An adoptee (adopted individual) may be an adult or child. Each jurisdiction has state laws that describe requirements that must be met in order for an individual to be eligible for adoption. Statutes may differ from state to state, but usually contain general basic conditions. One common requirement is consent from the parents (giving up parental rights), legal guardian or child (over the age of 12 in most states).
An adoption may be closed or open. Closed adoptions were regularly used in the past. In this type of adoption, birth parents do not select the adoptive parents and have no contact with them. Usually, an agency handles the adoption and is the only contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. After the adoption is finalized, the records are sealed. This makes it very difficult for the adoptee to find out any information about his or her birth parents. Due to this difficulty, more information has become accessible to the adoptee, including medical records, than in the past. However, the information available depends on the specific state laws and the wishes of both the birth and adoptive parents.
Presently, open adoptions are the standard type of adoption used. The amount of contact and sharing of information may vary in open adoptions. Frequently, birth parents choose the adoptive parents for their child. The choice may be based on information provided by the potential adoptive parents, or by an interview. Even in cases where the birth parents do not select the adoptive parents, there is a sharing of contact information and often a meeting between the parents. The birth parents and adoptive parents may choose to have contact after the birth of the child. If this is the case, they often make an agreement that specifies how many contacts they will have, if there will be visitation rights and what type of communication they may have with each other and the child.
In the past adoptive parents were typically heterosexual, married couples looking to adopt a child. Today, this is not the case. An adoptive parent may be single, a stepparent, a grandparent, gay, lesbian, homosexual or adopting another adult. Correspondingly, a stepparent may adopt the child of his or her spouse with consent of the child (if over 12), the other biological parents or the legal guardian. Similarly, a grandparent may adopt his or her grandchild. Some states have laws regarding grandparent adoptions of which a potential adoptive parent should be aware.
Furthermore, non-traditional adoptions are becoming more commonplace. Not only may single individuals become adoptive parents, but homosexual/lesbian parents may adopt as well. The law may differ from state to state, but most jurisdictions allow an adoptive parent to be homosexual or lesbian. Sexual orientation is not a factor in becoming an adoptive parent (in most jurisdictions). Another non-traditional adoption is adult adoption. The purpose of adult adoptions is ordinarily to create a legal heir. Many states have statutes regarding adult adoptions that any potential adoptive parents or adoptees should be aware of. However, most courts will look at the relationship between the adoptive parent (or parents) and the adoptee. There must be a parent-child relationship present in order for the adoption to take place. The adoptee may not be a spouse of the adoptive parent or have a relationship similar to that of a spouse or life-partner.
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