Adoption became a recognized legal practice in the United States back in 1851, when Massachusetts passed the Adoption of Children Act, which recognized adoption as a legal means to improve child welfare. Recent studies estimate that about 135,000 children are adopted in America every year, with about 900 of those adoptions occurring in Idaho. The process to adoption in Idaho is explained in Idaho’s own Adoption of Children Act. A major goal of this Act is to provide stable and permanent homes for adoptive children in a prompt manner.
Under the Idaho Adoption of Children Act, any adult can adopt a minor under the process explained in the Act, and an adult can adopt another adult where the adopting adult acted as the parent for a period of a year prior to the adoptee becoming an adult or for a period a court determines establishes “a substantial family relationship.”
Before an adoption can become final, various persons must consent to the adoption, including:
- The adoptee, if he or she is older than twelve years old;
- If the adoptee was born in a marriage, the living parents of the adoptee, unless the adoptee is no longer a minor;
- If the minor was born out of wedlock, the mother of an adoptee;
- Any person who has been adjudicated to be the adoptee’s biological father by a court;
- An unmarried biological father of the adoptee who has filed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity pursuant to Idaho law;
- An unmarried biological father who has adopted the child by acknowledgement; and
- An unmarried biological father of an adoptee only if the father has proven certain requirements showing he had formed a “substantial relationship” with the child.
Each person who must consent to the adoption must also receive notice—through personal service—of adoption proceedings. If the person is difficult to locate, the court may allow notice through publication.
The actual adoption proceedings are commenced when the person or persons seeking to adopt the child file a petition in an Idaho district court. After obtaining all necessary consents and providing all needed notices, the adopting parent (or parents), the adoptee, and the spouse of any adopting party (if he or she is the natural parent) must appear before the judge handling the case. At this hearing, the adopting parent executes and agreement to care for and treat the adoptee as a legal child. If the judge determines that the requirements of law have been met and that the adoption will be in the best interest of the child, he will issue an order of adoption. An adopted child enjoys all the rights and assumes all the duties of a child born to the adopted parent.
Adoptions involve very sensitive parental rights and usually determine the care of children who cannot speak for themselves. They also often involve the severance of parental rights, which are protected by the United States Constitution, and if proper due process is not afforded, the adoption could be contested, which can result in years of litigation and stress on the adopting family, the natural parents, and—of course—the adopted child. To avoid these potential problems, adoptions should strictly comply with the provisions of the Idaho Adoption of Children Act.
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