Types of Adoptions

 In the United States:

  • Children now living in foster care.  These are children whose birthparents cannot care for them and whose parental rights have been terminated.  The children are temporarily in foster or group homes while waiting to be adopted.  You can learn more about the children by contacting the public or private agencies in your community. A list is available asking for adoption information on the sidebar.
  • Fost-Adopt. This is a form of adoption where a child will be placed in your home as a foster child, but with the expectation that he/she will become legally free and available to be adopted by you.
  • Infant adoption. There are more people wanting to adopt infants than there are infants available to be adopted. Many people who want infants will try to adopt through an intermediary such as a lawyer, physician or other facilitator rather than through a licensed adoption agency.  This is known as independent adoption which is legal in most, but not all, states.
  • Independent adoption. There is usually no counseling for birth parents, and the infants are not usually eligible for financial assistance for any special needs that may not have been noticeable at birth. It is also possible to adopt an infant through a public or private agency, but there may be a long wait before a child is identified for you.

Closed vs open adoption: 

A closed adoption is one where no identifying information about the birth family or the adoptive family is shared between the two, and there is no contact between the families.  As the adoptive family, you will receive non-identifying information about the child and birth family before he or she joins your family.  After your adoption is finalized, the records are sealed.  Depending on local law and what paperwork was signed and filed when the adoption was finalized, these records may or may not be available to the adopted child when they reach 18.

An open adoption allows for some form of association among the birth parents, adoptive parents and the child they adopted. This can range from picture and letter sharing to phone calls, to contact through an intermediary or open contact among the parties themselves. Many adoptions of older children and teenagers are at least partially open since the children may already know identifying or contact information about members of their birth families, or may want to stay in touch with siblings placed separately.

Adopting your Stepchild

Step-parent adoption is directed by state law. And each state has its own laws!  For example, some states do not require a home study for step-parent adoption.  Most will mandate that a couple be married for a certain length of time, which varies from state to state.  Some states require or strongly encourage legal representation while others provide forms for individuals to pursue stepparent adoption through the local court system.  Consulting with a local adoption attorney is an invaluable resource.  The website for the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys is: 202-832-2222

A fact sheet on step-parent adoption is available through Child Welfare Information Gateway.; Or call 800 394-336, for personal assistance and inquiries.  

Search keywords:  step-parent adoption

For state laws:

  • Search keywords:  state statutes search
  • Select the appropriate state
  • Select the topics under the subhead Adoption


  • Consent to adoption
  • Rights of presumed  (putative) fathers
  • Who may adopt, be adopted or place a child for adoption

 Another resource with detailed state law information is 1-800-394-3366

  • Go the Search area on the left side of screen
  • Select the appropriate state
  • Select the document type:  All
  • Select keywords: step-parent adoption

Adopting a relative

For information on kinship/relative adoption, including state laws on the topic, visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway—  800-394-3366

Search keywords:  kinship adoption

  • Click “Adoption by Family Type:  Kinship/Relative Adoption” to find various links including a downloadable factsheet, “Kinship Care/Grandparents Raising Grandchildren”
  • Further down on the page, find: “Placement of Children with Relatives:  Summary of State Laws", a downloadable/viewable summary of state-by-state laws on kinship/relative adoption

 Adopting a Grandchild

  • Visit the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) site
  • Visit the Children’s Defense or 800-223-1200
  • Contact the state Adoption Program Manager in the state where you live and the one where the child/ren lives
  • Call the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children administrator in each state

 Adopting an Adult

 In most states, it is legal to adopt an adult.  Among the most popular reasons:

  • Inheritance
  • Close bond with foster family.  Once a child has aged out of foster care, a foster family can adopt a legally available adult
  • Step-parent’s desire to legally adopt his/her spouse’s adult child/ren
  • Mutual consent by adoptee and birth family upon successful search and reunion
  • Permanent care-giving 

More information on who may adopt or be adopted, call 800-394-3366 or visit  

 Keyword search:  state statutes search

  • Select appropriate state
  • Select and consent to adoption
  • Who may adopt, be adopted or place a child for adoption

International Adoption

 Adopting a child from another country is complicated and expensive.  Some countries have significantly reduced the number of children that are available to be adopted, and others have eliminated international adoption entirely.

 Nonetheless, there are agencies that can help you with international adoption. For information on adopting a child from another country, call the

Office of Children’s Issues, United State Department of State-888-407-4747 or, the Intercountry Adoption Bureau Consular Affairs US Department of State.

Choose from a variety of topics including:   

  • who can adopt 
  • who can be adopted
  • how to adopt
  • traveling abroad
  • after adoption
  • contact information

For specific information on immigration and adoption, please visit

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 800-375-5283