In the US, for all adoptions, a “home study” is needed. A home study is not just an evaluation of the home, but also a series of meetings and interviews with the prospective parent(s) to determine if the family is appropriate for the placement of a child. In addition, there are usually medical and sometimes psychological exams required prior to acceptance. The home study is an (appropriately?) intrusive process, in which the prospective parents are evaluated on a wide range of factors. My home study delved into my own childhood, the way I was disciplined by my parents, the ways I plan to discipline my own child, my commitment to education, my ability to deal with a wide range of special needs that an adoptive child may face, my values concerning race and ethnicity and my ability to raise a child of another race, including my personal and professional associations with people of a variety of races, my religious beliefs (or lack thereof), my membership in a wide range of groups and organizations, my relationships with my family members, my support systems, etc. Friends and family members (and my boss) were interviewed and asked a series of specific questions about me. I underwent an FBI fingerprint check, and also a fingerprint check in every state in which I have resided in the past 20 years.
In the US, we love states’ rights, so different states have different rules about who can adopt. I think there are some states that still prohibit gay men and lesbian couples from adoption. But certainly not NY. And different adoption agencies have different slants. There are GOBS of adoption agencies that cater to Christian families. Here in NYC there are a few that cater to Jewish families. And an increasing number specializing in gay and lesbian families.
Of course, there are different kinds of adoption. A pregnant woman may decide that she doesn’t want to parent, and she (hopefully in conjunction with an agency and an attorney who are interested in protecting her rights) she makes up an adoption plan, screens prospective families, and has the final say. For the adoption of a child from foster care, there are a different set of agencies involved, including state social service agencies. For international adoptions, adoptive parents have to meet the criteria of their states, their adoption agencies, and the criteria set by the country from which the child is being adopted.
China, which has strict restrictions on the number of children a family may have, faces thousands of abandoned children (mostly girls and kids with special needs) every year. In addition, unlike most countries (including the US) which allow a birth mother to relinquish a child who she does not feel capable of parenting, China does not allow relinquishments. However, they have a strong system in place, in which the kids are put into orphanages that work with foreign (mostly US I think) adoption agencies. But from the side of China, the criteria for adoptive parents are very clear. They want heterosexual two parent families with substantial incomes. (They used to allow single parent adoptions, but now only allow single parents to adopt in the case of special needs children). They have high standards for the health of the adoptive parents, including body mass index. In other words, fat people can (no longer) adopt from China. And no criminal records.