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Reasons your adoption petition may be denied if you choose to adopt through an agency – why using an adoption attorney may be a better path

Approximately 130,000 U.S. children are adopted each year, but that doesn’t mean the adoption process is easy.  Private adoption agencies are allowed to set their own criteria for prospective parents, while public agencies are governed by state laws that can put adoption out of reach for certain individuals.  No matter what type of agency you work with, there are a number of reasons an adoption petition have been be denied by some agencies.

Marital Status

Most agencies, public or private, prefer to place children in a two-parent home.  If you are single, it’s possible for your adoption petition to be rejected because you either live in a state that does not allow single people to adopt or because the birth mother wants her child placed in a two-parent home.  Additionally, if you have been married for less than three years, or if the agency determines your marriage is not stable, your adoption application can be rejected.

Financial or Employment Problems

Financial stability is an important factor in granting an adoption.  Agencies want to ensure you have the financial wherewithal to care for a child, and will give preference to those demonstrating a history of financial stability.  If you have either declared bankruptcy or have a high debt-to-income ratio, an agency may reject your application. An agency may reject your petition based on your job or employment history as well. Unemployment can place a lot of strain on a family, and agencies want to place children with parents who have a high degree of job security.

Substance-Abuse Issues

If an agency suspects you currently use drugs, or you acknowledge using or abusing drugs in the past, your adoption application can be denied.  While occasional alcohol use may not be an issue in a public adoption, some private agencies may choose not to place a child in your home if you consume alcohol, even in moderate amounts.


An adoption agency may reject your application if you are a smoker.  This is not only because smoking can severely compromise your own health, but because exposure to second-hand smoke is dangerous for children.

Living Situation

While it should not matter whether you live in a city apartment or a house with a yard, your living situation is a factor when adopting a child.  A home that is unclean, unsafe or located in or near a crime-ridden neighborhood could result in rejection, as can living in a home that is too small or in any way ill-equipped to accommodate a child.


There are some countries that have weight restrictions for adoptive parents.  These countries have set their limits at a BMI of over 40 for exclusion.  While your adopted child will not have the same biological traits that you do, these countries feel that someone who is obese would not be a good caretaker for a child.


There are countries, not the United States that have age limits for adoptive parents, either individually or an aggregated age of the two adoptive parents.  This number does fluctuate from country to country so if you are looking to adopt outside of the U.S. please become aware of the local rules as the age restriction takes effect when the child is placed so if it takes a few years to complete the process you may not be successful if you are close to the limit when you begin the process.

Benefits of using an Adoption Attorney versus an adoption agency

  • In an attorney-assisted adoption, also called independent adoption, direct placement or private adoption, the adoptive parents and birth mother (or birth parents) each have their own attorney.  That way each party knows they have their own advocate in their corner that will put their interests first.
  • In an agency adoption, the birth parent(s) relinquish their parental rights to the agency, and the prospective adoptive parents work through the agency to adopt.  In a direct placement adoption, the birth parent consents directly to the adoptive parents and never relinquishes rights to an agency.
  • In a direct placement adoption the baby is typically discharged from the hospital directly to the adoptive parents.  Temporary foster care may be required in an agency adoption.
  • Attorney-assisted adoptions often give greater flexibility to both adoptive parents and birth parents.  Agencies may give preference to certain types of individuals or couples (for example, based on religion, marital status, age or sexual orientation), or impose other requirements, such as whether the parties can meet face-to-face before the child is born.
  • Attorneys can evaluate how best to handle contested adoptions, if a problem should arise.

An experienced adoption attorney: 

  • Understands the complex laws that apply to adoption, and how they apply to the specifics of your case.
  • Provides an unbiased explanation of adoption methods and resources and helps you develop a legally secure plan tailored to your needs.
  • Assesses any risks involved in your situation, such as whether the adoption might become contested, and helps you plan accordingly.
  • Is accustomed to dealing with the legal system and the courts.
  • Can help to resolve any problems that arise between the parties during the adoption process, and negotiate with the other party’s attorney if necessary.

During your home study you will review many, if not all of these areas previously listed so none of this should equate to a last minute decision for a denial.  In fact, many of these potential restrictions can be corrected of modified so if you feel as if one of these areas may cause your adoption plan to be unsuccessful you still have time to make some changes.  If you are just starting your journey or have reached a roadblock I encourage you to give me a call to discuss your situation.

Stephen Vighi Attorney and partner at Thurman Law Firm

Stephen Vighi
Attorney and partner at Thurman Law Firm

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