Imagine attending a baseball game with no rules! Where you could throw the ball at a runner to be called out; or using baseballs with different sizes, shapes, and colors; or changing the number of outs from inning to inning.  What chaos! Baseball rules preserve the orderliness, safety, and integrity of the game. It is the same for adoption rules. Without these rules, children would be less safe, child and parental rights would be trampled, and no one would know what to expect. Here are some adoption rules you should know if you want to embark on an adoption journey.

Background Checks

First, any prospective adoptive parent must be willing to submit to Federal, State, and local background checks. These checks vary from state to state, but if you want to adopt, prepare to be fingerprinted. Also, be prepared to submit your driving record as well as a check with your local Child Protective Services. These measures may seem invasive but imagine adoption with no background checks! We could be placing a child in the hands of someone bent on the exploitation of children! Background checks ensure the safest placement of children for adoption.

Central Registries

Did you ever watch “America’s Most Wanted” TV show while it was on the air? It was inspired by John Walsh whose son Adam was kidnapped and killed in the 1980’s. John’s work to catch child predators also spawned State Central Registries. These Central Registries ensure that a person in one state has not had a substantiated allegation of abuse or neglect in another state. The sad truth is that there are many child predators out there. This law discourages any of them from pursuing adoption for less than noble reasons.

The Home Study

Home studies can be quite invasive. Sometimes they feel like worse than a doctor’s exam, but it is for a purpose. A home study gives the courts a snapshot of your home, your values, and your lifestyle. It also is a compilation of the many reports you have had to complete including interviews, references, physicals and background checks. It also helps when it is time to match a child to your family. Your home study will show whether your family is skilled enough to meet the needs of a child who is free for adoption.

Termination of Parental Rights

Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) is a very important legal measure in the adoption process. In domestic adoptions, this can happen voluntarily or involuntarily. If done voluntarily, a parent can relinquish his/her rights if they believe they cannot care for the needs of their child. On the other hand, if the courts have determined that a parent has abused, neglected or abandoned a child, the courts may move to terminate or severe a parent’s rights. A parent may object and demand a trial, but if there is enough documented evidence of a pattern of abuse or neglect, the evidence against them may be overwhelming. It is at this point that an adoptive family may come forward to adopt that child.

Indian Child Welfare Act (1978)

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was enacted as a measure to protect Native American children from being adopted unethically. Native American peoples have a history of injustice done against them such as the Cherokee Trail of Tears and the Long Walk of the Navajo. There has also been a history of whites going onto Indian reservations to “adopt” Native American children who were not orphans. ICWA places protections on Native American children and gives preference for the adoption of Native American children to Native Americans. If there are no appropriate Natives to adopt the child, then the child may be adopted by a non-Native and only after the courts are satisfied that it is in the best interest of the child. do so.

It is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to adoption rules, but these are the most important ones. Why so many? Children are our most precious gift. Don’t they deserve the best adoptive home possible? Many adoptive children have come from terrible situations either here or abroad. They deserve to be placed into a loving, permanent home so that the trauma does not continue. Adoption rules are a step towards assuring that this happens.

Derek Williams is an adoption social worker and has been in the field of child welfare and behavioral health since 2006, where he has assisted families in their adoption journey. He and his wife started their adoption journey in 1993 and have 8 children: 6 of which are adopted. His adoption children are all different ethnicities including East Indian, Jamaican, and Native American. He loves traveling with his family, especially to the East Coast and to the West Coast and is an avid NY Mets fan! Foster care and adoption is a passion and calling for Derek, and he is pleased to share his experiences with others who are like-minded.