Adoption is a court action in which an adult assumes legal and other responsibilities for another, usually a minor. Many individuals seek to build or add to their families through adoption. Families of all kinds adopt children from newborns to teenagers, of every race and ethnicity, and from many countries around the world.
North Dakota Heart Gallery is a nonprofit organization that encourages the adoption of children waiting for forever homes.
Types of Adoption
Many prospective parents seek to adopt healthy infants, often with backgrounds similar to their own. In North Dakota, infants of different races are placed through private adoption agencies. The adoption of American Indian children (of all ages) by non-Indians is limited by the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (P.L. 95-608). Fees and waiting times for infants vary, depending on the type of adoption involved.
In this type of infant adoption, birth parents have independently identified a specific adoptive family (apart from the assistance of a licensed child placement agency) with whom they wish to place their child. There is a legal process that is laid out in statute that governs this type of parental relinquishment (NDCC 14-15.1). An adoption agency is involved in providing services to both the birth and adoptive families. The custody of the child passes directly from the birth to adoptive parent through a legal process when the birth parent(s) relinquish their parental rights, pending the final adoption of the child at a later date.
Children who are in foster care and who have special needs are sometimes available for adoption, and recruitment efforts may be necessary to place them with an adoptive family. These children may be older (grade school through teens); may have physical, emotional or mental disabilities; or be at high risk for physical, emotional or mental disabilities; or may be part of a sibling group that should be adopted together. These children are in the care of a state or tribal foster care system.
In North Dakota, children being placed from the foster care system are placed through private agencies under contract to the state through a collaborative program called Adults Adopting Special Kids (AASK). Relatives or foster parents will adopt a majority of these children. When a child does not have an identified adoptive family, national, regional, and state adoption exchanges may assist in linking prospective parents with these children. Some of North Dakota's waiting children are featured on the ND Heart Gallery website or the national Adopt US Kids website. In many cases, financial assistance in the form of adoption subsidies is available to help parents with the legal, medical, and living costs associated with caring for a child with special needs.
Children from other countries may be available for adoption. Most foreign-born children who are adopted by Americans come from Russia, China, Korea, India, and countries in Eastern Europe, Central America, South America or Africa. Additional information about adoption from different countries is available on the U.S. State Department's Web Site. There are strict immigration requirements for adopting children from other countries, as well as substantial agency fees and transportation, legal, and medical costs. It is important that you choose a licensed, knowledgeable organization, because the inter-country adoption process is lengthy and complex.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and adult siblings of a minor may adopt relative children. In North Dakota, the court may waive the required home study (or investigation) for relatives who are adopting related children who have been living with them for at least nine months and for whom there are no child protection concerns (see NDCC 14-15-11 for additional requirements).
A stepparent may adopt the children of his/her spouse, when the other natural parent agrees to the adoption or has abandoned the children. This is a legal process, which does not require the involvement of a child placement agency, as do other types of adoption.
Who Can Adopt?
Children do not need "perfect" parents. They need one or more caring and committed individuals who are willing to meet their needs and to incorporate them into a nurturing family environment. Agencies placing children for adoption will discuss their specific eligibility regulations and placement options with prospective parents. People are not required to own their own homes or to have high incomes in order to give children what they need - permanence, stability, a lifetime commitment, and a chance to be part of a family.
Adoptive parents may be married or single, childless, or already parenting other children. Divorce or a history of marital or personal counseling does not automatically eliminate individuals as candidates, nor does having a disability; rather, agencies want to ensure that a prospective adoptive parent can care for a child and meet the child's needs throughout their childhood and into adulthood.
Learn More about Adoption
For more information, prospective adoptive parents should read adoption guidebooks that are available at public libraries and bookstores. The Internet is another resource for adoption information, but prospective parents should verify their credibility by cross checking the source of the information. Various organizations offer educational programs on adoption, including private adoption agencies. Below is a list of additional resources for people interested in adoption.