It is natural for hopeful Adoptive Parents to dream of welcoming a child into their home once the decision to adopt has been made. The reality is that there is no set time frame.
The total adoption wait time begins from the time you decide to adopt until your adoption is finalized. Learn more about the different phases and what you can do during those phases.
Completing Your Home Study
Whether you pursue domestic or international adoption, after you choose the adoption professional who will guide you through the process, one of the first things that prospective Adoptive Parents must do is complete an adoption home study.
A home study is designed to ensure that the child is being placed with Adoptive Parents who are able to provide a loving, safe and secure home. Home studies also verify that the Adoptive Parents are well educated in adoption and the needs of their families and new child, as well as ensure that all adoptive home environments comply with any State and local laws. A home study may be conducted by a licensed home study provider or adoption agency, depending on the state’s laws. A social worker will visit the prospective adoptive home to observe the living conditions and interview all household members. An extensive background check will be run, and documents substantiating the financial status, health history, etc. of the Adoptive Parents will be collected. More information on the home study process can be found here and here. For US adoptions, home study approval may take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
International adoption home studies may require more extensive documentation and time and must be conducted by or under the supervision of a Hague accredited licensed adoption agency. In an international adoption, prospective Adoptive Parents need to locate an Adoption Service Provider (ASP) to oversee the adoption in the U.S. and the foreign country. There is then the application to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) for approval as an adoptive home. Once received, an application will be submitted through the ASP to the designated authority in the foreign country.
Waiting to be Selected or Waiting to Find an Adoptable Child
Once the exhaustive home study process is completed, some Adoptive Parents will find themselves anxiously waiting. The home study process is exactly that, a process, and Adoptive Parents know that they are doing something to move forward in their adoption journey. The waiting to be selected by a Birth Mother in a private US adoption, or the waiting until an adoptable child is found in an international adoption, is the next and often most difficult phase of waiting for hopeful Adoptive Parents.
While You Wait
During your adoption process, you will hear stories of successful adoptions and the statement that “(insert child’s name) was worth the wait.” While this statement may sound cliché, it also can help to provide some hope to those who are struggling through a difficult period of waiting because it is a statement that has been shared by Adoptive Parents who have struggled through infertility and loss to adopt, by those who have had their hearts broken by multiple adoption disruptions and by those who have waited and wondered for years why they were not being selected.
During this period of waiting, many Adoptive Parents struggle because they focus on the wait and there is not much for them to “do.” Below are some helpful tips that other Adoptive Parents have shared that helped them through this stage. Throughout the adoption process, it is likely you will face difficult challenges and you will need to know how to cope, recharge and move forward.
Take care of your mental, emotional and spiritual health
Taking care of yourself can be the first thing you let go of under stressful situations. While there may be days that are especially difficult, it is important to be intentional about taking care of your mental, emotional and spiritual health.
This does not mean that you need to overhaul your lifestyle but it means that you should continue to live your life while you wait. Make sure you maintain a healthy work schedule, keep up with your hobbies and social life, and if you have a spouse or partner, enjoy date nights. Take the time to appreciate even the smallest things that bring you joy, whether that is a day with your girl/guy friends, enjoying a spa day or spending some time out in nature.
For Adoptive Parents who have a specific religion, faith or belief group, it can help to ground yourself in the teachings as your beliefs and convictions can help guide you through the most difficult times.
Stay connected with family and friends
If you and your spouse/partner are adopting together, make sure you are there to support one another through the adoption process. Share your joys but also be honest with each other about your struggles. Opening the lines of honest communication has been proven to strengthen and grow relationships and being able to lean and rely on one another during the difficult time of waiting can be your greatest support.
If you are single and adopting, it does not mean that you must go through the adoption process alone. Reach out to your closest loved ones and allow them to share in the joys and in the struggles of your adoption journey.
Amongst your family and friends, it will be important to surround yourself with those that are able to encourage you and lift you up rather than those who are negative and raise fears and doubts about your decision to adopt. It is also important to keep in mind that for many of your family and friends, adoption may not be a familiar topic. Take the time to educate them as this can actually be an opportunity for you to analyze your future parenting plans.
Stay connected with your adoption professional
When you first start working with an adoption professional (adoption agencies, attorneys, facilitators, etc.), there will be constant communication as you discuss the process, fill out paperwork, get your profiles ready and get started on your home study. Then your adoption professional will begin marketing your profile to Birth Mothers or begin searching for adoptable children and the level of contact may drop off. This is a natural part of the adoption process but know that your adoption professional should still stay in contact with you during the waiting process. Also, never hesitate to reach out to them if you have questions or concerns. Your adoption professional is your partner and wants to help you through any of the difficult sections of your adoption journey.
Find adoption support groups
For many hopeful Adoptive Parents, a special kind of encouragement comes from parents who have already adopted. No one truly can understand your struggles with waiting like another family who has already faced and overcome that struggle. These parents can provide unique insight about adoption wait times and can affirm your hope of parenthood becoming a reality.
Some Adoptive Parents also find it helpful to reach out to other families who are waiting to adopt and share their experiences together.
Start thinking about the details
If it is something that will help you and not add to your stress level, start thinking about the anticipated changes that you will need to make with a new child. In some adoption situations, you will need to be prepared for an immediate birth or a short pregnancy which may not give you much time to prepare, so familiarize yourself with things such as what your employer’s policy is on adoption leave and get an idea of what your travel needs might be.
If you are adopting a newborn, you can give thought to what your child’s name will be. Maybe you will want to name him/her after a relative? Or maybe there is a name you have always loved? If you are adopting a child from another country, think about whether you would want him/her to keep their birth name or whether you would want to incorporate the birth name as a middle name. If you are adopting an older child, consider continuing to use his/her birth name as adoption can be a more difficult transition for an older child and keeping their birth name can help comfort them through the process.
If adopting from another country, now would be a good time to consult with your doctor about any immunizations that may be necessary. Start studying your child’s birth language, and learn as much of it as you can to help in their transition. Seek out local cultural activities and centers, and consider buying a cookbook and learning some basic meals to help them feel more at home.
In a domestic adoption, once the baby is born or the decision to adopt an older child has been made, the attorney or adoption organization you are working with will begin the placement paperwork, including the ICPC process (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children), if applicable. The ICPC is a statutory agreement between all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands and it governs the placement of children from one state into another state and ensures that prospective placements are safe and suitable. The prospective Adoptive Parents will have physical custody of the child until the adoption is finalized.
In international adoption, once a match is made there is an in-country adoption process, which may include finalization of the adoption. Once finalized, a new birth certificate and passport is issued. The child receives automatic citizenship upon entering the U.S. If the child will be adopted later in the U.S., they return to the U.S. under the custody of the prospective Adoptive Parents. The adoption will then need to be finalized in the U.S., at which time a new birth certificate will be issued. Once the Adoptive Parents have returned to the U.S. with the child, they will need to apply for U.S. citizenship for the child. Several trips of varying lengths to the child’s country of origin may be required throughout the process. The entire process can take from 1-6 years.
So, how long will you have to wait for your child? No one can say for sure, as there are many choices and variables that can affect the timeline. Waiting for your child can be difficult, so take the process one step at a time. As most Adoptive Parents will say—when the time is right, the right child will find you. So take this time for yourself, and do everything you can to prepare for becoming a parent. While there may not be a set time frame, one day the wait will be over. There is nothing quite like parenthood, and before you know it you will be experiencing the ups, the downs and the boundless love that being a parent brings.