"Adoption is the legal process by which a child is voluntarily taken into a family other than the child's birth family. Once an adoption becomes final, a formal parent-child relationship is formed whereby the adopted child gains the same rights and privileges of a natural child born to the adoptive parents. The adoptive parents acquire similar rights and obligations to the adopted child as if the child was their natural child, including the responsibility for the adopted child's physical, material and emotional well being. As a general rule, anyone over the age of eighteen (18) with the economic means to support a child is eligible to adopt, including married, divorced and single people from different religious, cultural and economic backgrounds. There, however, are any number of restrictions that can be placed on an adoption by Texas law, federal law, the law of another country, an adoption agency (if one is used) and even by the birth parent. And, even if all of these hurdles are cleared, the adoption must still be approved by a court. Adoptions may be categorized in several different ways, including by geography (domestic adoption vs. international adoption), level of confidentiality (open adoption vs. closed adoption) and procedure (agency adoption vs. independent or private adoption).
A domestic adoption takes place when both the adoptive parents and the child are citizens of the United States. An international adoption occurs when a United States citizen adopts a child who is a citizen of another country. International adoptions are the most complex because they require extensive planning and research. In addition to meeting the legal requirements of the child's home country, the adoptive parents also must comply with United States immigration law and Texas law. Depending upon the laws of the foreign country, an international adoption may be completed in the courts of the foreign country (most common), in the United States under a guardianship arrangement, or via an authorized third party in either the foreign country or in the United States.
In an international adoption, the child is not automatically granted United States citizenship. The child must have a special visa obtained by filing an Orphan Petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Because of the time lag in processing an Orphan Petition, it should be filed as early as possible in the adoption process.
An agency adoption is completed through either a state owned or privately owned agency. Adoption agencies typically have long waiting lists, set their own criteria for adoption and may choose not to work with certain types of adoptive parents. Despite these hurdles, many people seeking to adopt work with adoption agencies to find a birth mother. Adoptive parents must work with an agency if their birth mother needs financial assistance beyond her basic medical, legal and counseling expenses.
An independent adoption (also known as a direct placement or private adoption) is the most prevalent method of adopting newborns. An independent adoption is the exact opposite of an agency adoption. Without the restrictions of an agency adoption, the birth parents may exert more control over who adopts their child and the adoption process. An independent adoption also provides adoptive parents with more options because they are not limited by arbitrary criteria imposed by adoption agencies.
Before a child can be adopted in Texas, the birth parents' parental rights must be terminated. Termination of parental rights may be voluntary or involuntary. A voluntary termination is automatically accomplished when the birth parents sign a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights.
Parental rights are sacred and not easily terminated involuntarily. A court may terminate parental rights without the consent of a birth parent if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that a parent has, for example:
If a parent's rights are involuntarily terminated, his or her consent is not required in order to finalize an adoption.
In some circumstances, a father not married to the mother of his child may want to protect his legal rights concerning the child without filing a paternity action. To do so, the father must register with the Paternity Register maintained by the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Austin, Texas and maintain a current address with the Paternity Register. Thereafter, should there be a legal action to terminate the rights of any alleged father in connection with the child; the Paternity Register must be searched. Any man who registered with the Paternity Register in connection with the child must be given notice of the legal proceeding so that he may participate in the proceeding, assert paternity and/or request genetic testing. If, however, a search of the Paternity Register does not reveal the name and current address of any potential father, the termination proceedings may go forward without any further attempt to locate or notify any alleged father.
Once parental rights are terminated, the adoptive parents file a petition for adoption with the court, at which time the court will order a social study to be conducted by a social worker. The social study consists of a home study, criminal background check, employment check, medical check and securing letters of recommendation from friends and family. After this information is secured, the social worker prepares and files a report with the court. Assuming the report is positive, and once the child has lived with the adoptive parents for at least six (6) months, the adoption may be finalized.
The Texas, federal and international laws governing adoption are complicated. If you are considering adoption as a way to expand your family, or are interested in locating your birth parents, call Violet Nwokoye. Adoption should be one of the most joyful days in the life of a family, not one bogged down in legal red tape. Because...family matters.