The taking of a child into one’s family, creating a parent to child relationship, and giving him or her all the rights and privileges of one’s own child, including the right to inherit as if the child were the adopter’s natural child. the adoption procedure varies depending on whether the child comes through an agency which handles adoptions or comes from a stranger or a relative, and on the age of the child and the adoptive parent or parents. the hopeful adoptive parent must file a petition, which may be handled by the adoption agency. natural parents must either give binding written permission for the adoption or have abandoned the child for a lengthy period of time. an investigation will be made by a county office (probation or family services) as to the future parents’ suitability to adoption, their relationship status, their home situation, and their health, as well as the best interests of the child. if the child is old enough to understand the procedure he or she may have a say in the adoption. finally there is a hearing before a local court judge (called “surrogate” in some states) and an adoption order made. in many states a new birth certificate can be issued, with the adoptive parents listed as the parents. if there is an adoption of an adult, the adopting adult usually must be several years older, based on the state law. in recent years, there has been much controversy over adoption by single parents, including gays and lesbians, with the tendency toward allowing such adoptions, provided all other criteria beneficial to the child are met.