Frequently Asked Questions About Adoption
What are the different types of adoption in Missouri?
- Private agency adoption
- An adoption that is overseen by a private agency, which is a state-licensed, privately-funded adoption agency, and may follow the voluntary placement of a child by the birth parents so that the child may be raised by an individual or couple with the desire to do so. Some agencies choose only to work with married heterosexual couples and not with single persons.
- Birth parents consent to the termination of their parental rights and transfer child custody to the agency while prospective parents apply directly to the agency in seeking to adopt.
- The birth parents, having relinquished their parental rights, may still work with the agency professional in selecting the placement of the child in a loving home. They may be permitted to choose the adoptive parents and meet them beforehand. Many adoptions these days are open in that there is usually some form of communication between the birth parents and the adoptive parents/child. In Missouri these open adoptions are permitted, but contact is not enforceable. It might take many months or years to complete this type of adoption.
- Independent adoption
- An adoption in which the adoptive parents acquire an adoption counselor or lawyer and find the birth parents through networking, advertising, setting up web pages, and more.
- By finding each other, the birth parents and the adoptive parents work together and arrange the entire adoption, with legal representation needed for both parties. However, by statute, an agency is still required to perform a home study to ensure that the prospective parents are suitable, as well as offer to supervise after the child is placed.
- Stepparent adoption
- Typically occurs when a person remarries and the spouse wants to adopt the person’s biological child and also become their legal parent.
- It is one of the most common types of adoption.
- Most commonly the other biological parent consents to this action, with advice by independent counsel. This typically happens in cases in which the other biological parent isn’t very active in the child’s life. When they consent to the termination of their parental rights, they often see it in the best interest of the child and they no longer have to pay child support, nor will they enjoy any custody or visitation with the child. In other cases, this may become a contested matter and move towards a hearing before a judge who will decide if the parent and stepparent meet the statutory requirements of the law to prevail in their petition for this kind of adoption
- If the court approves the petition for stepparent adoption, the petitioning parent, stepparent and child are a family as if the child had been born to both of them.
- Public agency or foster care
- An adoption that is overseen by a public agency or government agency involves a child in foster care.
- It is often a route to adopting for school-aged children who would otherwise not be considered adoptable by a private agency.
- Many times, these children have been removed by the courts from homes that are unsuitable for the children to live in.
- Adoptive parents apply directly to the agency or they may first become foster parents for the child and adopt them after the birth parents’ rights are terminated.
- More than 130,000 children are in foster care and are waiting for a permanent home and about 2,000 of them are in Missouri, alone.
- International adoption
- Prospective parents adopt from another country through an attorney or agency.
- Many adoptions occur with children from Korea, China, and Latin America.
- Most countries participating in international adoptions require the adoptive parents to travel to the country and take the child back to the United States, themselves.
- Children may come from an orphanage, adoption agency, or social institution in the country. Each country participating has its own regulations and restrictions.
What are the requirements to adopt a child in Missouri?
You can be single or married and with or without children to adopt or foster a child.
If you live in Missouri, you may adopt through a Missouri court. However, there are some requirements. You must:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Have good mental and physical health
- Pass a child abuse and neglect check
- Complete a criminal record check
- Maintain a stable income
- Live in a licensed home, condominium, or apartment
- Be willing to participate in a free assessment process
- Be available to work with the child’s family
What makes a child adoptable in Missouri?
A child becomes eligible for adoption when:
- Both biological parents consent to it; or
- A court has terminated the parental rights of the biological parent(s) due to neglect, abuse or abandonment; or
- One parent consents and the court terminates the rights of the other parent as set forth above, or
- Both biological parents have died.
Does my adoption have to be handled by an adoption court?
Yes, your adoption must be approved by a Missouri court under the laws of Missouri. Regardless of the type of adoption or how you found the child, you need to file a petition for an adoption hearing. If a person has physical custody of the child or any claim of custody or visitation in this or any other state, they must be notified of the filing of the petition. The court will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the child.
Finally, during the adoption proceeding, you must provide sufficient evidence to the court proving that it is in the child’s best interest for them to be adopted by you. If the judge is convinced, then the court will issue the final decree of adoption declaring the child to be legally your son or daughter!
Do I need a lawyer?
Yes, we advise that you get a lawyer because adoption is a legal process that requires legal analysis and strategizing. You need someone with the experience in adoption law to draft your adoption petition and to represent you in a court of law. This area of the law is complex and has statutory provisions that must be strictly adhered to.
What are birth parents’ rights during the adoption process?
The birth parent(s) may be permitted to select who they want to adopt their child. They also have full legal control over what happens to the child, unless the child is under the jurisdiction of the court, up until the termination of parental rights has been approved by the court and the court has determined whether the adoption petition should be granted..
If I adopt, can the birth parents change their mind and take back the child?
If the parental rights have been terminated and are no longer subject to appeal, then the birth parents have no statutory rights to the child..
Are adoptions expensive?
Not always. The international and private agency adoptions can range all the way up to $40,000, but a foster care adoption may range from nothing to $2,500. Adoption subsidies often cover modest legal fees. Uncontested stepparent adoptions vary, with the average case costing about $2,500. Contested stepparent adoption cases vary depending on the facts of the case. However, state or federal tax credits for each adopted child may reduce the ultimate cost for any type of adoption.
How long do adoptions take?
Most adoptions take nine months to a year. Being matched with a child may take more time, but it also depends on the desires of the parents. If they are doing an international or private adoption, it might take more time, as well. Finally, you must wait six months before finalizing an adoption, according to Missouri law.