I just finished reading a book about adoption fraud in Tennessee in the early 1900s and it sparked a curiosity in me about how adoption started in our state and what protections our laws afford to children, birth families, and adoptive families in Idaho.
Through my research, I learned that adoption became a recognized legal practice in the United States in 1851, first being implemented in Massachusetts to ensure that adoption decisions are based on a child’s best interests. Idaho implemented a similar version of the Adoption of Children Act in 1897 and it is still in effect today.
Recent studies estimate that about 135,000 children are adopted in America every year and about 6 out of every 10 American citizens have a personal experience with adoption. Local statistics show that about 900 of those 135,000 adoptions occur in our great state of Idaho. Nationwide nearly 100 million Americans have adoption stories within their immediate family and although only 2% of us have actually adopted, more than 1/3 of us have considered it at some point in time. This made me think: do my fellow Idahoans know what the process is to adopt a child in Idaho?
The process to adopt in Idaho is explained in our own Adoption of Children Act. Under that Act, any adult can adopt a minor child under the provisions outlined therein. In addition, an adult can adopt another adult where the adopting adult acted as a parent for a period of a year prior to the adoptee becoming an adult or for a period a court determines establishes “a substantial family relationship.” How interesting – even if my child has become an adult before we had the chance to formalize our parent-child relationship prior to him or her reaching 18 years of age, I can still adopt him or her as my lawful child.
Before an adoption can become final, certain individuals must consent to the adoption, including:
• The person to be adopted, if he or she is older than twelve years old;
• The living parents of the person to be adopted if the adoptee was born to a married couple;
• The biological mother if the child was born out of wedlock;
• Any person who has been adjudicated to be the adoptee’s biological father by a court; and
• An unmarried biological father in a few different situations and circumstances.
The actual adoption court case begins when a person seeking to adopt the child files a petition with the Court. After the adoptive parent proves that notice of the case has been given to all applicable parties, provides consents from all necessary parties, signs an agreement to care for and treat the adoptee as a legal child, and proves that the adoption is in the best interest of the child, the Court will issue a Judgment of Adoption and the decision is final.
Adoptions require great care by all interested parties, including adoption agencies, state agencies, and attorneys, to comply with all legal requirements, important parental rights, which are protected by our U.S. Constitution, are afforded due process, and ensure that great care is afford to children who cannot speak for themselves. If this care is not given by each party involved there is a risk that the adoption could be overturned. To avoid these potential problems, all interested parties should be sure to strictly comply with the provisions of the Idaho Adoption of Children Act.
If you have any questions about adoptions in Idaho, where to find resources, or are interested in talking to a lawyer about starting the adoption process, please do not hesitate to give me a call.