What Is an Adoptive Parent?

The Process of Becoming an Adoption Parent

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An adoptive parent is someone who provides a permanent home to a child or children through a legal process. The key word is "permanent." The end result is no different than giving birth to a child. Becoming an adoptive parent comes with all the joys, heartache, laughter, frustration, responsibilities and rights that a natural or biological parent-child relationship brings. 

The Adoption Process 

The adoption process can come about in a number of ways.

You may be acquainted with or even related to the birth mother and you've arranged the adoption between yourselves. This is commonly called a private adoption, with a lawyer or lawyers acting as intermediaries to work out the details rather than an adoption agency. You might decide to adopt a foster child who has been placed in your care, or elect to work through an agency for a child previously unknown to you or even adopt from another country

Steps to Adoption 

In all cases, a home study is typically necessary. A social worker will meet with you and other immediate family members in your home to take stock of your family dynamics, to explore your reasons for wanting to adopt, and to make sure your home is safe and suitable for a child — you don't live in a one-bedroom condo on the 11th floor of a hi-rise with no available play area. The hi-rise might not disqualify you, but the single bedroom would most likely require moving to a more suitable home.

The idea isn't to prohibit you from becoming an adoptive parent but to ensure the safety and well-being of the child you take in. Most adoptions also require background checks and certification from your physician that you don't suffer from a health condition that could prevent you from caring for a child.

You'll then proceed through the legal steps of adopting, culminating in a court appearance where the adoption is approved by a judge and finalized. The court will name you — the adoptive parent — as the child's legal parent in lieu of the biological parent or parents. Biological parents must sign off on their legal parental rights before an adoption can go through. 

The Result of Adoption 

You become completely responsible for the child in all ways as an adoptive parent: legally, financially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. If you divorce and you aren't granted custody of your adopted child, you'll pay child support. The child has a legal right to inherit from you just as a natural-born child would. You have a legal right to make all important decisions regarding the child's life, including medical care and treatment, what schools he will attend and what religion he will be raised in.

Adoption Registries 

An adopted child's birth certificate is amended to replace the birth parents' names with those of the adoptive parents.

The original birth certificate is then sealed. Most states don't allow adoptees to see or access their original birth certificates, but adoption registries have sprung up all over the country in recent years. They allow adoptees and biological parents to sign up with the understanding that they want their name made available if their child or parent also registers and wants to know their identities.