What to Know Before Adopting a Child

Daughter sitting on her mother's lap - what to know before adopting a child concept
Adoption is a big decision. If you are considering growing your family through adoption, there are many things you should consider before you start the process. Being an adoptive parent will bring many changes to your life and the lives of those in your family. Not only should you be aware of the legal process regarding adoption, but you must also think about the challenges you will face and the responsibilities you will have.

Things to Consider Before Adopting a Child

Oregon does not have any requirements regarding a prospective adoptive parent’s lifestyle, education, or income — both single individuals and married couples can adopt. However, there are still a number of things you should think about before making the decision to adopt a child. Questions you should ask yourself before adopting a child can include the following:
  • What are your motivations for adopting?
  • Do you have room to house a child?
  • Do you have the financial resources to raise a child?
  • Is your home an appropriate fit for a child with special needs?
  • Is there anything restricting you from adopting?
  • Are you and your spouse or partner in agreement about adoption?
  • What are your expectations and fears about adoption?
Before adopting a child, you should also ask yourself whether it is important for you to parent an infant or if you are open to the idea of adopting an older child. There are many adolescents in need of families, in addition to newborns and younger children. Adopting a child of any age comes with its own set of challenges and rewards.

Types of Adoption in Oregon

After you’ve made the decision to adopt, you will need to decide which type of adoption process is best for you and your family — there are several types of adoption in Oregon. The two most common are stepparent adoptions and independent adoptions. However, adoption is also possible through private agencies and by way of foster care. Adoptions through the Oregon Department of Human Services can occur when the state places children up for adoption. Usually this happens after a period of foster care or while the state is in the process of terminating parental rights. In many cases, these are older children who have special needs. The state typically tries to place these children with relatives or “current caretakers” who are fostering the child. With private agency adoption, a birthparent will usually go to the agency and ask them to find adoptive parents for the child. The birth parent may be involved or uninvolved in the process. The child’s birth mother can sign a certificate of irrevocability at any time after the child’s birth, once she has recovered from the effects of the birth. Depending on the specific circumstances, the father’s consent to adoption may or may not be required. The consent is irrevocable once the child has been placed with the adoptive parents. In contrast, a child is placed directly with specific adoptive parents by the birthparent in an independent adoption — an adoption agency does not have custody of the child. These types of adoptions work best when they are planned in advance and the adoptive parents have had a pre-placement home study completed. Birthparents and adoptive parents should also have the representation of their own counsel to ensure all issues are worked out, including the finances of the adoption, plans for the hospital, and whether there will be an open adoption agreement. Prospective adoptive parents in Oregon might also consider international adoption. Certain foreign countries, such as those that are part of the Hague Convention, allow citizens of the United States to adopt their children. While nearly all international adoptions are carried out through adoption agencies, it’s important to understand that different countries have varying requirements. For instance, if the adoption is from a Hague Convention country, it must be facilitated through a Hague-accredited agency.

The Adoption Home Study

A home study is typically required for adoptions in Oregon, unless it is waived by the DHS. The DHS has the discretion to waive the requirement when a biological or adoptive parent retains parental rights or one of the petitioners in the case is a relative. The home study is conducted to ensure prospective adoptive parents are emotionally, financially, and mentally prepared for the adoption. There are two parts to the adoption home study. First, a substantial amount of documentation must be submitted, including financial and health records, personal reference letters, criminal background checks, and other documents. The second component is the in-home visit, which is conducted to make sure you can provide a safe home environment for the child. In addition, parents who are adopting through foster care may need to complete a pre-adoptive training course.

What Happens After the Adoption?

Following the completion of the adoption, the Oregon Vital Records Department will issue a new birth certificate to the child reflecting the adoptive parents as the child’s parents. Notably, adoptions are permanent — they cannot be undone unless the biological parent adopts the child back. Once a child is adopted, the adoptive parents have the same legal parental rights and responsibilities that biological parents would have had. The adoption file is sealed by the court and can only be unsealed with a court order showing good cause exists to do so. Adults who were adopted are permitted to access their files and can receive a copy of their original birth certificate when they turn 21.

What Resources Are Available When Adopting in Oregon?

Oregon offers several types of financial assistance for Department of Human Services (DHS) adoptions through the state’s Adoption Assistance Program. Also known as adoption subsidy, these benefits are used along with the family’s own income and is meant to help adoptive parents meet the needs of the children they adopt through the foster care system. Assistance can include both medical and cash benefits.

Contact an Experienced Oregon Adoption Attorney

If you’re thinking about adopting a child, it’s important to have the guidance of a knowledgeable adoption attorney who can help you navigate what to expect throughout the adoption process. Based in Salem, Litowich Law provides compassionate counsel and reliable representation to prospective adoptive parents throughout Oregon. We welcome you to contact us for a consultation.
Categories: Adoption, Guardianship