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Your Complete Guide to Adoption Laws in the U.S.

How Adoption Laws Work and Why They’re Necessary

Whether you’re considering adopting a child or placing a child for adoption, there are some important adoption laws you’ll need to know. Adoption is a big decision, and it’s not a process that can be completed on your own. In fact, you’ll need the guidance of a professional to walk you through all the laws regarding adoption — to ensure that your journey is completed safely, ethically and legally.

But, what’s involved in a legal adoption? How do you make sure that you’re following applicable child adoption laws?

Working with American Adoptions will help. When you work with our agency, you’ll be provided personalized support from a trained adoption specialist. They’ll explain all the state and federal adoption laws that may apply in your situation and help you navigate the legalities of your decision. We will also connect you with a local adoption attorney, who can answer all of your questions about U.S. adoption laws and provide legal representation as you move forward.

If you want to learn more about domestic adoption laws, you can always request free information online. In the meantime, we’ve created this guide to American adoption laws to start your research.

Please remember: None of this information is intended to be or should be taken as legal advice. Please speak with a local adoption attorney for the most up-to-date and accurate information about your local adoption laws.

How Do Adoption Laws in the U.S.A. Work?

While there are different laws on adoption for each type of adoption process, we’ll focus on domestic adoption laws in this article. As a private domestic infant adoption agency, American Adoptions only completes the adoptions of infants, and those are the laws we are most familiar with.

You may be surprised to know that there are only a few federal adoption laws in the U.S. Instead, most of the laws on adoption of infants are determined by states. This can make the legal adoption process confusing — but rest assured that American Adoptions has the experience and know-how to help you navigate them.

When you start your adoption journey, our adoption specialists will explain how adoption laws in your state will impact your process. Once you find an adoption opportunity (either adoptive parents for your child or a prospective birth mother who has chosen you), we will evaluate how the laws in that other state will apply to your situation.

While we certainly complete in-state adoption matches, most of our adoptions take place across state borders. This is totally normal, and it won’t make your legal adoption process any harder. Again, we are experts in this process and we’ll help you understand how different state child adoption laws will affect your journey.

Don’t let the varying U.S. adoption laws discourage you; adoption in the United States is actually much safer and more preferred than adoption in another country. While laws on adoption here may seem confusing, they exist to protect all members of the adoption triad — something that other countries have struggled and still struggle with.

Why are Adoption Laws So Important?

We know the laws of adoption in the U.S. can be overwhelming and confusing. But they are important, because they are here to keep you safe.

The history of adoption is filled with unfortunate and tragic circumstances. Children were adopted without birth parent consent, adoptees had no access to their personal or medical history, and adoptive parents were subject to adoption scams and threats. United States adoption laws emerged in response to these situations, ensuring that the rights and interests of all members of the adoption triad were protected.

Today, laws of adoption serve a few important roles:

  • Ensure that children are placed in safe homes only after adoption is deemed in their best interest
  • Allow prospective birth parents to receive objective adoption information, without obligation or pressure to place their child
  • Allow prospective birth parents to receive financial assistance and support during their adoption
  • Ensure prospective birth parents have the right to change their mind and give their adoption consent with legal representation
  • Protect adoptive parents from birth parents “taking back” their children years after placement
  • Protect adoptees’ right to personal and medical adoption history
  • Enforce open adoption contact agreements (in some states)

These adoption laws inform everything that American Adoptions does. We make sure all of our adoptions are completed legally, ethically and safely — in a way that protects the rights and interests of all parties involved.

What Does the Legal Adoption Process Involve?

Every adoption is different, but there are a few laws that come into play in a domestic infant placement. Remember: Our adoption specialists are always here to answer your questions about how these laws will affect your journey.

Here are the general laws for adoption of infants that you can expect to encounter:

1. Home Studies and Other Adoption Requirements

Not just anyone can adopt an infant. States set specific adoption laws on what makes a person eligible to adopt a child, and professionals like American Adoptions set their own requirements, too.

If you are interested in adopting a child with our agency, our specialists will inform you of any residency requirements in your state, as well as our own agency requirements. All adoptive parents will need to complete a home study with a licensed professional before placement, as well.

2. Prospective Birth Parent Living Expenses

To lighten the financial burden of pregnancy and its related costs, prospective birth parents can receive financial assistance from adoption professionals. The exact amount of assistance (and how long it is offered) is based on state adoption laws. Our trained specialists work closely with prospective birth parents to provide appropriate financial support to women considering adoption, as well as additional resources.

3. Prospective Birth Parent Consent

When parents give their consent to place their children for adoption, it can be the hardest part of their personal journey. There are certain adoption laws that must be followed for this step, and American Adoptions ensures every prospective birth parent is provided the legal counsel needed to understand exactly what this decision entails. In many states, there is a waiting period after a child’s birth before a prospective birth mother can sign her consent. This gives her the chance to think over her decision and confirm she is making the right choice for her.

American Adoptions also guides prospective birth mothers and adoptive parents through the complexities of birth father laws. Again, these differ by state and by situation, so contact our team to learn more.


While these laws related to adoption will not apply in every situation, they are important to understand.

ICWA is the Indian Child Welfare Act. It stipulates certain steps and procedures that must be followed in any adoption that involves a child with Native American tribal eligibility. That process can vary, depending on the situation and the tribe involved.

ICPC is the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. Because there are no federal adoption laws for infant placement, ICPC takes on that role — overseeing the placement of children across state lines to ensure all applicable laws have been met. Our agency placements frequently involve ICPC, but it’s nothing to worry about. We help adoptive parents prepare for the steps of this process.

5. Post-Placement Visits and Finalization

Before an infant adoption can be final, adoptive parents must undergo post-placement visits with a licensed social worker. The number of these visits will vary based on state adoption laws. They ensure all parties are adjusting well to the placement and provide important information for the upcoming adoption finalization.

An adoption finalization occurs at a courthouse, where a judge will review all the adoption paperwork and issue a final decree of adoption to adoptive parents. This is the last step in the legal adoption process, no matter where you live.


If you have questions about adoption laws in the U.S.A, American Adoption is here to answer them. You can call our agency at 1-800-ADOPTION to be connected with a trained adoption specialist, or you can request more information about our agency online. Whatever your situation, we’ll be ready to guide you through the child adoption laws ahead.

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. American Adoptions provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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