Review of Qualification Requirements for Prospective Adoptive Parents, pg 3

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Disabilities of Adoptive Parents: Having some form of a disability does not necessarily disqualify an adoptive parent from being able to adopt a child. Although some adoption agencies will work with prospective adoptive parents who have disabilities, not all agencies will have the expertise or resources available to properly handle this kind of an adoption. Naturally, there are some disabilities that may make it difficult, or even impossible, for a hopeful adoptive parent to physically or emotionally provide the kind of constant care, supervision, and nurturing that a child will require. There are other disabilities, however, where adjustments can be made for in a variety of ways so that the individual with the disability to become a parent. In making these difficult determinations, an agency will focus on the ability of the prospective parent to properly care for a child and to meet its needs through its entire childhood, since it would not be in the best interests of the child to allow bonding with an adoptive parent, only to find out later that the child must be separated from that parent as the result of an inability to provide adequately for the child's care. Although each situation will be considered on a case-by-case basis, it needs to be realized that no one has an absolute "right" to adopt a child, especially if the input of a birth parent is necessary in order for that to happen. Naturally, one factor that can weigh heavily in favor of allowing an adoption to go forward, both for an agency and for a birthparent, would be if the disabled parent was already successfully parenting children, or even was providing a significant amount of care for the children of someone else.

Use of Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco: Because of the growing awareness of the significant health problems that follow the use of tobacco, including the problems that can be caused by the exposure to second-hand smoke, some adoption agencies are now prohibiting placements with adoptive parents who smoke. Some of the agencies that are sponsored by religious organizations that oppose the consumption of alcohol by their members are also prohibiting placements with adoptive parents who consume alcohol. Even some non-sectarian agencies see the current use of alcohol as a problem if there is an indication that the level is excessive, or that it is getting in the way of responsible living, which is the foundation of responsible parenting. Without exception, all agencies will screen out drug-abusers, and will look very carefully at individuals with any prior history of drug or other substance abuse. Many agencies feel that this can be an indicator of potential current or future substance abuse. Even if hopeful adopters who are users of any of these substances are able to get past the screening of their adoption agency, they may still have to deal with the negative stigma when attempting to be matched with a birthmother who may not want this lifestyle for her child.

Fertility Status of Adoptive Parents: As a general rule, many adoption agencies will give some degree of preference to infertile couples in the placement of healthy infants, although this preference can be easily waived under the right circumstances, or when required by the preferences of a birthmother. In the adoption of children with special needs, or in international adoptions, fertile couples may also qualify to adopt on an equal footing with infertile couples.

Religious Considerations: As a result of requirements contained in their enabling charters, many sectarian adoption agencies will give priority to members of their religious group. Some of these sectarian agencies may even totally limit their adoption placements to members of their own group. Although some adopting couples express concerns that these kinds of practices appear to be unfair or even discriminatory, in reality, if a religious group provides all of the funding and supervision for its own captive adoption agency, it is certainly free to set its own preferences. In most cases, adopters are free to join, support, and be supported or given preferential treatment by any religious or other groups that they choose. Adopters with no particular religious preference or membership can anticipate this and may want to direct their efforts to non-sectarian agencies, where they will do just fine.

Other Children in the Family: Some agencies will not place more than two healthy infants with any adoptive family. If a family already has one child by either birth or adoption, they may be allowed to apply for and receive another child. For many years, the process of selecting adoptive parents was focused on fulfilling the dreams of "childless parents." Although this was certainly a worthwhile goal, more recently, the tide seems to have shifted to give some consideration to the advantages of placing a child with "experienced" parents who already have one or more children who will be siblings, role models, and protectors for the new child. How this plays out in each situation will depend a lot on the preferences of the birthparents. Placements with families who already have children in the home seem to be significantly more common in independent adoptions, where placing parents seem to have more input into who adopts their children. If adopters already have two children in their family, they may still be able to adopt through a private adoption, where they may receive a child from a birthmother who already has several children in her own family, and wants this same kind of an environment for the child she is placing. There are no laws that limit the size of a family in a private adoption setting.

Stay-At-Home Parent: Generally, it is recognized that both parents may be required to work outside the home; however, some agencies ask one parent, usually the mother, to remain at home for the first six months that a baby is in the home. In private adoptions there also seems to be a growing recognition of the short and long-term benefits of placing children into families that will have a stay-at-home parent. In international adoptions, some countries ask for assurances that one parent will stay at home with the new child for a period of time.

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