has attorneys who are familiar with the process of American adoption of their native children), and translation of legal documents. The process is quite involved, but if the American works with an appropriate, credible foreign liaison, the process can occur without too much angst.

After the foreign adoption is accomplished in the foreign country court, that adoption must be filed in and approved by a court where the American is domiciled (that is, where the American lives and is registered to vote and drive). The latter process is called a “recognition of foreign adoption” and the author has handled many of these in Louisiana. It is advisable to work with the American attorney who will be handling the recognition of foreign adoption before completing the foreign adoption so that you will have the correct number and types of documents from the foreign country for the filing of the recognition in the United States.

Second, an individual or couple may wish to adopt a child from this country. The options for adopting American children are as follows: (1) a child may be in the State’s custody due to neglect or abuse of the child by its biological parent(s) and be available for adoption because the foster parents are not able or inclined to adopt the foster child; (2) the individual or couple may be the foster placement for a child in the State’s custody and decide to go forward with the adoption of that foster child when and if the rights of the parents are terminated by the State; or (3) a private adoption becomes possible when a mother delivers a child whom she decides she cannot raise and the biological father either does not want to raise the child or is unknown.

In all of these instances, the adopting individual or couple has to have a pre-placement private home study conducted by a licensed mental health professional as the first step toward adoption. If the home study is favorable, then the adoption can move forward and is a process involving legal pleadings that are filed by the attorney representing the adopting individual or couple. This author has handled many private and agency (i.e., when a foster child is adopted by the foster parents) adoptions.

Finally, when a child is living with his or her mother and she has married a man who is not the child’s biological father, there is sometimes the possibility of a step parent adoption of the child by the mother’s husband. Certain requirements must be present and the biological father must either voluntarily surrender his parental rights to the child or have those rights terminated because of his lack of involvement with the child over time. The latter requirements vary from state to state, so it is a good idea to consult a local attorney for more information if you are contemplating a step parent adoption. The author has assisted families in Louisiana accomplish step parent adoptions and the process is fairly simple if the requirements for termination of the biological father’s rights are present or he gives up his rights by consent. There are other types of intrafamily adoptions besides step parent, but they are fairly rare.

In conclusion, if you are considering adoption in any of its forms, you may wish to consult the author to learn more about the options discussed in this article.


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Deborah M. Henson