Normally when you think of adoption, you think of children being adopted. Adoption is the legal transfer of parental rights and responsibilities from the birth parent(s) to the person(s) seeking to adopt. So, it may come as a surprise to you that adults can also be adopted. I know, you’re probably looking at the screen side-eyed right now, whilst you experience high levels of doubt. Adult Adoption? What is adult adoption? What does that even mean?
Well, it means exactly what you think it means…an adult adopting another adult. I know…there are several questions floating around in your mind now, you may have even loudly verbalized one or two of them. For example:
- Who are these adults who are doing this?
- Is this even necessary? Can’t they just go the route of Guardianship?
Well, as Family Caregivers, the level of support that our loved ones need is important to us. We want to know that we are making the best choices, making use of every opportunity and giving them the right level of support that allows them to live as independently as possible, whilst keeping them safe. So, let’s look into this thing call Adult Adoption and see if it is the right choice for our family.
Can You Legally Adopt An Adult?
That depends on where you live. It is legal to adopt an adult in the USA, Germany and Japan, but not in the UK. So, you will have to find out if the laws of your country allow this type of adoption.
Whilst you investigate, make sure to determine if there is a special window of opportunity to adopt. This refers to an age range, outside of which, you are not allowed to adopt an adult. E.g. In Arizona (USA), this age range is between 18 and 21; thus, you cannot adopt an adult who is 22 years old and older.
Why Do Adults Adopt Each Other?
Well, for us Family Caregivers, we would be interested in adopting our loved one who has Down Syndrome (DS). Usually, the relatives that fall into this category as the person who wants to do the adopting include:
- Cousin or
- Grandparent of the person who has DS.
These caregivers may choose the route of adoption because:
- Presently, they have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved one who has DS, as the parents are currently unable to do so.
- They plan to take on the responsibility of caring for their loved one in the future, as the parents are presently not coping and have sought their assistance.
- They are a step-parent to their loved one who has DS and they want to make the relationship formal in the eyes of the law.
- They may be a Godparent, family friend or neighbor who had to step in due to the parent passing away or becoming incapacitated.
The Benefits of Adult Adoption
Adult Adoption can help a person with Down Syndrome get the care they need. For example, someone who adopts an adult with Down Syndrome may add them to their health insurance coverage, make important decisions on their behalf, and ensure that they’re covered financially through inheritance (after the adoptive parent passes away).
Other benefits include:
1. The Parent/Child Relationship is Formally Recognized
Who doesn’t want to be on the right side of the law? Adoption causes the law to formally recognize you as the legal parent. With this parental responsibility, you get to make decisions about the care (medical, financial, social, etc.) of your loved one.
2. Ties with the Birth Parents are Severed
Unfortunately, there are cases where the birth parents of the person with Down Syndrome has been abusive in the past or has not acted in the best interest of their child. By legally adopting the adult who has DS, the birth parents cannot invoke their legal ‘parental responsibility’ and thus they cannot choose what care the person with DS does or does not receive. They also cannot keep you and the person with DS apart.
Please note that in the case where the adopting parent is a step-parent of the adoptee, the spouse of the step-parent (who would be a biological parent of the adoptee) retains his/her parental rights and responsibilities.
3. Being Entitled to Inherit
By adopting your loved one who has Down Syndrome, they are automatically entitled to inherit from you, regardless of if you had made a will or not. Let’s face it, many of us do not make the time to create a will and oftentimes we may pass away suddenly. If we die without a will, an unadopted adult is not entitled to any inheritance from us, which can lead to them struggling financially once we die.
Another thing worth noting is that once adopted, the adult with Down Syndrome will no longer be able to automatically inherit from their biological parents unless the biological parents choose to give an inheritance via a legal will.
Also, please note that with Guardianship, the adult with Down Syndrome does not automatically inherit from their guardian. The guardian would have to employ a legal will to pass on any inheritance.
Is Adult Adoption Right for Your Family?
Adoptions are permanent, therefore if your intention is not to have a parent-child relationship that lasts forever, then this may not be the route for your family to take. This is a lifelong commitment where you are creating a forever family, thus serious consideration needs to happen and all parties involved should be fully on board.