Adoptions can occur either between related family members, or unrelated individuals. Historically, most adoptions occurred within a family, though.
A common example of this is a "stepparent adoption", where the new partner of a parent may legally adopt a child from the parent's previous relationship. Intra-family adoption can also occur through surrender, as a result of parental death, or when the child cannot otherwise be cared for and a family member agrees to take over.
Unrelated adoptions may occur through the following mechanisms:
Private domestic adoptions:
Under this arrangement, charities and for-profit organizations act as intermediaries, bringing together prospective adoptive parents and families who want to place a child, all parties being residents of the same country. Alternatively, prospective adoptive parents sometimes avoid intermediaries and connect with women directly, drafting contracts through a lawyer (these efforts are illegal in some jurisdictions). Private domestic adoption accounts for a significant portion of all adoptions; in the United States, for example, nearly 45% of adoptions are estimated to have occurred through private arrangements.
Foster care adoption
This is a type of domestic adoption where a child is initially placed in public care. Its importance as an avenue for adoption varies by country. Nevertheless, the example of the United States is instructive. Of the 127,500 adoptions that occurred in the U.S. about 51,000 or 40% were through the foster care system.
This method of adoption involves the placing of a child for adoption outside that child’s country of birth. This can occur through both public and private agencies. The laws of different countries vary in their willingness to allow international adoptions. Recognizing the difficulties and challenges associated with international adoption, and in an effort to protect those involved from the corruption and exploitation which sometimes accompanies it, the Hague Conference on Private International Law developed the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, which came into force on 1 May 1995 and has been ratified by 75 countries, to date.
Common law adoption
This is an adoption which has not been recognized, beforehand, by the courts, but where a parent, without resort to any formal legal process, leaves his or her children with a friend or relative for an extended period of time. At the end of a designated term of (voluntary) co-habitation, as witnessed by the public, the adoption is then considered binding, in some courts of law, even though not initially sanctioned by the court. The particular terms of a common-law adoption are defined by each legal jurisdiction. For example, the U.S. state of California recognizes common law relationships after co-habitation of 2 years. The practice is called "private fostering" in Britain.
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