Adoption provides a tremendous opportunity for families to grow beyond the bounds of blood ties. It gives children of all ages a new life with a loving family. Unfortunately, common misconceptions prevent many families from moving forward with their desire to expand their family in this loving manner.
According to the National Council for Adoption, 95,306 domestic adoptions took place in the United States in 2020, including 1,476 in Minnesota. An estimated 19,800 private domestic adoptions nationwide were stepparent adoptions.
Despite its prevalence, misconceptions about adoption abound. Below are some of the most common misconceptions and important facts for interested families.
The adoption process takes years.
The adoption process is generally not fast, but it does not have to take years. Every family is unique, and this results in a variable time frame. The type of adoption makes a difference as well. Kinship adoptions, which include relative and stepparent adoptions, typically take less time than agency adoptions.
If you are willing to adopt an older child from the foster care system, a minority child, or a child with disabilities, your wait time may be as short as a few months. As many as 117,470 children in the foster care system were awaiting adoption in 2020.
These children need prompt placement, which makes public adoption a faster pathway. The average age of an adopted foster child is eight years old, according to the Children’s Bureau.
By contrast, more parents are waiting to adopt infants than there are infants being placed for adoption. As a result, if you wish to adopt a Caucasian infant, the waiting period could be several years.
Most adoptions are finalized between three months and a year after the child is placed in your home.
You have to be wealthy to adopt.
Adoption can be expensive, but there are inexpensive ways to adopt, and financial assistance may be available. Again, if you are willing to consider adopting a special needs child or a foster child, you may qualify for government subsidies.
Even if you have your heart set on adopting an infant through an agency, you could find financial assistance through such means as:
- Private fundraisers
- Employer assistance
- Adoption tax credits
An increasing number of employers offer assistance to adoptive parents.
You have to adopt abroad.
International adoptions were popular at one time, but they have decreased by 93 percent since 2004, according to the Adoption Council. International law recognizes that it is generally preferable for children to be adopted within their own countries.
Domestic adoptions typically take less time and involve fewer complications. Plenty of children in the United States are waiting for adoption. In Minnesota alone, 569 children are in need of immediate placement.
Adoptions must be secret.
Closed adoptions used to be standard, but today, open adoptions are commonplace. When you choose to adopt, you can structure the adoption in a way that best fits your values and circumstances.
For example, you may want to allow the child to maintain regular contact with the birth parents or to make this choice in the future. An open adoption allows children to learn about their heritage and provides a means for them to know about medical conditions within the family’s history.
While open adoption may not be ideal for all families, it has the potential to provide psychological benefits to the child and both sets of parents.
Single parents cannot adopt.
Children need loving homes, and for a child in need of a family, the number of parents is not a primary concern. In 2017, nearly 17,000 single people adopted children from the foster care system, according to the Children’s Bureau. Single parents can also adopt through agencies or even intercountry adoptions.
Being a single parent does not make you less qualified as a prospective adoptive parent, but it does include extra considerations. Single parents typically work full-time and rely on a single income.
The Children’s Bureau recommends that single parents consider the following questions before beginning the adoption process:
- Do you have a support network you can ask for help?
- How supportive are your friends and family about your decision to adopt?
- Will your support network accept a child from a different race or culture?
- What is your plan for when your child is sick on a workday?
- Who can pick up your child in an emergency?
- Who would become your child’s guardian in the event of your death?
- Is your job family-friendly?
- Does your employer’s sick leave policy allow enough time for both you and your child?
Although challenging, many single parents find that the rewards of adopting a child far outweigh the difficulties.
You have to have a perfect home before you can adopt.
One of the most feared steps in the adoption process is the home study. Prospective adoptive parents may feel that their imperfections will prevent them from moving forward in the process.
Agencies are not looking for perfect parents. They want to find a good match. The home study will include a series of interviews and assessments to ensure that your home is a safe, healthy environment for a child.
If you are considering adopting a foster child, the home study will assess which ages and characteristics of children would be a good match for your family.
Home Study Steps
- Parenting training
- A series of interviews
- A home visit
- Health statements
- Income and health coverage statements
- Background checks
- Autobiographical statements
- Personal reference checks
During the interviews, you will be asked questions about your experiences with children, your stress management strategies, your relationships, experiences with grief or crisis, and more. The purpose will be for the adoption agency to develop a thorough knowledge of you and your family’s dynamics.
During the home visit, the agency representative will check the physical characteristics of your home, including whether it is appropriately childproofed and where your child will sleep. Agencies do not typically look for an immaculately kept house but for a home that is safe and comfortable for a child.
A stepparent cannot adopt without the consent of both biological parents.
A biological parent who is not part of the household does not have to terminate their rights in order for a stepparent to adopt a child. If a biological parent voluntarily gives up their parental rights, it makes the adoption process easier. If they refuse, you can petition the court to have their rights terminated involuntarily.
Terminating a biological parent’s rights is not something the court takes lightly. The court generally considers it in the child’s best interest for the noncustodial biological parent to remain an active part of the child’s life.
However, if the biological parent is unfit, such as in cases involving child abuse, the court may determine that it is in the child’s best interest to terminate the parent’s rights. Once the parental rights are terminated, your right to adopt commences.
Grandparents are too old to adopt.
Custodial grandparents have become a common phenomenon, and state law does not impose an age limit on adoption. When determining a grandparent’s eligibility to adopt, the court will look at the grandparent’s overall state of health and the best interests of the child.
Regardless of age, if the grandparent offers a safe and comfortable home environment for the child and is physically healthy enough to manage a child with or without the help of a caregiver, the grandparents are allowed to adopt.
If you are thinking about expanding your family by adopting a child, the Minnesota adoption lawyers at Milavetz Law can facilitate the adoption process and advise you through each step. Contact us today to talk to a Minneapolis adoption attorney.