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Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) about adoptions in SC and includes adoption terms that explain or define adoption terminology. If you have additional questions or need clarification, please contact any member of the SCALAA.


FAQ About Adoptions and Adoption Terms


What is Open Adoption? 
Open adoption is an agreement to allow some form of contact between birth parents and adoptive parents. It ranges from a pre-placement meeting to letters or pictures after placement, or even personal visitations after placement. Each person needs to assess what if any, degree of openness is acceptable or desirable for them in an open adoption.


Does the baby go to a Foster Home in domestic adoptions? 
No. In most cases, the baby goes directly from the hospital to the home of the adoptive parents, allowing the bonding process to begin immediately upon obtaining a relinquishment from the birth mother.


What are the average fees for adoption?
Domestic: Fees can vary from $15,000 to $35,000 for domestic adoptions. The adoption fee may vary according to the needs of the birth mother. Certain expenses can be covered during her pregnancy which include medical care, housing, transportation, and counseling expenses.

International: Typical costs will range from $22,000 to $34,000. US adoption agencies normally charge a set facilitation fee. In-country placement fees, travel expenses, and other adoption-related expenses vary from country to country.


Adoption Terms


The legal transfer of all parental rights and obligations from one person or couple to another person or couple.


Adoption Agency
An adoption agency is an entity authorized to take a relinquishment of a child and to place that child with adoptive parents. Most adoption agencies provide in-depth adoption services that generally include; pre-placement (education), adoption home studies, post-placement reporting, post-placement reports, and various adoption programs. All South Carolina adoption agencies are licensed and must meet high standards. It is illegal in South Carolina to operate an adoption agency without a license. There are international, domestic infant, and special needs adoption programs.


Adoption Attorney
An attorney that specializes in adoption. Some attorneys will process the paperwork required for adoption only. Other attorneys will provide in-depth adoption-related services.


Adoptive Parent
An individual who is granted parental rights for a child through a proper legal channel.


Apostille / Certification
These special seals are issued by the Notary Division of the SC Secretary of State. Apostilles and/or certifications are often mandated for international adoption documents. They confirm the authenticity of the notary’s signature and expiration date.


In international adoption, this refers to a set of required legal documents that are used to process the adoption of a child in his or her own country by adoptive parents. In some cases, it is used for the adoptive parents so that they may be granted legal custody or guardianship of the child in the foreign court, in order for the child to be brought by the adoptive parents to the U.S. for adoption.


The stage in the adoption process is when the court awards the Petition to Adopt to the adoptive parents. For international adoption, finalization means that the judge has granted the adoptive family parental rights to the child - the adoption is finalized.


​Foster Parents
An individual or couple who has temporary care of a child, but has no legal rights in determining many aspects of a child's life. Sometimes foster parents become adoptive parents. The goal of foster care is to return a child to his or her birth home unless the courts decide this is no longer in the child's best interest.


Hague (Hague Convention on International Adoptions)
An international agreement that includes over 35 countries, including the U.S., that set standards and procedures to protect children involved in inter-country adoptions. It is also set up to protect the interests of their birth and adoptive parents in the participating countries. The agreement is designed to discourage "black markets" and to ensure that inter-country adoptions are completed with the best interests of the children in mind.


Home Study
The in-depth review prospective adoptive parents must go through to be able to legally adopt. A home study typically includes evaluations of the adoptive parents' relationship, inspections of their residence, parenting ideals, medical history, employment verification, financial status, and criminal background checks. Home studies are current for 1 year. After expiration, a home study update must be completed in order to adopt.


International Adoption or Inter-country Adoption
The adopted child comes from another country. Travel by the adoptive parents may or may not be required. International adoption can be done with an agency or independently. Approval must be obtained from both domestic and foreign governments.


Interstate Compact
The legal agreement between the states concerning a child living in one state and going to another state to be adopted. Adoption paperwork such as home studies must be reviewed by the state the child is residing in before the child can leave the state for its new home. An attorney can file the paperwork.


The process of combining the best interest of the child with qualified adoptive parents. The best interest of the child is determined by the birth parent or legal guardian of the child.


Non-Identifying Information
Secondary information is made available to adoption-related parties that do not include identifying information.


Open Adoption
An adoption that gives birthparents and adoptive parents information that could be used to identify them. This can be at the time the adoption takes place and/or while the child grows up. It can be anywhere from minimal information like a photo and letter being exchanged at the time of birth, to regular contact between birthparents and adoptive parents and child.


A child in a foreign country who has no living parents, or whose parents have disappeared or abandoned the child. In order for a child to be able to be brought into the U.S. for the purpose of adoption, the child must legally be an "orphan."  


An institution in a foreign country where children are placed because they are orphaned, abandoned, or their parents are unable to care for them.


Parental Rights
All legal rights and corresponding legal obligations that come with being the legal parent of a child.


Petition to Adopt
In the U.S., this is an official document that is filed with the court to commence the act of adoption.


Photo Listing
Any form of publication that includes photos and/or descriptions of adoptable children.


Describes the point in time when the child goes to live with his/her legal adoptive parents


Placing Country
In international adoption, this refers to the country where the adoptive family resides and where the child resides once the adoption is complete.


Post-Placement Supervision
Once a child is placed with an adoptive family, a social worker will be assigned to complete post-placement supervision. The worker will visit the home several times during a set period of time (according to state requirements) to determine if the adoption of the child is in the "best interest of the child".


Private Adoption
This means that an attorney, who represents the adoptive parents, makes the legal arrangements for adoption rather than an adoption agency or welfare department.


Prospective Adoptive Parent (PAP)
An individual or family that wishes to adopt a child and is somewhere in the process (selecting an agency, completing their home study, etc.).  


When adoptive parents go through the process of adopting a foreign child in the U.S. after it has already been finalized in a foreign country. This is in order for the child to obtain a U.S. birth certificate, showing the adoptive parents to be the legal parents.


When a birth parent voluntarily forfeits his or her parental rights to a child. The parental rights are typically transferred to an agency, rather than directly to the new adoptive parents.


Special Needs Adoption
Refers to many categories of children, including those with physical, emotional, and medical disabilities, children over the age of five, or those in foster care. Special Needs children can also refer to siblings that are trying to be placed together.


Termination of Parental Rights
This can be done as a voluntary process when birth parents consent to an adoption. Termination of parental rights can also be done against the will of the parents if a state determines that it is in the best interest of the child. A termination of parental rights is a legal process and must be done before an adoption can be finalized.


The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
A federal agency that is governed by the U.S. Department of Justice and handles the immigration of all foreign-born persons into the U.S. Before a foreign adoption can even take place, the USCIS must authorize the foreign child to be allowed to enter the U.S. for the purpose of adoption. This is done by completing Form I-600 and I-600A.


Indicates that an application that was filed by the adoptive parents has been reviewed by a Consular officer of the country's embassy or consulate and that the officer has determined that they are eligible to enter the country for a specific purpose.


Waiting Children
Another term for children with special needs, especially children who are in need of homes to be adopted into. Usually, the children are five years old or older.

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