Adoptive families come in all shapes and sizes. There are single parents, couples, same-sex couples and domestic partners. Some families already have birth or adopted children. Requirements for the adoptive parent(s) differ from state to state and country to country.

Domestic Adoption

Age
Prospective parent(s) must be of legal age (21 years old) or older. There is no age cutoff. In a private/independent adoption, it is the birth parent who is selecting the adoptive home. In an agency adoption, the agency may have an age cut off, typically 40 for a single or younger parent of a couple. While it may seem unfair, an agency has many potential adoptive families. If they do not feel a family has a fair chance with the other waiting families—they do not feel they should accept an application. In foster care, an older parent may be offered an older child.
Medical Health
Prospective parents need to be in stable medical condition. If there is a history of serious or current chronic illness, a doctor’s letter indicating physical stability, ability to parent and expectation to live to a child’s majority (which is the age of 16). If there is a history of substance abuse, proof of rehabilitation is needed. In addition, physician statements for all household members must indicate they are physically stable.
Emotional Health
Prospective parents need to be in stable emotional health. If there is current or history of psychiatric illness, a statement indicating emotional stability is needed. If there was or is use of medication, a doctor’s statement of current emotional stability and ability to parent a child is needed. In addition, all household members must be emotionally stable.
Criminal History
As part of the adoption homestudy, state and FBI clearances will be conducted. Should there be an arrest history, dispositions and personal statements of the incident are required. Rehabilitation will be evaluated, if appropriate. There are certain criminal charges that can prevent someone from being eligible to adopt.
Child Abuse History
All household members over the age of 18 will be asked to do a child abuse clearance for every state in the U.S. where they have lived for the past 5 years. A “finding” on this clearance may prevent someone from adopting.
Marital History
Each adoption agency and U.S. state has their own requirements, including the number of previous marriages and length of current marriage. Depending on the state, singles, same-sex and domestic partners may also be eligible adopt.
Financial Security
There is no specific income requirement. The adoptive family’s income and assets will be assessed to ensure they have the resources to raise a child. Proof of medical insurance for the child is also needed.
Home Environment
The home must be a safe and secure environment for a child, inside and out,. Some U.S. states have specific space and safety requirements. In addition, some countries require proof of ownership.
Adoption and Parenting
As part of the adoption homestudy, most prospective parents are asked to complete Adoptive Parent Education, including but not limited to the lifelong implications of adoption on the child and the family, attachment and bonding, sharing adoption with the child and others, open adoption, and medical, emotional and academic developmental issues. There will also be a review if discipline techniques and general parenting to meet a child’s needs.
For specific state domestic adoption requirements, go to: http://statelaws.findlaw.com/family-laws/adoption.html or www.adoptuskids.org.

INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION

Age
parent(s) must be of legal age (21 years old) or older. Age cutoffs are agency and country specific. An older parent will be offered an older child. For example, a 45 year old woman would most likely receive a referral for a toddler.
Medical Health
Prospective parents need to be in stable medical condition. Individual countries have limitations on medical history and current health. Many restrict adoptions to those with a history of cancer. For all adoptions, a doctor’s letter indicating physically stability, ability to parent and expectation to live to a child’s majority (which is the age of 16). If a history of substance abuse, proof of rehabilitation will be needed. In addition, physician statements for all household members must indicate they are physically stable.
Emotional Health
Prospective parents need to be in stable emotional health. If there is current or history of psychiatric illness, a statement indicating you are emotionally stable is needed. If there was or is use of medication, a doctor’s statement of current emotional stability and ability to parent a child is needed. Some countries limit adoption to those who are taking medication or have a history of emotional issues. In addition, all household members must be emotionally stable.
Criminal history
As part of the adoption homestudy, state and FBI clearances will be conducted. Should there be an arrest history, dispositions and personal statements of the incident will be needed. Rehabilitation, if appropriate, will be accessed. There are certain criminal charges that will prevent someone from adopting.
Child Abuse History
All household members over the age of 18 will be asked to do a child abuse clearance for every state in the U.S. and every country where they have lived for since the age of 18. A “finding” on this clearance may prevent you from adopting.
Marital History
Each country has their own requirements, including the number of previous marriages and length of current marriage. Some countries allow singles to adopt. Therefore, it is not recommended someone get married to adopt.
Financial Security
Some countries have specific income and asset requirements, which will be assessed as part of the adoption homestudy and documents for the dossier. Income and expenses must show the ability to meet a child’s needs. Proof of medical insurance for the child is also needed.
Home Environment
The home must be a safe and secure environment for a child. Some U.S. states have specific space and safety requirements. In addition, some countries require proof of ownership.
Adoption and Parenting
As part of the adoption homestudy, prospective parents are asked to complete at least 10 hours of specific Adoptive Parent Education, including but not limited to the lifelong implications of adoption on the child and the family, attachment and bonding, the effects of living in an institutional setting and the environment from which the child is coming, sharing adoption with the child and others, becoming a multicultural family, and medical, emotional and academic developmental issues. There will also be a review if discipline techniques and general parenting to meet a child’s needs.
For specific country requirements, go to www.adoption.state.gov and click on Learn About A Country on the right side of the page.