Deciding to adopt a child is a big step. For some people, it stems from infertility and wanting to be parents. For others, it may be a personal choice not to have children biologically due to fear of passing certain genes on, higher risk for certain complications, or simply a desire to change the life of a child in the “system”. Children wind up on waiting lists to be adopted for a variety of reasons as well. Some of them were born to young parents, were unwanted pregnancies, or were foster children who are not available for adoption. Regardless of the reason, a child is in the adoption system or a parent wants to adopt, the process can be lengthy and confusing. Let’s explore this system to get a better feel for the process.
First, many questions must be answered before beginning any adoption. Prospective parents must first decide that they want to adopt children. Many parents may prefer being foster care parents or may want to conceive biological children. All of these options are valuable in their own way.
What happens after someone decides to adopt? First, most states have similar laws, but each state may have different regulations, so be prepared to familiarize yourself with any specific regulations. These regulations are often straightforward, but some state regulations have gender-specific language and preferences of married couples. Other states tend to be more neutral in their verbiage. Other questions suggested by many adoption websites are:
After answering these questions, it is imperative that you also figure out which agency you would like to use. There are many considerations here, too.
Budget & Type of Agency
For instance, your budget should be considered when choosing an agency. Some agencies have a flat rate for services from beginning to end, but others charge per service.
An agency that quotes $25,000 may only include adoption services but legal fees and services are additional. However, an agency that charges $32,000 may be including everything. It seems to be $7000 more expensive, but considering the fee savings, you may come out cheaper in the end.
In addition to these fees, one must consider what the financial protections might be. Something that I hadn’t realized, before researching this topic, is that if the adoption is disrupted (stopped before finalization) some agencies' fees only include that adoption. Other agencies will keep trying with people until they adopt a child. Some others may limit the number of disruptions. Prospective parents need to consider this carefully when beginning the adoption process.
Wait Time & Experience
In addition to cost and financial protection, parents must consider wait times (how long it takes before receiving a child) and support or education programs. If the service feels cold and heartless, parents might not feel the agency is for them.
When considering an agency, parents should also keep in mind that there are advantages to both national and local agencies. While national agencies may have more access to more children, local agencies may offer more personalized service. There is no right or wrong answer. Each parent or couple must make this decision for themselves.
Foster Care or Private Adoption
Once an agency is chosen, and the above answers are determined, parents who choose to seek out foster care or private adoptions might want to learn more about each. First, foster care adoption can be very rewarding, but it can come with risks, too. Foster children are removed from their biological homes for a variety of reasons. Frequently those parents do not want to lose custody of their children. In this case, family members or friends may be allowed to foster the children until they can be deemed ready to be returned to the home. Sometimes, however, that just doesn’t happen. In these cases, the children may be permanently removed from the parents and the parental rights revoked. These children are then placed for adoption. A good friend of mine adopted three kids this way. Each of them was a baby and was removed from the respective parents at the time of birth. One or more was born addicted to substances. The adoptive parents had to decide that not only did they want a child from foster care, but that they could deal with addicted children. This is not the right choice for all parents. These parents also adopted biracial children and the adoptive parents were a single race. This, too, is something that needs to be considered. Do you want children of your race or a different race? Does that matter to you? Can you handle special needs? If so, what needs? Disruption may occur for a variety of reasons, and if you answer that you want a single race child, and the baby comes, and isn’t a single race, does that stop your desire to continue. Voluntary adoptions
Finally, parents must consider the adoption process at the agency of choice. Each home agency will perform a home study, but how that looks and what the agency is seeking might be different depending on the agency. What does their process look like? For example, American Adoptions Agency’s process is Home Study, Adoption planning questionnaire, Adoption profile submission (your profile the birth parents can see), selection by birth parents, finalization. Adoption Network uses slightly different terminology, but it appears to be the same type of process. The prospective parents will reach out to the Adoption Network, complete a plan and questionnaire, home study, selection, finalization. This is why you must choose the right agency for you and your family. The people truly make the difference here.
All that we love deeply becomes a part of us. - Helen Keller
No matter what you choose to do or how you choose to begin your family, it is important to be educated on the process. Adoption can be very rewarding and very challenging. Many children are waiting in agencies across the US right now. They will make prospective parents very happy. Many parents are also currently waiting for that bundle of joy that completes their families. I wish them all the luck in the world. May your baby dreams become a reality.
Motherhood requires love, not DNA
Photo by Valeria Zoncoll