Adoption is the legal taking of a child into one’s family which does not biologically belong to that adult or adults. This changes the status of such a child to make him legally equal with that of a natural child of the parents. 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. Examples of the latter might be if a grandparent adopts the child due to the inability or unwillingness of the true parent to raise the child. 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 met.