Adoption Frequently Asked Questions #4
What are the adoption laws in my State? How do I find out about my state laws governing adoption?
Adoptions in the United States are primarily governed by State laws and regulations. Federal laws regarding adoption are limited to laws regarding assistance in adopting children with special needs*, tax laws which give credit or exclusions for qualified adoption costs (see: www.irs.gov, key word "Adoption Credit"), and laws governing the placement of children.
Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children’s Bureau, provides summaries of some aspects of State adoption laws and other relevant legal information on its website at: http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies. While every attempt has been made to be as complete as possible, additional information on these topics may exist in other sections of a State's code as well as in agency regulations, case law, and informal practices and procedures. For more information, you may wish to contact an attorney familiar with adoption laws in your State; the American Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service provides a State-by-State directory of attorney referral programs at: http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/lris/directory/home.html; click on your State for a listing of referrals. In addition, the Cornell University Law School online Legal Information Institute has a page relating to legal issues in adoption at: http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/adoption.
* For many people, a child determined to have special needs means a child who receives or needs special education or who has a disability of some sort. In adoption, the term is defined differently and may include the factors listed below. There is no Federal definition of special needs, and guidelines for classifying a child as having special needs vary by State. Children with special needs range in age from infants to 18 years. In general, children with special needs are those who:
- Have a physical or health problem
- Are older
- Are members of ethnic or racial minorities
- Have a history of abuse and/or neglect
- Have emotional problems
- Have siblings and need to be adopted as a group
- Test positive for HIV
- Have documented conditions that may lead to future problems
- Were prenatally exposed to drugs and/or alcohol.
Almost all children who meet the special needs guidelines and who are available for adoption are currently in the public foster care system. Some have moved through several different foster placements.