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.
- Domestic vs. international adoption?
- Adopt a baby vs. an older child?
- Private adoption vs. foster care?
- Open, semi-open or closed adoption?
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. 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, home study 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 quoted at $20,000 and Adoption Professional #2's fees are quoted at $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. 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 does the adoption opportunity process look like?
- 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).
Here is where you will create your adoption plan, firming up your answers on questions surrounding what your preferences are, what you would be open to in Birth Mother situations, what type of contact you would be comfortable with during and after the birth, etc.
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. A homestudy is conducted by someone licensed in your state, usually a social worker. The purpose of the homestudy is to educate you, the Adopting Family, and prepare you for adoption. The homestudy 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 worker 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 after reviewing Adoptive Family profiles (if you are adopting an infant).
In a newborn, domestic adoption, once a Birth Parent selects a hopeful Adoptive Family, this adoption opportunity is presented to the Adoptive Family who is then given the choice to move forward with or decline the opportunity. If accepted, the adoption process moves on to the next steps of the process prior to the placement of the 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.
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. This can take anywhere from 8-14 days after the placement documents are signed.
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 be finalized by the court.
During the time an adoption is not yet finalized, the Post Placement Period is usually between 1-18 months. The time period is usually set by the state that maintains legal jurisdiction for the adoption. However, sometimes the legal state of the residence of the Adopting Parent(s) may have requirements that also apply.
The Post Adoption Supervisory Report is usually conducted in the adoptive home with all household members present. This is an extremely detailed account of the adjustment to the adoption. There is a review of the child’s health and habits, development, when they reached developmental milestones. If there are any assessments and/or recommended services made, it will also include how those needs are being met. There is a discussion of the child’s daily activities, academic progress, and any recreational activities or social interactions. Is the child bonding with family members? How does the child relate to peers and adults? There is a discussion with the adults in the home—how are they handling the new responsibilities, bonding with the child, maintaining relationships with other household members and peers, what changes in work schedules or resuming work after taking a leave from work. Relationships with extended family and family friends are reviewed—including their reaction to the adoption and acceptance of the child. Any changes in the physical home, finances and schedules are detailed. There is also a review of adoption in general—what is the experience and feelings about it now, as well as discussion of adoption with the child, family and friends. Resources and referrals are made as appropriate or needed.
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. Your social worker or attorney will notify you of the date and time. The proceeding lasts about 10 to 30 minutes. At this hearing, you, the Adoptive Parent(s) 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!