Focus on the Law: Introduction to Adoption

By Sharon Frankenberg,
Attorney at Law

November is National Adoption Month.  Where can you find a child to adopt? Despite the myth that it is faster and easier to adopt internationally, adopting through U.S. foster care may be your best option. According to the AdoptUSKids website, there are currently 104,000 children in the U.S. foster care system who are legally available and waiting for an adoptive home.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 51,000 children were adopted in 2011 through U.S. foster care and only 9,320 were adopted by U.S. citizens from all international sources combined. By 2013, the number adopted through U.S. foster care remained steady but the number of international adoptions to the U.S. had dropped to 7,092.  Since 2009, the country providing the largest number of children for international adoption by U.S. citizens was China, followed by Ethiopia, Russia, South Korea and Ukraine.  The average time to complete an international adoption from Hague Convention countries ranged from 79 days to almost two years.  It takes roughly one year to adopt a child from the U.S. foster care system.

The costs associated with a foster care adoption are often much less than with an international adoption. In 2010, an international adoption from Hague Convention countries had a median cost of $26,559, but ranged as high as $64,357. Most adoptions from U.S. foster care are free and many costs are reimbursable. Adoptive parents do not have to be wealthy, be young, own their own home, have other children already or be a stay-at-home parent to adopt a child from foster care.  They do not have to adopt a child of the same race or ethnicity (except in Native American adoptions where some special considerations come into play.) Adoptive parents may be permitted to adopt children who are related to them as well as children that they are fostering. Being a foster parent led to 54 percent of the adoptions of children in foster care last year. Adoptive parents may adopt children in foster care living in other states. Sometimes this takes a little longer but it is done with the help of federal laws which enable the process.  Adoptive parents do not have to be married to adopt children in foster care. In 2011, 32 percent of children adopted from foster care were adopted by either a single-parent household or an unmarried couple. This includes adoptions by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families.

You should consult an attorney for assistance and advice with your individual situation. Sharon Frankenberg is an experienced attorney licensed in Tennessee since 1988. Her Knoxville office number is (865)539-2100.

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