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An adoption ends the birth parents' rights and responsibilities in regard to this child, and transfers them to the adoptive parents. It permanently places the child in a new home. There is then no legal difference between the adopted child and any children born to those two parents.
In this arrangement, the adopted child has access to his or her adoption file, or to his or her birth parents, and the two sets of parents have access to each other. These relationships can be made as strong as the people involved would like them to be. About half the states allow enforceable open adoption contact agreements.
The birth parents can meet the adoptive parents once or a few times only. There can be ongoing communication through a third party like an adoption agency.
No contact takes place between the two sets of parents after the adoption is finalized. In some cases this is because a court order is protecting the child from abusive birth parents. In other cases, it is because the parents all want it that way.
The agency can be public or private. In general, public agencies place orphans and abused or abandoned children who have become wards of the state. Private agencies tend to place babies brought to them by birth parents.
No agency is involved. The two sets of parents work it out with each other, perhaps with help from a doctor or clergyman, and an adoption lawyer completes the paperwork for them. The only states which do not allow independent adoptions are Connecticut, Delaware and Massachusetts.
The two sets of parents make an initial agreement and then ask an adoption agency to complete the adoption process.
Basically anyone, single or married can potentially adopt a child. The states differ a lot on the specifics. Some impose a minimum age; some impose a minimum age difference between the child and the adopting parent; some states require the adopting parent to be a resident of that state, and have residency periods ranging from 60 days to a year.
Some agencies have requirements that are stricter than the state laws. All states consider "the best interests of the child" in making their decisions and they all have varying requirements as to the child's age, legal status, and residency.
Perhaps this overview of adoption gives you a general picture of adoption and how much it varies. Legal advice is enormously valuable in piloting you through the specific requirements of your state (and agency, if you have one).
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