Am I Ready to Adopt a Child?

You want to start or enlarge your family, but pregnancy just isn’t working for you. So you’re thinking of adopting a baby. First and foremost this is a personal choice. Do it for yourself. Not because your spouse wants to, or your parents are pressuring you for a grandchild, or because your friend or a celebrity did so. And you start by gathering as much information as you can about the process and parenting through adoption.

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Should I work with an attorney or agency?

Depending on where you live, state regulations will determine with whom you can work to adopt a child. Generally, agencies handle all adoption related services, while at attorney will help coordinate needed legal, medical and counseling services.

What types of children are available for adoption? Is medical and familial background available and accurate?

Domestically, there are newborn to older children available for adoption. Most newborns are adopted thru private adoption. Older children are available through foster care. Background information is provided by birth parents who are asked for a 3 generational history. However, if a birth parent is young, information may be limited. If possible, you should arrange a way to share future medical information should something appear in the birth family as years progress.

Internationally, most children are over 18 months of age and can be as old as 16 years at the time of adoption. There is little background information because children are generally abandoned prior to being referred for adoption. Medical information begins when the child enters institutional care and can be quite limited.

There are adoption medical experts who should be consulted to review any medical and background information that you receive prior to adopting a child. In a domestic adoption, this can include your child’s intended pediatrician having ongoing contact with the birth mother’s ob/gyn and the doctors at the hospital at the time of birth. In an international adoption, this is called a “Pre-adoptive Medical Review”. It is important to choose a doctor with experience in review of medical information for the country from which you are adopting, as there are medical nuances that need to,be known and understood.

Are there limitations regarding my age, marital status, medical or other histories?

Each adoption process has requirements and, possible limitations. Some limit the age difference between child and parent by 40 years. (If you 40+ years older than the child, you can adopt but it may be a 4 year old for a 44 year old, etc.) Some allow singles or newlyweds to adopt, while some require a 3-5 year marriage minimum. Stable health of the parents hoping to adopt a child is required in all adoptions, with some international countries having guidelines regarding past or current medical or psychiatric diagnoses or medication. All parents must be of good moral character. Criminal histories are reviewed on an individual basis.

How much will this cost and how long will it take to adopt a baby?

Domestic adoption costs anywhere between $10,000-$50,000 and takes 1-2 years to complete. International adoption costs $20,000-$50,000 and takes 1-6 years to complete.

Will I have a relationship with my child’s birth parents?

There is typically some contact in a domestic adoption. This may be a phone call, a one time meeting or ongoing contact. You, the birth parents and your representatives will help coordinate this relationship. Whatever you agree upon now, know that your child’s need for information and contact will change over time and will ultimately determine the openness of the adoption as they grow. In an international adoption, there is generally no contact as these are children have been abandoned. However, with advancements of the Internet and a growing business for international searchers and search groups, international adoptive searches and reunions are increasing.

What is the Adoptive Home Study?

The homestudy is a narrative report written by a social worker. It is used by attorneys, agencies, courts, immigration and intercountry adoption authorities throughout the adoption process. The report contains biographical information on all household members, medical, educational and criminal histories, household relationships, finances, a description of your home, references, discussion of adoption and recommendation.

Adoption’s interplay with your and your child’s life does not end when the legal adoption is finalized. Your family is forever changed through adoption as adoption issues keep cropping up as your family grows and develops.

How is adoptive parenting different?

Most days it isn’t. But, there is a weaving in and out of adoption in your and your child’s life. It may be a new question from your child about their birth family or adoption or fielding questions from peers (yours or your child’s) as they learn of your child’s adoption or disciplining without guilt or helping a child complete school work that relates to family history or biology. Decisions about adopting again or having birth children also raise emotional issues for most Adoptive Parents.

How do I talk to my child about their adoption?

It is important for your child to know they were adopted. The earlier you begin to tell your child their story, the more practice you get and the more comfortable you will get with the information. You will add information as they grow and can understand it. Information on birth parents, siblings and extended family can be shared incrementally. Difficult histories can be shared with older children. Parents find attending adoptive parent support groups extremely helpful in teaching them how to talk to their children about adoption. Some groups include the children. Such networking is beneficial to both the adults and the children.

What do I tell family, friends and others?

Foremost, remember, your child’s adoption story belongs to them. They should ultimately decide who knows what and when. You may share the fact that you adopted and general details of the adoption process but details of your child’s history should remain within the immediate family. This may mean explaining to extended family that you prefer to keep details of your child’s birth family to yourself, that you are not hiding anything, just that it is recommended you share the information with your child before others know. By doing so, your child will hear all details from you and not from others. This will ensure knowing what your child knows, making sure information is accurate and that your child is coming back to you with additional questions.

What services are available, for me and my child, after the adoption?

There are many social services available to adoptive families, including counseling, support groups, information on search and reunion and more. You can access services by asking your adoption social worker or agency or contacting local social services.

Are there any post-adoption requirements?

Most adoptions include a period of post placement supervision. The social worker returns to your home and writes a report detailing everyone’s adjustment and the child’s physical, emotional and social well being. The period,of supervision is determined by state and country requirements and regulations. In domestic adoption, these reports are used to recommend finalization of the adoption. In an international adoption, the reports may recommend finalization of the adoption if not completed overseas, and are used to report back to the sending country that the child is thriving in their new home.

What if I want to adopt a child again?

Many adoptions take place with families who already have children (birth and adopted). You can repeat the process you did for your first adoption or utilize another attorney, agency or resource. Most adoption professionals recommend adopting a child younger than your youngest child (adopting in birth order).

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