Adoption is a legal process where an individual assumes parental responsibilities over a child. The adoption process transfers parental rights and obligations from the existing legal or biological parents to the adoptive parents. The process of adoption requires court approval which occurs after a legal proceeding called an adoption hearing.
In most cases, the adoption process requires the adoptive parents to:
- Select a child for adoption;
- Be interviewed by social workers or other employees of various state agencies who handle adoption services;
- Undergo background checks;
- Fill out required forms, such as a petition for adoption; and
- Pay the necessary state or filing fees.
In the United States, there are two general categories of adoption: domestic adoption and foreign adoption. Both of these adoption types involve the transfer of parental rights from a child's biological parents to a child's adoptive parents. Should the adoption process be completed, the child will be viewed legally as if it were the biological child of the adoptive parents.
Once parental rights are transferred, the biological parents no longer have legal rights to make decisions regarding the child. Those rights now lie completely with the adoptive parents. This also includes establishing a formal parent-child relationship in the eyes of the law which relates to other issues. These issues may include inheritance rights and/or child custody obligations.
The decision of the court regarding the adoption of the child will be based on the child's best interest standard. This standard is based on a number of factors including the child's background and the circumstances surrounding the lives of the adoptive parents.
Adoptions overseas, also known as foreign adoptions or intercountry adoptions, occur when a child is adopted from another country. These adoptions can be very complex because the child is being adopted and must complete the immigration process. This is an extra step beyond domestic adoptions, or adoptions that occur in the United States.
American adoptive parents have adopted children from over 50 countries. American parents may not adopt children from Western, Europe, Australia, or Canada. As of the early 2000s, most foreign children were adopted from China, Russia, Guatemala, South Korea, and Ukraine.