The act of lawfully assuming the parental rights and responsibilities of another person, usually a child under the age of 18. A legal adoption imposes the same rights and responsibilities on an adoptive parent as are imposed on and assumed by a parent when the child is born to the family. Adoption grants social, emotional and legal family membership to the person who is adopted.
An old and inappropriate definition of adoption is "to raise someone else's child," and in some minds, this definition may still prevail. Yet it mistakenly implies the concept of ownership, and people cannot own other people, including children. Instead, parents are responsible for their children, unless they choose to end that responsibility or the state decides to end the responsibility.
The birthparent cannot sever the genetic inheritance; however, she or he can terminate parental rights by transferring them to another family, or the court may opt to terminate parental rights and transfer them to another family when the family adopts the child.
The act of adoption generally includes a HOME STUDY, or family study, evaluation and counseling of the prospective adoptive parents, either before or after placement. The study is usually performed by a licensed social worker or individual serving in a caseworker capacity. This home study and the recommendations of the social worker are provided to the JUDGE at the time of FINALIZATION of the legal completion of the adoption.
The judge will then approve or disapprove the request for adoption. If approved, the adoption is valid thenceforth. The adopted child has all the rights of children born to a family, and the birthparents' parental rights and obligations are permanently severed by law.
The original birth certificate is usually "sealed" (see SEALED RECORDS), and a new birth certificate is prepared with the adoptive parents listed as parents.
If the birthparents wish to revoke their consent to the adoption, they must petition the court for a legal hearing and provide compelling reasons why the adoption should be invalidated. Very few adoptions are invalidated after finalization. (See also ADOPTIVE PARENTS; BIRTHMOTHER; BIRTHFATHER; INHERITANCE).
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©2000 by Christine Adamec and William Pierce, Ph.D. Reprinted from The Encyclopedia of Adoption, 2nd Edition (2nd Edition) with permission of Facts On File, Inc.