Oregon has some very unique adoption requirements. In this article, we’ll review the unique requirements and situations that come into play when adopting a child in Oregon.
1. Marriage Requirement
There is no specific marriage requirement for adopting a child in Oregon. Most agencies, however, service several states and, therefore, are free to follow their own rules. These are private entities that are sometimes more strict than the state of Oregon in terms of policy and regulation. Agencies that facilitate adoptions in multiple states can require 2 years or more of marriage for hopeful adoptive parents. While this can be an obstacle for single people looking to adopt, the state itself does not require marriage to adopt from foster care or for a domestic adoption that is not facilitated by an agency.
2. Residency and Age Requirements
One of the most unique requirements to adopt a child in Oregon is a residency requirement. According to Oregon law, the prospective adoptive family, adoptee, and/or biological parent must be residents of Oregon state for at least 6 months to engage in the adoption process. While the residency requirement exists, there is no age requirement to adopt or be adopted. Adoptees over the age of 14 may participate in their own adoption by giving consent.
3. Domestic or Foster?
Domestic adoption in Oregon can happen a few different ways. If, for example, a family member is adopting another family member (such as grandparents adopting their grandchild), that process would be considered a domestic adoption. Most likely, it wouldn’t be handled through an agency and would be considered an independent, domestic adoption. It would most likely be finalized through a family law attorney. Another form of private adoption available in the state of Oregon is through an agency or other adoption law center. These agencies help the biological parents match with prospective adoptive parents to find the best home for their child. Oregon law supports biological parents’ involvement in the process; these parents will choose to be a part of as much or as little as they choose. The state is also supportive of biological parents through counseling support before, during, and after the adoption, should one choose to utilize them.
Foster care adoption in Oregon occurs when prospective adoptive parents choose to adopt from the foster care system. A placement can be facilitated through an agency or directly through the state. Either way, the state works alongside the prospective adopting parents to find the best placement for each child’s unique needs.
4. Benefits of adopting through foster care
Oregon state offers various means of support for families that come together through foster care. Most qualify for adoption assistance which comes in the form of expanded medical and/or dental insurance, stipends, or financial assistance. Having an agency advocate on behalf of a prospective adoptive parent can be very helpful, even though there is a significant added expense involved. Working directly with the state, adopting a child in Oregon carries no fee. However, prospective parents will be doing a lot of leg work to make that happen. The process of training, home study, and licensing can take about four to six months. The adoption process may take up to a year or more.
5. Oregon’s Cooling-Off Period
Oregon does not have a revocation period. Once an adoption is finalized, the case is sealed. This also means that biological parents who may have surrendered an infant as part of the state’s ‘A Safe Place for Newborns’ regulation are not able to go home and change their minds. If that does occur, a court proceeding is booked for the next business day after the infant was surrendered. More about this will be discussed later in this article.
6. Open, Semi-open, and Closed Adoption
Oregon honors three types of adoption. Closed adoption refers to the case where there is no further contact or information provided to the adoptee or the biological family once the adoption is finalized. The record is closed and can not be reopened without a court petition or until the adoptee turns 18. That said, closed adoptions are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Most adoptions nowadays are open. Open adoptions allow all parties to have some form of contact or sharing of information about the other after the adoption has been finalized. From a medical perspective, this is highly valuable information for the adoptee. There are also several studies showing that understanding personal history and family backgrounds can help adoptees gain stability through the trauma of adoption. It can also help build healthy relationships between the members of the adoption triad. Open adoption can mean many things. It could mean something as personal as everyone (biological parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees) celebrating holidays under one roof. Or, it could mean an exchange of phone calls a few times a year.
Oregon state recognizes another type of open adoption as well called a semi-open adoption. In a semi-open adoption, letters and medical information may be exchanged. No identifying information or the contact information is shared. This can be a way to stay connected at a distance while opening the door for medically relevant information to be shared as well.
Many prospective parents feel that adopting an infant means that the infant’s life starts the day they are adopted. Even in the best of circumstances, the infant’s life is different from most of their peers. Peers usually look like someone in the family. Recognizing the situation that each child finds themselves in allows for deep bonding and the foundation of resiliency necessary to get through all stages of life and is one of the reasons most adoptions are open to some degree today.
7. Placing a Child for Adoption in Oregon
Expectant mothers who are considering adoption have a difficult decision to make. Sometimes, the decision to place a child for adoption doesn’t feel right at birth. Sometimes it happens weeks later after caring for the child at home. The biological parents can still place the child up for adoption. Agencies with experience navigating the legal issues involved are a great resource in this scenario. Oregon’s ‘A Safe Place for Newborns” allows for infants 30 days old or younger to be surrendered to a person at several locations including the sheriff’s office, police stations, fire stations, birth centers, doctor’s offices, or hospitals. Should biological parent change their mind, they can return to the hospital and pick the infant up. The infant should be surrendered to a hospital worker and as long as the baby is healthy (showing no signs of neglect or abuse), no contact information on the biological parents is collected. There will be a medical history questionnaire the surrendering parent will need to fill out to help the hospital staff and foster parents care for the infant. No charges are filed and there is no legal action taken against the surrendering parent.
A child who has been surrendered goes directly to the hospital if they need medical attention. If the infant is healthy, he or she will go to a foster family.
Adopting these children is difficult because the state handles it directly. It’s next to impossible to ensure a hopeful adoptive parent will take home a surrendered child. However, if a prospective adoptive parent wants to adopt only a child surrendered through this means, they may be able to put a request in. There is no guarantee that this will be possible though.
8. The Statistics of adopting a child in Oregon
According to statistics from 2019, Oregon has about 8000 children in foster care. There were 780 finalized adoptions (both private and public). About 175 of those adoptions were children under the age of three, but the vast majority (over 200) of adoptions were of children between the ages of five and eight years old. Most were Caucasian or Hispanic ethnicity. When it comes to adopting a child in Oregon, prospective adoptive parents should keep in mind that the more specific the requests, the longer it may take to find a matching child. If the prospective adoptive parents are open to a variety of ethnicities, the wait may be significantly shorter.
9. All the requirements and all the feelings
No matter how the adoption happens, the process can feel long and drawn out. Once the process is started, it is an ocean of emotions. With support, families can find a way to navigate the waters. Once an adoption is finalized, all parties can delve deeply into processing emotions. Experiences will be different depending on the perspective of the adoption. An adoptee may feel happiness and intense grief. The new adoptive parents may be ready to celebrate their new family. The biological parents may grieve the loss of their child.
The state of Oregon requires that prospective adoptive parents be as prepared as possible to truly adapt to the rush of changes that occur when bringing a child home. Even a child who has been fostered by their adoptive family will often have new emotions they may not have expressed (or been equipped to express) before finalization occurs.
In my own experience as an adoptee placed at birth, I can say that birthdays, for example, always felt a bit odd. It was the first day I was placed in a hospital and, though I feel like I won the parent lottery and was raised as part of a wonderful family, birthdays can be strange. For some children who may have memories of how his or her biological family celebrated holidays, these days may be unfamiliar for a while. Sometimes something as simple as a basic homework assignment can be enough to push an adoptee over the edge emotionally. For example, asking me to do a family tree in school was a confusing nightmare in elementary school because of my complicated origins.
10. Find Support
Adopting is a very difficult decision. It is a big decision. It can also be a salve for healing through difficult circumstances at the same time. Choosing to adopt takes a significant amount of time, resources, support, and research to accomplish from both expectant parents and prospective adoptive parents. It’s more than adding a crib or toys to the guest room and waiting. It’s more than appointments and paperwork. The wait for an infant can be long and drawn out and social workers may be overwhelmed, depending on the county. Phone calls, time, and financial resources are a huge investment in building a family through adoption. Help and support may not be the least expensive route, but it can be the best choice for everyone. It can give everyone a bit of a buffer zone, as well as some direction through the uncharted waters of new parenthood. It also gives biological families a way to cope and have the support they need at their fingertips. Everyone deserves someone who will advocate for them. Biological parents are making one of the most difficult decisions of their lives. They deserve as much support as they can find. Hopeful adoptive parents deserve as much support and advocacy to get through the process. And most of all, the adopted children involved deserve all the love and support the world can offer. Finding the right path and agency will make the wait more tolerable and help everyone feel valued along the way.
Oregon is not the most difficult place to adopt from if you happen to be a resident. Infant placement through a Domestic adoption involves about the same wait time as any other state. Trusting agencies to present the best options to expectant parents and to accurately present prospective adoptive families is something Oregon takes very seriously. All parties have the right to be involved and supported throughout the process. Oregon has several different districts but presents a united front when it comes to adoption and/or foster care. Agencies can help all parties in the adoption triad navigate the challenging world they find themselves in. Independent adoptions may be able to be completed by family law but to ensure the highest level of support, a trusted agency can be invaluable.