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A Look at the Adoption Process

Adoption can be a long and emotional undertaking. Familiarity with adoption rules and procedures can benefit would-be adoptive parents.

For an adoption to be legal, the birth parents must consent to the adoption - unless they have been legally stripped of their parental rights (e.g., unfitness). Most states do not permit the parents to sign a consent form until the child is born. In some states, birth parents need to wait three or four days.

Even after a child has been placed in their adoptive home, in many states the birth parents still have a window of time during which they can change their mind- a period of angst for the adoptive parents. Understandably, some states require counseling for birth parents before they sign a consent form.

Prospective adoptive parents will undergo a "home study" to make sure they are fit to raise a child. A state agency or licensed social worker will investigate issues such as marital stability, lifestyle, financial situation, physical and mental health, other children, and criminal history. THe social worker can also educate and inform the adoptive parents. A negative report can be appealed.

All adoptions must be approved by the court. Adoptive parents will need to file an adoption petition, which will document key information concerning the adoptive parents, the adoptive child, and the biological parents. A legal name change for the child can be requested at this time.

The next step in the adoption hearing. if the court determines that the adoption is in the child's best interests, the judge will issue an order approving and finalizing the adoption

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