How U.S. Adoption Laws Work in Protecting Children
Adoption is a common path to parenthood in the U.S. Court cases related to adoptions are steered by Federal and State laws that oversee the process of adopting children.
US Adoption Statistics
Over 130,000 children are adopted annually in the US, where there are currently 1.5 million adopted kids. In total, there are around 7 million people in the US that have been adopted. Almost 100 million Americans have someone in their immediate family who was adopted. More than 50% of adopted children are six years old or older. Out of the children that get adopted, adoption of male kids is more common than the adoption of girls. Overall, two percent of Americans have completed an adoption, but nearly one third of Americans have considered becoming an adoptive parent.
The types of adoptions in the US vary. There are domestic and international adoptions, and the latter still have to comply with US adoption law, as well as follow the guidelines of the country from where the child hails. Private domestic adoptions account for roughly 38 percent of all US adoptions, foster care system adoptions make up approximately 37 percent, while international adoptions make up 25 percent.
Domestically, adopters can opt for open or closed adoptions. Open adoptions are when biological family members can have access to certain communications or information with and about the child, post finalization of the adoption. Closed adoptions are those where records are sealed, making it nearly impossible for anyone to track down the child post adoption. Currently, over 50% of adoptions are fully open in the US, with just 5% being fully closed, and 40% being mediated, meaning that some contact happens, usually through a third party. This is often pictures and written communications rather than in-person contact.
Legal Overview of Adoptions
Adoption is mostly overseen by state laws, although federal laws and principles also apply. The main themes and features of adoption law that are present in every state include the parental rights being granted fully to the adoptive parents, the mandate of consent, the standard of the best interests of the child, the confidentiality around adoption proceedings, and the permanent nature of adoption.
State laws about adoption can vary from state to state, so research into the state in which a child is being adopted is vital. For families pursuing interstate adoption, understanding the laws of the state from which they are adopting as well as the adoption laws of their home state is important. State laws are developed with the help of Federal guidelines that apply to adoptions and the treatment of children.
Federal legislation concerning adoption focuses on the welfare and safety of children. They aim to protect the rights of the children and advocate for them. Key Federal legislation concerning adoption include:
· Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)
· Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Reform Act
· Indian Child Welfare Act
· Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act
· Child Abuse Amendments
· Foster Care Independence Act
· Fair Access Foster Care Act
· CAPTA Reauthorization Act
· Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act
· Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act
Documentation and Other Requirements for Adoption
All adoptions require a substantial amount of documentation from the adoptees. These include:
· Agency applications – these could be for a public child welfare agency or a private adoption agency
· Documentation of their background and lifestyle, including financial statements and bank records
· References – family, friends and professional
· Proof of marriage / divorce / annulment
· Agreements for home studies and home visits with all household members
· Agreements to complete criminal history background checks and abuse / neglect checks for all adults in the household
· Birth or adoption records for other children in the household
Foster care adoptions have additional requirements:
· Adoptees must have adequate sleeping space.
· A limit of no more than 6 children in the home for whom adoptees provide care.
· An agreement to discipline non-physically.
· Fire, health and safety inspections of the home.
· Vaccinations of all family pets.
· CPR/First Aid Certification.
· TB testing as required by the local Health Department for household members.
· Attending 20 hours or more of training each year.
State and Federal regulations are developed to keep adopted children safe and provide a healthy, nurturing home for each child. Thorough vetting, enforcement of all requirements, and hefty adoption fees all help to ensure that those that adopt, do so for the right reasons.