Adoption is a legal means for a single person or a couple to become the legal parents of a child. Once a child is legally adopted, the adoptive parents gain all of the same legal rights to the child as if they were the biological parents. There are several types of adoptions, and each type of adoption has specific procedures that must be carefully followed.
Prior to beginning the adoption process, the prospective adoptive parents must decide which type of adoption they are going to pursue. If you are considering adoption, you probably have numerous questions regarding the adoption process. Some of the common questions prospective adoptive parents may have are:
- Should I/we adopt a child from this country or from abroad?
- What are the costs going to be?
- Are there resources available to help with costs and with the adoption process?
- What are the available options for adoptions in Missouri and in other states?
If you are thinking about adopting a child, you should consult with an experienced adoption attorney who can answer your questions and provide you with information regarding how to proceed.
There are four main types of Missouri adoptions:
- Adoptions through a private agency;
- Independent Adoptions;
- Stepparent or Relative Adoptions; and
- Adoptions through a public agency or foster care.
Private Agency Adoption
In a private agency adoption, the birth parents relinquish their parental rights and transfer custody of the child or children to the adoption agency. The adoption agency works to place the child in a good home. Birth parents typically choose the adoptive parents, and often meet them before placement. Most adoptions in Missouri are open adoptions, where there is at least some contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents.
As with any type of adoption, there are risks and benefits of private agency adoption. Adoption agencies typically have set fees so that prospective adoptive parents can budget and plan for this cost. Additionally, the agency helps both the birth parents and the adoptive parents through the adoption process. One of the most common risks is the birth parents changing their minds about giving up their child for adoption before the adoption is finalized. If you are considering adopting a child or giving your child up for adoption, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney who handles adoptions before making your decision about the type of adoption to pursue.
Independent adoptions are facilitated by an attorney or counselor, who assists the person or couple wishing to adopt by seeking birth parents through various means. The adoptive parents and the birth parents arrange for the adoption with the help of an adoption attorney. The adoptive parents often provide financial support to the birth parent until the child is adopted. The time frame for an independent adoption depends on the length of time it takes for the adoption attorney or adoptive parents to find a birth parent.
In an independent adoption, the attorney may be more involved than with other types of adoptions, where the adoption attorney may be used primarily for filing the legal documents necessary to finalize the adoption. An agency would still be used to perform the home study to make sure the adoptive parent or parents are suitable. Adoption agencies can also provide supervision and follow-up after the child is placed with a family.
Stepparent adoption normally occurs when one biological parent has remarried and the new spouse would like to become a legal parent to the child of the biological parent. This may occur by the non-custodial biological parent voluntarily relinquishing their rights; terminating the non-custodial biological parents’ rights if he or she is unfit, unwilling, or unable to care for the child; or if the other biological parent is deceased or unable to be found.
Relative adoption in Missouri is similar to stepparent adoption.
Public Agency Or Foster Care Adoption
Public Agency or Foster Care Adoption typically involves older children. Children may remain in foster care for extended periods of time without the biological parents’ rights being terminated. Some children go in and out of foster care for years depending on the situation of the biological parents. Adoptive parents may first become foster parents and then adopt after the birth parents’ rights have been terminated.
In Missouri public agency adoptions, the Department of Social Services Children’s Division oversees adoption of foster children, most of whom have been abused or neglected. Since many of the children have been abused or neglected, the children in foster care who are available for adoption may have emotional or physical challenges that the adoptive parents will need to be prepared to deal with. However, this type of adoption is a great opportunity for older children who need a home to be placed with a caring, loving family. Additionally, adoption through a public agency is typically less expensive than other types of adoption, as the State may provide payment or reimbursement for many of the initial expenses and the adoptive parents may be eligible for ongoing state subsidies.