The Basic Steps in a Domestic Infant Adoption
Many people consider adopting but become too discouraged by the complexity of the adoption process to proceed past an initial thought. It's true that adoption is a complex process that includes preparation, education, the legal process, finances, not to mention the emotions involved! No two adoptions are the same, and each state's laws are a little different, but each follow the same general steps:
Hire an Adoption Advisor
Start by hiring an adoption advisor or consultant to walk you through the process, direct you to experienced and ethical attorneys and agencies, and help reduce your risk in your adoption journey. Having someone direct you on what steps to take, how to complete them and what adoption professionals to trust is invaluable. They provide you necessary counsel throughout the emotional process and can provide you tips on what has worked well for other adoptive families.
Complete a Home Study
The home study is an evaluation of a prospective adoptive family that is required by law. Each state's laws are slightly different, but it typically involves education of the adoption process, background checks, medical evaluations, and A LOT of paperwork. You typically will meet with a social worker a few times, he/she completes a relatively informal interview and inspection of your home and writes an evaluation regarding your ability to provide a safe and secure home for a child. While this step can be intimidating, it is relatively straight forwarded and gathering the necessary paperwork is usually the hardest part.
Create Your Family Profile and Website/Social Media
Your family profile is a sort of family scrapbook that expectant parents review when they are selecting the adoptive family to raise their child. Given that this is how a family is chosen in an agency or attorney adoption, this is an important piece of the adoption puzzle. More information about creating an engaging adoption profile is here. These days, more and more expectant parents are finding the adoptive parents online through websites and social media instead of utilizing an adoption agency, so an adoption advisor can also guide you through the best way to network your family that way safely.
Funding Your Adoption
The costs of adoption can be very high. It is important for you to prepare for those costs by applying for available grants, low interest adoption loans, engaging in creative fundraising, and accessing tax credits and employer benefits so that you have the resources necessary to be available to present to situations that arise. An adoption advisor can also guide families through this process and provide a list of funding resources to help offset the costs of adoption.
Apply to Attorneys/Agencies and Await a Match
In my opinion, the best method to adopt ethically and relatively quickly is using a multi-attorney/agency approach. This approach gives greater exposure to available situations in adoption friendly states and cuts down the wait time considerably. Utilizing primarily attorneys instead of just costly agencies can reduce the cost spent on the adoption. Most families can adopt within a year of certification utilizing this type of approach, with a longer time if you are particular about the child you would like to adopt (i.e. gender, ethnicity, desired openness level).
Match with an Adoption Situation
Once you have completed your home study and your profile is with multiple attorneys/agencies, you can start presenting to expectant families. When an attorney, agency or your advisor is contacted about a situation that matches your preferences, you are given information available on the adoption situation (i.e. cost, health of the baby, race, gender, etc.) and have the opportunity to discuss the situation further with your advisor and/or attorney and determine whether you'd like to be presented to the expectant parents. Most attorneys/agencies will give less than ten profiles to expectant parents to choose from. The expectant parents then choose the adoptive family they want to raise their child. Once a match is made, the adoptive parents may talk to the expectants parents via phone or email, or even travel to meet them in person. If they live nearby, the adoptive parents may even attend doctor's appointments and get to know the expectant parents before the child is born. However, many of our families are prepared for an emergency situation or a “stork drop” where the baby is already born and the family immediately travels to pick up the child from the hospital. Once a match is made, we recommend legal counsel to our clients experienced in the law that will apply to the adoption to decrease the risk in the adoption.
Since we work in primarily adoption friendly states, once the baby is born and the expectant mother executes the necessary consents, the baby is typically placed with you soon after birth (usually within the first 72 hours of the birth or soon after). At that time, physical custody is granted to the adoptive family.
Each state requires a post placement supervision period of anywhere from one to nine months. During this time the social worker makes regular visits with the adoptive parents to ensure the placement is going well and provide any needed support for the family before the adoption is finalized.
After the required post placement supervision, a finalization hearing is held where a judge will sign the final judgment decreeing the adoptive parents as the child’s parents and legally changing the child's name to your name.
The adoption process can be overwhelming and intimidating, so having an advisor who has walked in your shoes is important to minimizing risk and stress in an adoption. But like President Reagan first said when he created National Adoption Week, adoption is invaluable to our society and special "tribute [should be given] to those special couples who have opened their homes and hearts to adopted children, forming the bonds of love that we call the family."
For more information on some of the legal jargon used in an adoption, click here. For more information, please contact Purl Adoption Advisory for more information on beginning your adoption journey.