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If I Find an Abandoned Baby, Can I Keep It?

Welcome to the new FindLaw series, "If I Find," where we'll discuss the rule of finders keepers as it applies to different topics. We hope you'll check back regularly!

When Quasimodo was left on the doorstep of Notre Dame, the priest took him in. When Moses floated down the river Nile in a reed basket, the Pharaoh's sister found him and raised him as her own.

If you found an abandoned baby today, could you keep it?

Abandoned Babies

Absolutely not! Even with property, you can't just keep any lost item you find on the street. In California, if you find anything worth $100 or more, you must first notify the police. Finding a baby is even more serious.

If you do find a baby, call the authorities right away. The state's Department of Family and Child Services will likely take custody of the baby and try to find any relatives. If none are found, you can then try to apply to be a foster parent or to adopt the child.

Adopting an Abandoned Child

Rules regarding who can and cannot adopt a child vary from state to state and are very complex.

In some states such as California and New York, unmarried couples can jointly adopt a child, while some states require the couple to be married. No states prohibit an unmarried person from adopting a child, but some adoption agencies do. Sadly, Michigan's governor just signed a law that would allow adoption agencies to deny adoptions to same-sex couples.

Also, the adoption process can be long and strenuous with numerous screenings and background checks.

In all states, prospective adoptive parents are required to participate in the home study process. Prospective parents will have to undergo training on how to care for a child's needs. Also, social workers will interview the prospective parents and visit the home several times to ensure that the prospective parent and home is fit to care for the child. Although the process may seem lengthy and invasive, it is necessary to ensure that children are placed with capable parents in safe homes.

Life isn't a Disney or Bible story. If you do find an abandoned baby, notify the authorities right away. If you are planning on adopting and need help, consult with an experienced local adoption attorney.

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