Those new to the adoption process are often confused about the requirements for adoption in the United States. They often ask who can and can’t legally adopt.
Here are a nine frequently asked questions about domestic adoption requirements.
1.What are the requirements to adopt a baby in the United States?
In general any adult or married couple with a current approved home study is eligible to adopt a child.
Some states require that those wishing to adopt in that state have been legal residents there for a certain amount of time.
2. Do states have different laws regarding requirements for adoption in the United States?
Yes. State law primarily governs adoption, so the rules for adoption change depending on the state(s) involved.
Common differences amongst states include whether unmarried couples or same-sex couples can adopt, specific home study requirements, who can coordinate an adoption, and what birthmother expenses can be covered by the adoptive family.
3. Is it possible to adopt without a home study?
In most cases, no. A home study is required for any kind of adoption in the United States: public or private, agency or independent.
The only common exception is in those states where a home study is not required for adoptions occurring within an extended family, for example grandparents adopting their grandchild.
4. How recent does a home study need to be for you to adopt?
Usually a home study needs to have been completed or renewed within a year of the adoption. Background checks may need to be renewed more frequently.
The exact requirements depend on the state in which the person(s) desiring to adopt reside, so it’s always good to ask whoever conducts your home study what you need to do to keep it current.
5. Do you have to be married to be able to adopt?
No. Single adults are allowed to adopt in every state.
In Arizona, however, placement preference must be given to a married couple over a single person when all other relevant factors are equal. (http://www.azleg.state.az.us/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/ars/8/00103.htm)
6. How old do you have to be to adopt?
Some states require that a person be at least 18 to be eligible to adopt. Other states have minimum ages of 21 or 25.
In several states there is a minimum difference in age between an adopting parent and the adoptee. For example, in South Dakota a person adopting a minor must be at least 10 years older than the child. (http://legis.sd.gov/Statutes/Codified_Laws/DisplayStatute.aspx?Type=Statute&Statute=25-6-2)
10 years is the most common minimum age difference, though some states require it be greater – as much as 15 years.
7. Do you have to be rich to adopt?
Some adoptions are expensive, but you don’t necessarily have to pay for it all out of pocket. There are adoption grants and loans available to help cover the immediate expenses associated with adopting.
8. What are the income requirements for adoption in the United States?
While you don’t need to be rich to adopt, you do need to be financially stable. This means having a reliable source of income which covers your expenses and allows you to save for rainy days and retirement.
A part of the home study process is demonstrating just that. You will have to provide proof of income (pay stubs, letters of employment, documentation of investments, etc.) and disclose your regular bills and expenses.
9. Do you need to own a home to be able to adopt?
No. Owning a house can look good in your family profile, but it isn’t a requirement to adopt.
What you do need to show is that you are capable of providing a safe, stable home with adequate space for a child.
Renting may just make more financial sense in some housing markets. It would be better to easily pay rent each month than to struggle to pay a mortgage.