There are several types of adoptions, depending on your situation: (1) private independent adoptions; (2) agency adoptions; (3) stepparent or second parent adoptions; (4) relative adoptions; (5) public (foster care) adoptions; and (6) re-adoptions (or domestication of foreign adoptions).
For some adoptions, the IRS and Georgia Dept. of Revenue provide an adoption tax credit. Prospective parents should discuss this tax credit with their accountants.
PRIVATE INDEPENDENT ADOPTIONS are those created through the voluntary participation of a birth mother and the prospective adoptive parent(s), without the involvement of an agency. In an independent adoption, the birth mother freely chooses to surrender her legal rights to her child directly to the prospective adoptive parent(s), usually because she has reached the decision that her age and/or life circumstances make it impossible for her to adequately parent the child. In Georgia, this placement must occur with the assistance of an attorney,and there are strict limitations on the financial assistance that can be offered to the biological mother prior to the birth of the child.
AGENCY ADOPTIONS occur when the birth mother contacts a private adoption agency to assist her in the voluntary placement of her child for adoption. The agency also contracts with prospective adoptive parents, and helps match them with newborns or infants. Each agency has different policies about who may adopt, with some agencies placing limitations on parents based on age, marital status, or sexual orientation. Non-traditional families – single parents, gay/lesbian parents, or older parents – should research this issue extensively before choosing an agency.
STEPPARENT ADOPTIONS (or Second Parent Adoptions) are a type of private adoption in which a child’s legal parent consents to the child being adopted by her new spouse or domestic partner, with the result that they will both be the legal parents of the child. During the action, the court may request that a home study be completed, evaluating the spouse’s/partner’s fitness to be a parent. However, some judges finalize the adoption without requiring any such investigation.
In the adoption process where the child was conceived through the use of a known sperm donor, the attorney will need to contact the known donor to obtain a legal relinquishment of his biological rights, or to have his rights terminated by the court, if he refuses to sign the legal surrenders. This would also be the case if the child was born traditionally with two biological parents, whether married or single.
Parents can expect to pay all court fees, the attorney’s legal fees, and the related cost for the home study investigation, if one is ordered by the court.
In a RELATIVE ADOPTION, no adoption agency is necessary. The birth mother may surrender the child directly to the relative (aunt, uncle, older sibling, grandparent), and the attorney will finalize the adoption in court. Some judges waive the requirement of a home study investigation, in their sole discretion.
PUBLIC ADOPTIONS involve children who are currently in the custody of a county child-welfare agency, such as the Department of Family and Children Services (“DFACS”). Usually, children come into DFACS custody because of allegations of parental neglect or abuse. Children are then placed in foster care while the juvenile court determines whether it is safe to return the children to their parents. If the court decides that the unsafe conditions have not been corrected within a mandated period, it will terminate the parent’s legal rights to the children, thereby allowing them to be placed for adoption.
Prospective adoptive parents seeking to adopt a child or sibling group may contact their local county DFACS office directly. However, many parents seek assistance from a local non-profit agency that contracts with DFACS or the state. These agencies provide training and support for prospective parents.
The cost for a public adoption is much less than that of a private adoption. Some agencies charge a nominal application fee to the prospective parents. The parents must also pay for the attorney’s legal fee, as well as any court costs. However, for most adoptive parents, DFACS provides financial assistance specifically to pay the legal fee, because the child is defined as “special needs” by the state. If this is the case, parents will pay virtually nothing for the legal fees involved in completing the adoption, and the attorney will bill DFACS once the adoption is completed.
Another type of private adoption is the RE-ADOPTION or Domestication of a Foreign Adoption. Typically, a foreign adoption is finalized in the child’s country of origin. The adoption decree and new birth certificate are issued by the foreign country, and the U.S. Dept of State and Immigration departments give approval for the child to return to the U.S. on a valid visa. In most cases, the international adoption grants automatic citizenship to your child; however, for those adoptions that do not provide automatic adoption, it becomes necessary to “domesticate” the foreign adoption in a United States court, so as to obtain citizenship for your child.
However, even in those cases where citizenship is granted automatically, it is highly recommended that you complete a re-adoption, for two reasons.
First, there is always the possibility, however slight, that the foreign country will challenge the adoption at some later date, either because of suspected corruption in the process, i.e. baby-trafficking, or because some major political instability in the country has created new policy. When you complete a re-adoption in Georgia, you get an adoption decree from a valid U.S. court as concrete evidence of the adoption, evidence that cannot be overturned by a foreign government.
Second, the re-adoption gives your child an English language adoption decree and an English language birth certificate that will make it easier for her to use throughout her life. Foreign adoption decrees and birth certificates are usually in the foreign language, and come accompanied by an English translation, which makes it a cumbersome document to use in later life to obtain a passport, driver’s license, etc.
It is strongly advisable that parents who are adopting internationally complete a domestication of the foreign adoption once they return home with their child, and before any of the international documents are mislaid.