Considering adoption? Think of adoption as a journey (i.e. the "adoption journey"), where there are many forks in the road and you must choose which way to go. Before you begin your adoption journey, it is important that you understand the various steps of the adoption process and the things you should start to think about in order to meet your individual needs and goals.
Here is a step by step guide on how to adopt a child domestically, and how to adopt with Adoption Network Law Center:
1. Learn About Adoption / Select the Type of Adoption That is Right For You
As an adopting parent, you get to decide on what type of adoption program is best for you and your family. Every adoption opportunity is unique. It is important to understand why you want to adopt and what your lifestyle will allow you to realistically be able to do in an adoption. Some factors to think about when choosing the type of adoption that is right for you include:
- Domestic vs. international adoption?
- Adopt a baby vs. an older child?
- Private adoption vs. foster care?
- Open, semi-open or closed adoption?
Each of these decisions will have a bearing on the cost and layout of the process as you embark on your adoption journey.
2. Research the Costs
Once you decide the type of adoption you wish to pursue, it is important to obtain a solid understanding of the costs involved in the process. The cost of adoption varies depending on the type of adoption you choose, the adoption professional you choose, the state you live in, the state the Birth Mother lives in, and what the Birth Mother's pregnancy-related expenses might be. Standard fees typically include (but are not limited to): your adoption professional's fees, marketing costs associated in achieving your highest chance possible in reaching potential Birth Mothers, Birth Mother pregnancy-related expenses, homestudy costs, travel and legal expenses.
Adoption Network Law Center works very closely with Adopting Parents to help you adopt within your budget and achieve your goal in building or expanding your family through adoption.
3. Choose an Adoption Professional
While researching various adoption professionals, it is important for you to understand that not all entities provide the same services in the same manner. Some handle the entire adoption process, helping you through every step, while others may only handle certain parts of it. It is crucial that you ask each adoption professional you are vetting to give you an accurate layout of ALL the costs you will incur while working with them (whether those costs are a part of their services or not). In other words, just because Adoption Professional #1's fees are $20,000 and Adoption Professional #2's fees are $30,000 does not necessarily mean Adoption Professional #1 would be the least expensive option in the end (as there may be other costs not covered by #1's services).
Be sure to understand the differences between an adoption agency, law center, and facilitator. Each have pros and cons of their own and are regulated differently. During this step of the process, you should be doing your research, know what you want, need and expect our of your adoption journey, ask questions and keep an eye out for any warning signs and risks during the vetting process. Some questions you’ll want to ask an adoption professional include:
- What kind of children does the entity place (ages, backgrounds, etc.)?
- How many children has the entity placed in each of the past few years?
- How does the entity find Birth Parents?
- What criteria does the entity use to match Birth Parents with Adoptive Parents?
- How long, on average, is the wait time?
- What is the homestudy and what does it require?
- How much does a completed adoption cost — in total and each part?
- What if the adoption doesn't work out and is there any financial protection provided?
4. Work With Your Adoption Professional
After you choose the Adoption Professional you will be working with, it is time to really begin the groundwork in your adoption journey. Your adoption professional will ask you to fill out what seems like a daunting amount of paperwork (a.k.a. an adoption application or questionnaire). This application process will be able to ensure that you meet all the requirements to adopt before moving on the next steps in the adoption process.
Here is where you will create your adoption plan, which is basically like building a blueprint of what your adoption journey should look like, taking into consideration your specific needs, preferences and limitations.
You will also be creating your Adoptive Parent profile, which will be seen by and distributed to potential Birth Parents. ANLC creates your profile for you in-house, but other adoption professionals may require you to either build your own or work with an outside entity to do so.
5. Complete Your Homestudy
Every Adopting Parent in the United States must complete a homestudy in order to adopt a child. No matter which adoption professional you choose, a homestudy is conducted by a social worker licensed in your state. The purpose of the homestudy is to educate you, the Adopting Family, and prepare you for adoption. The homestudy also evaluates the capability of an Adoptive Family to ensure they are suitable to adopt a child. This step of the adoption process involves the social worker thoroughly gathering information about the Adopting Parents by visiting them at their home, interviewing their family, and ensuring that the Adopting Parents will provide a healthy environment for any child. Questions that a social will ask pertain to family background, education, employment, relationships, finances, and prior parenting experiences.
A successful homestudy results in an official approval for the adoption to move forward. In some cases, the social worker may feel that an adoptive placement is not in the best interest of the child or family.
6. Finding a Birth Mother
Depending on the type of adoption you have chosen, you will likely either be able to view a list of waiting children (if adopting an older child) or Birth Parents will select you out of a list of Adoptive Family profiles to adopt their baby (if you are adopting an infant). Once a Birth Parent selects you, this adoption opportunity is presented to the Adoptive Family (i.e. you) who is then given the choice to accept or reject the adoption opportunity. If accepted, the adoption process moves on to the next steps of the process prior to the placement of your baby.
It is common for a Birth Mother to want to get to know the Adoptive Parents, so she can feel more confident in the family she’s chosen and the life she has envisioned for her unborn child.
Nowadays, most adoption professionals, including ANLC, encourage openness in these adoption relationships so everyone involved can feel confident they are making a decision that is best for each side of the adoption triad.
7. Prepare For Your Baby
Before the birth of your baby, you will have to think about home preparation for your new child. This means doing everything required to make a new home safe, welcoming, and comfortable for a new child. What home preparation entails can vary depending upon the Adoptive Family, but there are a few common requirements that all adoptive families can prepare:
- Child-Friendly Environment: A child-friendly home is one that is clean, orderly, and free of overt adult paraphernalia, such as literature, films, images, and decorations that are inappropriate for children to see or be around. This is also extended to child safety precautions taken in the bathroom, around stairs if the home has them, basements, attics, and other rooms where a child could injure themselves.
- Proper Supplies: Healthy foods, necessary toiletries, medications, utensils, and furniture needed and designed for children are a great way to prepare your home for your coming child. Of course, the supplies you purchase should reflect the age of the child you’re adopting.
This is also the step in the process where you would usually tell your close family and friends that you are adopting. It is important that you, as well as those you share your adoption with, understand that there are certain differences between sharing this news versus sharing news about a pregnancy. For example, some may be tempted to throw you a baby shower. However, it is advised that you proceed with caution, as the adoption is not final nor secure until the finalization step. Additionally, you should prepare yourself for the various types of questions and reactions you will receive when sharing your adoption news.
8. Birth of Your Baby!
You will receive a phone call notifying you that either the Birth Mother has gone into labor or your child has been born. Depending on your adoption plan with the Birth Mother, you may be able to be in hospital room or waiting room for your baby’s birth. It is important that you are aware of what happens at the hospital before, during and after the birth. The ANLC team will ensure that everything at the hospital goes as smoothly as possible, so that you can enjoy the moment you’ve been long waiting for: holding your precious baby in your arms.
9. Bring Home Your Child and Petition to Adopt
If you are bringing your baby home from another state, you will need to complete the ICPC ("Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children") process. In order to legally take a child from one state to another, you must comply with the ICPC requirements. This can take anywhere from 8-14 days after birth.
Once you are able to bring your child home, your adoption professional (or third-party attorney) will begin the process of petitioning for your adoption. Once this petition is submitted to the court and all necessary legal forms have been signed and submitted by yourselves, the Birth Parents, and all parties involved, it can then by approved or denied by the court.
10. Finalize the Adoption
You did it! You've reached the final step in the adoption process. Thankfully, this is the easiest step. A finalization hearing legally completes the adoption process and usually occurs within 6 to 12 months after the child is placed in your home. Your social worker or attorney will notify you of the date and time. The proceeding lasts about 10 to 30 minutes and typically includes you, your adopted child, your family’s lawyer, and the social worker who placed the child (if any). At this hearing, you, the adoptive parent, are given permanent legal custody of the adopted child.
At the end of the finalization hearing, you are what ANLC calls, "a forever family!"
If you have any questions about the adoption process or how to adopt a baby, please feel free to contact us so we can answer all of your adoption-related questions and get you started on your adoption journey!