Do you want to expand your family through adoption? Discover the steps you need to take to adopt a child.
You may have concerns about passing a genetic condition down if you have a biological child. If you are a single parent or in a same-sex relationship, you may also seek out a way to expand your family without having a biological child. You may also simply struggle with infertility. Whatever your reasons are, adopting a child is an excellent alternative.
Adoption is a beautiful decision that allows you to add to your family while helping birth parents who cannot care for their child themselves. However, adoption is a lifetime commitment. If you do decide to adopt a child, there are also several ways to go about the adoption process. That is why you need to explore the process fully before you make a decision. The adoption process varies slightly in each U.S. state, but below are some of the most common steps of the adoption process.
Deciding to Adopt
There are several factors involved in deciding if you want to adopt. You must emotionally prepare for the process. Financial and home stability are also vital. If you have a spouse or already have children, you must make sure all members of your immediate family agree with your adoption decision as well.
There are also unpredictable factors you cannot prepare for, such as the emotional state of the child you adopt. He or she may lash out at various points due to losses experienced in the past. If you are considering international adoption, you may also need to learn a new language or culture. Make sure you are prepared as much as possible for those factors, and accept your inability to predict all obstacles you may eventually face as a new parent.
Make Basic Decisions About the Child You Want
When you are ready to adopt, begin by making basic decisions about the child. You need to choose if you want to adopt an older child or a baby. Adopting a child born in the United States or in a foreign country is also an option. You may choose to apply for either one to improve your odds of being selected more quickly. However, either way the adoption process can sometimes take two or three years to complete.
Prepare for Initial Adoption Expenses
You have to consider all expenses when adopting a child. Preparing for long-term, day-to-day care is only one concern. The initial adoption expenses can also be quite costly. For example, you may have to pay:
Legal and Court Appearance-Related Fees
Adoption Agency Fees
Medical Fees the Birth Mother Incurs
Expenses for Travel
Fees for a Home Study
Select an Adoption Agency, Lawyer, or Legal Facilitator
In certain states, it is legal for an individual to act as a go between and connect you with an expectant mother. Some states where such facilitators are allowed require them to be licensed, while others do not. Some adoption facilitators also choose to work illegally without licenses. There are also licensed lawyers and adoption agencies in each state, as well as some agencies that operate illegally. Selecting a legitimate agency is essential. Some properly certified adoption agencies in the United States include:
When selecting an adoption agency or lawyer, make sure you look for one willing to work with you. Some agencies cater specifically to adopters of certain religions or races. There are also some that focus solely on providing two-parent families with children, but others cater to single adopters. Additionally, certain agencies and lawyers focus specifically on international or domestic adoptions. Others provide services for adopters interested in both.
Complete a Home Study (Social Worker Assessment)
Regardless of the U.S. state in which you live, you are required to complete a home study in order to adopt a child. A social worker typically performs the assessment, which is often done in phases, including interviewing your loved ones. The social worker must assess multiple aspects of your life to see if you are fit to adopt a child, such as:
The Safety of Your Home
Criminal Background Check
Prior Parenting Experience, If Any
Start the Selection Process
Typically, there are two types of selection processes you may undergo when adopting a child. The first is that you may get to choose from several children soon after approval. That typically happens if you are adopting an older child from the foster care system because there are many older children already waiting for homes. It can also occur if you are adopting a child from a foreign country.
If you are adopting an infant, the process is often somewhat reversed. You must fill out an application. Perspective birth mothers read several applications when choosing families for their children. If your application is selected, you move to the next phase of the process. In the case of a closed adoption, an intermediary like the agency or lawyer you are working with may ask you follow up questions on the birth mother's behalf. If the adoption is open, you may meet with the birth mother in person for an interview.
Bring Your Child Home
Once the adoption is fully approved, you can prepare to bring the child home. How you prepare depends on the situation. For example, an infant requires a fully stocked nursery with items like a crib and changing table. An older child needs a larger space to call his or her own. You may want to decorate his or her bedroom with any items you have been told the child likes. Be prepared for a child of any age to take time to acclimate to you and his or her new surroundings.
Expect Possible Twists, Turns, and Delays
Some adoptions occur quite quickly and progress smoothly. However, many involve multiple ups and downs. Preparing for delays prevents disappointment. For instance, a birth mother could select you and then change her mind. Have patience, but also be persistent. Check in frequently with the lawyer or adoption agency you choose. That way the process can continue moving forward.