What Are the Steps in Adopting a Child?

Adoption can bring joy to both the adopted child and the new parents. The legal procedure for adoption focuses on the best interest of the child and protects the privacy of the child and the natural parents.

The adoptive parent may be single or, if married, joined in the petition by the spouse. The adoptive parents file a petition for adoption in the county chancery court where they live or where the child was born, abandoned, or currently lives, including a foster home or institution.

Accompanying the petition is a doctor's certificate stating the physical and mental health of the child and a sworn statement listing all the child's property. If the child has a mental or physical health problem, the adoptive parents must include an affidavit stating their awareness of the condition.

Adoption requires written consent from the biological parents, two adult relatives if the parents are deceased, the child's guardian if the parents are unknown, any person having physical or legal custody of the child (other than a foster parent), the social worker who placed the child in foster care, and the child, if he or she is over 14 years old.

If the biological mother is unmarried, the law only requires her consent, although also obtaining the natural father's consent is wise. The parties must wait at least three days after the child's birth to sign consent forms.

With the proper filing and consent, adoptive parents may receive temporary custody of the child under an interlocutory decree for up to six months before the judge finalizes the adoption. However, the judge can enter the final adoption judgment right away in some cases. The judge may rule against the adoption during the interlocutory period, but the adoptive parents have the right to appeal.

Once final, the Bureau of Vital Statistics issues a new birth certificate with the child's new name and adoptive parents' names and secures the original birth certificate in a vault. All documents concerning the adoption are confidential and cannot be released without a court order or the consent of the biological parent. Information such as hereditary diseases may be released to the adoptive parents or the child when 18 years old or older.

When the child becomes 21 years old, he or she may obtain information on the natural parents from the Bureau of Vital Statistics unless the parents signed an affidavit prohibiting the release of those records.