Every child or youth, birth family member, and adoptive family has the right to ethical adoption practice focused on the best interests of the child or youth. All parties to the adoption have the right to honest and complete information about the adoption. All actions and payments by parties to the adoption must be legal and ethical.

To ensure ethical practice, the following principles should guide all adoptions—including those made by agencies and those arranged independently:

  • The primary focus in adoption should be the child’s or youth’s needs (rather than the needs of the adults or parents). All adoption decisions should be made based on the child’s or youth’s best interests over his or her entire life. (see NACAC’s statement on Best Interests of a Child or Youth)
  • Adoptions should never result in undue profit, and children and youth should never be treated or seen as a commodity. If fees must be charged, they should be fair and reasonable (based on the complexity of the particular adoption). Information about the fees paid or to be paid should be made available to all parties to the adoption, including birth family members. Fees should never be based on the race or ethnic background of the child or youth to be adopted. (See NACAC’s statement on Fees in Adoption)
  • In cases of foster care adoption, the rights of the birth parents (including fathers and non-custodial parents) should be protected as long as the safety of the child or youth is kept paramount.
  • In cases of voluntary adoption, all parties to the adoption must respect the legal and moral rights of both birth mothers and birth fathers to consent or not to the adoption. Agencies and independent agents must proactively identify and inform non-custodial parents of any pending adoption.
  • Before adoption is pursued, diligent efforts should be made to keep the child or youth with his or her birth family or community or country of origin. Diligent efforts to find relatives and kin, of both birth mothers and birth fathers, should be undertaken early in the process. (See NACAC’s statements on Permanency Planning/Continuity of Relationships and Kinship Care)
  • If developmentally appropriate, the child or youth to be adopted has a right to be consulted about the adoption. Agencies should provide children and youth with counseling to prepare them for adoption.
  • Every agency should make every effort to find an adoptive family for all children/youth who do not have a permanent family resource, regardless of the child’s/youth’s age. Children/youth should not be able to completely opt out of adoption without first receiving information and counseling about adoption, and without the approval of the highest level of leadership in their state, province, territory, tribe, or aboriginal authority.
  • The child or youth has a right to maintain safe connections with important people (including siblings and other relatives, former foster parents, fictive kin*, and others) and places (former neighborhoods, country of origin, etc.) from their past. (See NACAC’s statement on Open Adoption)
  • The adopted child or youth has a right to information about his or her birth parents and history, including access to the original birth certificate. (See NACAC’s statement on Access to Records)
  • Every child or youth should be placed with a family who recognizes preservation of the child’s ethnic and cultural heritage as an inherent right. Agencies and independent practitioners must follow the spirit and letter of the Indian Child Welfare Act. (See NACAC’s statements on Race/Ethnic Background in Child Welfare and Native and Aboriginal Children in Foster Care, Guardianship, and Adoption)
  • Adoptive families have a right to complete, accurate, and written background information about the child or youth, including birth family history, past experiences, and special needs. (See NACAC’s statement on Pre-Placement/Pre-Adoption Issues)
  • There should be no exclusions of categories of adoptive parents based on age, race/ethnic background, gender, family size, marital status, health or disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity, prior professional relationship with the child or youth, or status as foster care or adoption agency employee. (See NACAC’s statement on Eliminating Categorical Restrictions in Foster Care and Adoption)
  • Each adoption agency or practitioner should maintain and follow a code of ethics that guides all aspects of professional practice (such as that of the National Association of Social Workers in the U.S. or the Canadian Association of Social Workers). All parties to the adoption should be treated with respect and consideration.
  • Agencies and independent practitioners must ensure that the child or youth to be adopted was not made available for adoption through coercion (including bribery of birth parents), fraud, kidnapping, trafficking or other unethical practices from the family of origin or any third party to the adoption.
  • Agencies and independent practitioners have an obligation to assure that adoptive and birth families receive ongoing supportive services either by providing those services themselves or connecting families with other effective service providers. Agencies and independent practitioners must provide support to all parties in cases of disruption and dissolution (See NACAC’s statements on Post-Adopt Support and Adoption Disruption and Dissolution)
  • All adoption agency professionals and independent practitioners involved in adoption should be required to have extensive training related to adoption. This should include but not be limited to cultural competency, loss, rejection, grief, identity, and special needs (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, attachment disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder, behavior disorders, etc.

* Fictive kin are those who are unrelated by birth, adoption, or marriage, but who have an emotionally significant relationship with another individual that would take on the characteristics of a family relationship.

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The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) supports, educates, inspires, and advocates so adoptive families thrive and every child in foster care has a permanent, safe, loving family.


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