While adopting a child is a joyful and rewarding experience, it is also a tremendous responsibility. Because it is a such a big responsibility, Texas law requires that adoptive parents meet certain requirements. These basic requirements are that the adoptive parent, regardless of marital status, must:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Be Financially stable
- Provide proof of marriage (if applying as a married couple) or divorce (as applicable)
- Provide specific personal information
- Pass a background check, which will include a criminal background check and an abuse and neglect (i.e. CPS history) for all adult members of your household
- Pass a “home study” which will require a social worker to visit your home and all members of your household
- Complete a training course about abused and neglected children
Adoption is a commitment to provide a permanent home to a child into adulthood and beyond. Once the adoption is finalized, the adopted child is your child as if they were born to you, so you are also responsible for the emotional, physical, social, developmental, and educational needs of that child. If you adopt a child from a different country or a different culture from your own, you will also be responsible for maintaining that child’s connection to their culture.
Steps to Adoption
The first step in adopting a child is making sure that you are emotionally ready for the journey. The path to a final adoption will be different for every family. Adoptions can present complex legal, emotional, and psychological issues. It is a rare thing to find an adoption without at least some hiccups along the way, and some adoptions can be extremely difficult and drawn out. There are multiple methods of adoption. Some can be relatively simple, especially if the biological parents have identified and approached their adoptive parents already. Others, such as adopting through the Child Protective Services system can be a long, complex, and frustrating process. Therefore, it is critical to be prepared for hurdles and challenges along the way.
The next step is to consider the options that are available to you. Inter-family/relative adoptions are very common and can be relatively simple. Sometimes our family members have children that they are unable or unwilling to care for, and aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. are willing to step in and adopt. You may also consider adopting children from the foster care system or an adoption agency. Other families choose to adopt children from other countries. International adoptions are very common and come with their own distinct challenges and issues. It is important to understand how the different types of adoptions work and to decide which path you want to take.
The next step is becoming eligible to adopt. This is the most important part of the adoption process. Not every person is eligible to adopt and not every child is eligible to be adopted. A person’s criminal history can make them ineligible to adopt, Similarly, if an adoptive parent or a person in their household has a history of child abuse or neglect, they may also be ineligible to adopt.
In order for a child to be eligible for adoption, at least one of the following circumstances must be true:
- The biological child’s parental rights (mother and father) must be terminated-or- a petition to terminate (link) their parental rights must be filed in conjunction with the suit to adopt;
- One parent’s parental rights remain intact and their spouse wishes to adopt the child—i.e. a step-parent adoption (link); or
- The child is two years old or older, one parent’s parental rights are intact, and the person wishing to adopt has acted as a caregiver or served as a managing conservator for the child for at least 12 months.
Once the adoption eligibility has been determined, and all of the requirements have been met, the legal process can be finalized. This involves the adoption attorney filing all of the necessary documents with the court, setting a hearing on the adoption, and then doing a “prove-up.” A prove-up is a series of questions your attorney will ask you in front of the judge that will serve to finalize your case. After that, you will leave the courthouse with the new addition(s) to your family!