Types of Adoption
Many prospective parents seek to adopt healthy infants, often with backgrounds similar to their own. In the United States, a relatively small percentage of healthy, Caucasian infants are placed for adoption. In North Dakota, Caucasian infants are placed through private adoption agencies. African-American, Hispanic, and mixed-race infants are available through private adoption agencies, both in this state and others. The adoption of American Indian children (of all ages) by non-Indians is strictly 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 with Special Needs
Many children with special needs are available for adoption. These children may be older (grade school through teens); may have physical, emotional, or mental disabilities; or may be part of a sibling group that should be adopted together. Usually, these children are in the care of a state 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). 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 national adoption exchange. 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.
Many children from other countries are 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, and South America. Additional information about adoption from different countries is available on the U.S. State Department's Web Site. More than 700 private U.S. agencies place children from foreign countries; and a few countries allow families to work with attorneys rather than agencies. 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 (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.