A parent who adopts a child assumes the legal responsibility for raising that child as part of their family. Some people choose to adopt because they can’t have biological children. Others may become aware of children in need of a home and choose to expand their family.
Most children are adopted when they’re young. In the United States, 7,903 one-year-olds and 9,378 two-year-olds were adopted in 2019. Adoption rates drop significantly as children age. Only 1,908 13-year-olds and 88 18-year-olds were adopted that same year. You may want answers to these common questions if you’re thinking about adopting a teenager.
What types of adoption are there?
In an open adoption, the adoptive parents have direct contact with the biological parents. You’ll be able to meet with the biological parents before the adoption is finalized and stay in contact with them after the child joins your family.
Semi-open adoptions offer you the option of indirect contact with the biological parents. A third party receives any photos or letters you choose to send and forwards them to the biological parent.
Some biological parents opt for closed adoptions. The adoptive parents have no opportunity to contact the biological parents before or after the adoption process.
Stepparent adoption is also known as second-parent adoption. A parent’s partner may want to adopt the children legally. This is an option when the other biological parent is deceased or has no relationship with their children. Second parent adoptions allow the stepparent to assume legal parental responsibility without nullifying their partner’s parental rights.
When a lesbian couple opts to impregnate one partner through artificial insemination, the stepparent can use second parent adoption to legalize their relationship with the child.
What steps should you take before you adopt?
Find a therapist and discuss your plans. A licensed counselor from WithTherapy can help you work through the reasons you’re considering adoption and any concerns you have. Your therapist can provide insight and support as you adjust to your new role as a parent, and you can expand your services to include family counseling once the adoption is complete. Having a therapist ensures you have a support system in place to help you navigate the challenges of adopting a teenager.
Whether you plan to pursue an open adoption, closed adoption, or second parent adoption, hiring an attorney is crucial. An experienced adoption attorney will ensure the adoption complies with state laws and help you navigate the legal process while ensuring your rights are protected.
Identify the resources you have and what you’ll need. Perhaps you already own a home with empty bedrooms and won’t need to move. If you currently live in a small house or apartment, you may need more space to accommodate your growing family.
Consider your teen’s academic needs. Whether you’re thinking about enrolling your child in a Catholic high school or a private school, it’s a good idea to tour all the schools in your area. Each school may offer different courses and extra-curricular opportunities and have a distinct climate. If you don’t feel comfortable in their environment, there’s a good chance your teen won’t either. Taking time to meet with school officials and learn about each schools’ philosophy will help you make the best choice for your child.
What factors could complicate your relationship with your new child?
Teenagers have years of prior experiences and potential trauma that may make it difficult for them to trust you. In some cases, teens are put up for adoption because they’re orphaned. They may have had a healthy relationship with their parents and maybe grieving. This could make it difficult for them to accept a new parent right away.
Teens who have spent years in the foster care system may feel rejected and have low self-esteem. These issues can compound other common challenges teens face. In 2014, 10 percent of all teenagers experienced a major depressive episode. It’s also common for teenagers to struggle with anxiety and social phobias. The events that led to your teen’s adoption could compound existing mental health issues.
You may also face unique challenges if you adopt a teen who has a different religion or culture. You may need to seek opportunities to help them connect with other people who share their cultural heritage or find an appropriate place where they can worship. Your teen may resent you if you try to sever these connections, and losing their religious or cultural community may compound their grief. Helping your teen retain essential connections and relationships will show them that you respect them and help you and your teen bond.
You’ll need to decide what information to share with your teen about the adoption. Some teens may be aware of all of the factors that led to their adoption, while others may have spent years in foster care and have no memory of their parents. It’s natural for adopted children to have questions about their biological family, and you should consider what information you think it’s appropriate to share before your teen starts asking those questions. This way, you won’t be caught off guard or end up sharing more than may be appropriate.
Where do adopted children come from?
The child welfare system handles the adoptions of children in foster care. Many children in foster care have entered their state’s custody due to abuse or neglect. The state also assumes responsibility for children who are orphaned and have no biological relatives.
International adoption is another popular option. Prospective parents hire attorneys who help them navigate the international adoption process. This can be expensive and complicated. Adopted children do not automatically receive citizenship, which means you’ll need to address their immigration status after you adopt.
Agencies handle private adoptions. Adoption agencies charge high fees, which may be a deterrent for some people.
Private adoption is also an option for parents who want to choose the family that will adopt their child. The biological and adoptive parents handle the adoption themselves without the use of an agency.
Gay couples may also arrange for private adoption. A gay couple who wishes to adopt or have a biological child may make arrangements with a surrogate who carries the child. Once the child is delivered, the non-biological parent can adopt the child. In some cases, a person opts to use a surrogate to have a child while they’re single. You may consider teen adoption if you start a relationship with the parent when their child is a teenager.
Kinship adoption occurs when a relative adopts a family member. For example, if you have a sibling who dies or develops a terminal illness, you might adopt their children and raise them.
There are several types of adoption you can consider when adopting a teenager. Your decision may be influenced by where the teenager is coming from or the biological parents’ wishes. There are also several practical questions to answer, such as whether you need to move to a bigger home and which school your teen should attend. A therapist can prepare you to adopt a teenager and help you and your teen adjust after the adoption is finalized.