Adopting a child is a beautiful, life-changing opportunity for children, parents, and families alike, but getting through the adoption process itself can be long, complicated, and emotional. To help ensure the best possible experience for everyone involved, it is important that you educate yourself and your loved ones on adoption. Being prepared allows you to maintain realistic expectations and helps you make the best decisions for you and your family.
Whether you are a biological parent or an adoptive party, your role in a child’s adoption experience is important and deserves to be represented with integrity and respect. Your questions and concerns are valid, and you should feel confident that the answers and guidance you receive come from an experienced source who knows the law and is committed to the best interests of you and the child involved.
How long does it take to adopt a child in Oklahoma?
Embarking on the adoption process takes time and patience. In addition to 27 hours of pre-service training, adults must submit an application and undergo an extensive home study with references and background checks before they can even be considered as an adoptive party. From there, the process can vary greatly depending on whether a child has already been placed in your home as a foster child or if you have to wait for a suitable match; when parental rights are terminated; and legal proceedings. Adoptions can take anywhere from several months to a year or longer. And, all adoptive families must complete post-placement supervision of at least six months before the adoption can be finalized.
Remaining open and flexible about your adoption options and opportunities can dramatically reduce your wait period, and being prepared—especially financially—can help expedite things like the home study and assessment.
How many children are waiting for adoption in Oklahoma?
There are currently around 500 children in the Oklahoma state welfare system eligible for adoption, although more than 9,000 are in out-of-home care due to abuse or neglect. The majority of children awaiting adoption are already in some type of foster or group home because their parents were unable—financially, emotionally, or physically—to care for them and maintain a safe environment.
The State Department of Human Resources works with private agencies and attorneys to help find children suitable adoptive homes.
What kinds of children are waiting for adoption in Oklahoma?
Children currently waiting for adoption in Oklahoma typically have some degree of special needs—including emotional, medical, and/or physical—and range in age from infants to 17 years old. Many are part of a sibling group that needs to be placed together and come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
What are the requirements to adopt in Oklahoma?
To be considered as a prospective adoptive parent in Oklahoma, you must:
- Be in reasonably good health
- Currently have or be able to provide sufficient sleeping and living space for additional children
- Be at least 21 years old
- Be able to manage your income to meet your family’s financial needs
Above all, you must be able to safely and properly house, clothe, feed, and otherwise care for the child with love, acceptance, and understanding.
What disqualifies me from adopting in Oklahoma?
Your application as an adoptive parent can be denied for several reasons, many of them legal, such as:
- History of child or spousal abuse or neglect
- History of arrest or convictions
- History of violent crime, crimes against a child, or drug-related offenses
Who can adopt in Oklahoma?
Anyone over the age of 21 can adopt in Oklahoma. This includes, but may not be limited to:
- A married person who is legally separated
- Partners (married or unmarried), including LGBTQ+ partners, petitioning to adopt a partner’s child or child of the relationship, either through second-parent adoption or as a step-parent
- Single (unmarried) persons, including LGBTQ+ individuals, petitioning to adopt as a single parent
- Same-sex couples (married or unmarried) petitioning for joint adoption
For more on LGBTQ+ adoptions in Oklahoma, visit our page here.
How much does it cost to adopt a child?
While there is no fee for families to adopt a child currently in the OKDHS foster care program, there may be incidental fees associated with adoption, including application fees or other upfront costs for going through an agency or adoption lawyer. Adopting a healthy infant through a private agency or attorney in the United States, for example, can range from a few hundred dollars to $30,000 or more. Adoption-related expenses can include anything from attorney fees and court costs to medical, living, and travel expenses for the birth mother.
Inter-country adoptions can cost just as much and often more, with fees ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 and additional travel and living expenses while the adoptive parents live in or visit the foreign country.
What kinds of adoption services are available?
There are a wealth of services and resources available to adoptive families both before and after adoption. Before adoption, your social worker, agency representative, or family law attorney can provide you with information on adoptive parent support groups and family preparation classes. After adoption, these same individuals can put you in contact with additional resources like individual and family counseling and parenting workshops.
Biological parents can also find help from support resources like birth parent and pregnancy support groups.
What types of adoption are there?
There are three primary types of adoption in Oklahoma.
- Related adoption, in which one of the adoptive parents is related by marriage or blood to the child
- Unrelated, in which neither of the adoptive parents is related to the child
- Adult adoption
These three categories can further include more specific types of adoption, such as:
- Adoption of blood or nonblood relatives
- Stepparent adoptions
- Interstate and international adoptions
- Agency or foster care adoptions
- Private adoptions
- Special needs and infant adoptions
- Open/closed adoption
- Contested/uncontested adoption
Can the biological parents take the child back?
Full adoption requires the birth or biological parents to relinquish all legal parental rights so that all legal ties to the child or children are removed when the adoption becomes finalized. There are occasional instances when a biological parent decides to keep the child or children before the adoption is finalized, but these cases are infrequent relative to the kinds of coverage they get. In most adoption situations, the biological parent has already given up their rights, and the child is legally available for adoption before a placement is ever made.
Can I adopt a child of a different race?
Yes. The Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) of 1995 prevents any agency that receives federal funding from discriminating against adoptive families or children on the basis of race.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is another transracial adoption law that outlines guidelines for the adoption of Native American children. Many Native American tribes and nations in Oklahoma require adoptive parents to provide adequate opportunities for native children to experience cultural contact and instruction, including in their language and cultural traditions, and some require that at least one of the adoptive parents is an enrolled member of any federally recognized tribe. As such, the ICWA prioritizes placement preferences that keep Indian children with relatives or other Indian families, but other placements will be considered with non-native families if they meet the criteria outlined in the law.
Can I adopt a child from a different state?
Yes. The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), which was passed in 1998, removes geographic barriers to adoption, requiring state agencies to expedite permanent placement opportunities whenever an approved family is available, wherever they are. By establishing standard guidelines and timelines for permanency planning, the law also prevents state agencies from delaying or denying a placement.
Can I choose which child to adopt?
While you cannot choose the individual child you wish to adopt, the approval, selection, and pre-placement processes are specifically designed to help match you with a child who will be compatible with your family. Extensive surveys, questionnaires, training, and interviews allow all parties involved ample opportunities to define what is important to them and what they hope to gain from a successful adoption.
For example, you can indicate certain preferences such as whether you would like an open or closed adoption, which determines whether or not the birth parents have any contact with the child or children; if you prefer a child of your own race or of a different race, based your ability to meet their cultural needs; and if you prefer a set age range that will allow your family to continue functioning effectively. You can rarely, if ever, request a child on the basis of gender or genetic traits.
Children that are currently eligible for adoption are also allowed to list their preferences, needs, and wishes for potential adoptive families, further improving the chances that any matches made are mutually beneficial and more likely to create a safe and permanent placement.
When your caseworker identifies a potential match between your family and a child or sibling group, you will receive more information on them and be given an opportunity to ask questions, confirm your interest in adopting them, or withdraw your request for that particular match.
The more open you are to adopting, the more options will be available to you and the sooner you are likely to receive a placement. Remember, all children deserve safe, loving, and nurturing homes, regardless of their individual traits. And, decisions about matches and adoptions are ultimately made with the best interests and needs of the child in mind.
What is the adoption process?
Before you begin the adoption process, you must first apply to be an adoptive parent. While the actual application paperwork may vary with the agency or law firm, the framework is essentially the same, gathering information about your lifestyle and family situation, age, and income. There are usually some upfront fees for the application.
The adoption process consists of two stages: the pre-placement stage and the post-placement stage. (Placement refers to the time when the child enters your home.) All adoptions require a pre-placement wait period that can vary with several factors, such as the legal situation of the child and biological parents, the type of adoption, the age of the child, and where you are adopting from.
During pre-placement, you will undergo an in-depth home study to determine your suitability as an adoptive family and the safety and adequacy of your home life to support a child. You will also wait to be matched with the right child or prospective birth mother. When a compatible match has been made, the adoption agency will obtain the consent of all parties involved, including the child (if he or she is old enough), the adoptive parents, and the biological parents (if they have not done so already). In preparation for the transition of custody, adoption paperwork will be filed with the court, which will review the request for adoption, sign a custody order, and approve the adoption.
Throughout the pre-placement process, you will have scheduled visits with the child or children you plan to adopt, which serve as a good opportunity for both your family and the child or children to interact together and learn about each other.
After the child has been placed in your home, the adoption agency facilitating the process will supervise your family for a legally specified length of time—typically not less than six months—through in-home follow-up visits before the adoption can be finalized.
After an appropriate amount of time passes and the family and new child have settled in together and are thriving, then a court date can be set to finalize the adoption.
What is a home study or home assessment?
A home assessment, which is required for all adoptive families, is used to determine if the prospective adoptive family and home is a safe, financially stable environment, and consists of:
- References and background checks
- Medical exam
- Verification of sufficient income, auto insurance
- Family assessment, to include all family members
- Completion of 27-hour resource family orientation
You must have a favorable written home study completed before receiving a child placement and current within 12 months of the placement.
Adoption Services from Shannon Taylor
Adoption is a big step for any family, one that requires diligence, patience, and attention to detail. If you are considering adopting, contacting an experienced professional, such as a family law attorney, is a good place to start.
The Law Office of Shannon Taylor is committed to providing Oklahoma families with compassionate and professional services throughout their adoption journey. She has extensive experience in specialized areas of adoption including LGBTQ+, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and the Interstate Compact for Placement of Children (ICPC). Whether you are the prospective adoptive party or the biological parent, your case deserves quality representation. To schedule an initial consultation or request a free case evaluation, call 405-602-8446, email Shannon directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the online contact form at staylorlaw.com/adoption.