Choosing to adopt is a big and exciting decision. You most likely have a medical vocabulary and are knowledgeable of fertility treatments. But, adoption is new to you and has its own facts, process, language and timeframe. You will need to know the laws that govern an adoption in your state of residence and who can assist you with the adoption process.
- State and federal regulations
- Rights and responsibilities of birth and adoptive parents
- Services that attorneys and agencies provide
- Role of courts
- Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC)
- United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Availability of support services for birth and adoptive parents, and your children—before during and after the adoption
You will also want to know the definition of terms, such as:
- Adoption Home Study
- Birth Parent(s)
- Infant (some consider a child under 6 months an infant)
- The age of a toddler or older child
- Special needs and waiting children
- Open adoption
- The Hague Convention and Universal Accreditation Act
- Multicultural, biracial and multiracial children.
- At risk placement
- Post placement supervision
- Visitation, search and reunion
You can do a lot of research on the Internet and by reading, but you should always check with a local adoption resource to make sure what you have learned is accurate and legal in your state. You also want to locate an attorney or agency to help with the adoption, as well as an adoption knowledgeable social worker to conduct the adoption homestudy.
There are 5 things you should consider as you start the process:
1. YOUR READINESS
It is important to be ‘on the same page’ with a spouse or partner regarding your readiness to adopt. If there is a gap in wishes, readiness or type of child you are looking for, spend time talking things through prior to starting the process.
2. THE AGE OF CHILD DESIRED
Decide if you are looking for a newborn or older child (over age 12 months). Infants will lead you to a domestic adoption. Older kids are usually adopted through US foster care or through an international adoption.
3. THE BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON THE CHILD
You get the most medical and familial information through a domestic adoption and varying amounts (often starting when a child enters institutional care) through international adoption.
4. TRAVELING REQUIREMENTS
How flexible and comfortable are you with traveling? If you are fearful of flying or can only be away for a short period of time, you should consider a domestic adoption. International adoption may include long flights, weeks away at a time and varying accommodations.
5. DEVELOPING TRUST IN THOSE HELPING YOU TO ADOPT
While you will remain the final say in a particular adoption, you will need to allow your attorney, agency and state, federal or country requirements to guide the process. Discuss with your agency or attorney who will make which decisions prior to starting your process.
Learn all you can before you start the process. Research and talk to other adoptive parents. Once you begin talking to professionals about your parenting journey, they will help you sort through issues such as:
- Adopting in the United States or overseas.
- Setting an adoption budget.
- Finding your child – using the Internet and work of mouth networking.
- Parenting a child with medical, social or emotional problems.
- Initial and ongoing contact with birth parent(s)
The more you know, the better prepared you will be for every step of the process and adoptive parenting. Just know that there is a large network of resources to help you along the way.