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Adoption Requirements - Will You Qualify?


If you're hoping to adopt a child you may be concerned about adoption requirements. Who can become an adoptive parent? What qualities do the law and adoption agencies believe are necessary? Will you qualify? While there is some variation in adoption law from place to place, and in requirements between different agencies, there are some factors that will be considered in all adoptions. Here is a list of the most common adoption requirements, and what you need to know about them.


While single people can and do adopt, the process is generally easier if you're married. If you are married, most agencies require couples to be married at least three years before adopting. Previous divorce is not usually an issue if the current marriage is stable. In international or infant adoptions, in particular, it is not uncommon for agencies to require that one parent stay at home with the new child for some specified period of time.


The minimum age for adoption is normally 18. In the U.S., most agencies consider the maximum eligible age to be 40, though some will make exceptions. Private adoptions, conducted through an attorney, may allow for older parents, as well, but the rule of thumb is that there should be no more than 40 years' difference between the age of the parents and the age of the child. In international adoptions, however, older parents may have an advantage. Their maturity and experience is considered a plus.


The adopting parents must be in good health. Because the goal of adoption is giving children a stable home, adoption requirements try to minimize the chance that a child will suffer the trauma of losing a parent because of illness. Some agencies will not permit adoption by individuals who are obese (or very underweight), considering it to be a significant health issue. A complete medical history will be required, and possibly a psychological evaluation, too.


By law, a disability does not disqualify a potential adoptive parent, but some disabilities may make it more difficult to care for a child to his or her adulthood. Individuals with disabilities should shop around for an agency with the expertise to handle this type of adoption.

Bad habits

The use of tobacco is becoming an obstacle to adoption, and some agencies already simply prohibit placing a child with a smoker. Alcohol is not generally considered a problem unless there are signs of excessive consumption, or if an agency is sponsored by a religious organization that opposes it. All agencies refuse to consider drug users, and are extremely cautious about considering anyone with a history of drug abuse.

Criminal background check

Your background will be checked thoroughly to uncover prior criminal convictions or legal problems, bankruptcy, child abuse, or substance abuse. If there's something in your past that will show up in this check, be open with your agency about it beforehand so that they can discuss your options.

There are other adoption requirements that may be in place because of a particular agency's policies. These can include requirements about religion (families may only adopt children of the same faith), fertility status (childless couples who cannot conceive are given priority), or other factors (applications from gay or lesbian couples may be accepted or refused). If any of these prove to be stumbling blocks for your adoption, look for a different agency.

One important fact you should remember is that many requirements can be waived under the right circumstances. State and local laws must be followed strictly, of course, but adoption professionals can allow a lot of rules, policies and regulations to be modified or waived if the situation warrants it. Don't be afraid to ask for an exception!

Adoption requirements are in place to help ensure a safe, loving, permanent home for your future child. You may need to make some changes before you qualify, or have to shop around for an adoption agency that will be right for your particular case. Good luck with your adoption!

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