The COVID-19 pandemic is wrecking havoc on all aspects of life in the United States and abroad. Things are changing rapidly, but I thought I’d give you an update as to its current impact on prospective adoptive parents’ domestic adoption journey. I have consulted with many of the professionals I work with closely and this update includes feedback from professionals across the country. If circumstances change dramatically, I will provide further updates. I also recommend that prospective adoptive families contact the specific professionals they are working with in their state (or an expectant mother’s state) to get specific updates on their circumstances. But please consider that everyone is being pulled in many different ways during this crisis, so everyone involved in the adoption community may be slower to respond. Please try and be patient and kind to all during this crisis.
This is an area where prospective adoptive parents can be impacted substantially by a state’s orders to shelter in place or limit activity/work out of their homes. Most states require some time of home visit and in-person meeting to complete the home study, many that have not been waived due to this crisis. So some families’ home studies are stalled if they have not yet had their required in-person home visit(s). I’ve been told that some states have allowed Zoom or Skype follow up visits by home study agencies, but you’ll want to check with your home study provider for more information on how this could be impacting the completion of your home study. In addition, families that need pool fences installed or other modifications to their homes are also being delayed. My guess is that there will be some type of delay for most people during this stage of the process even if their visits are completed, as social workers are working from home with more distractions due to children at home and difficulties with telecommuting. For states like Arizona that require court approval of a home study, the courts remain open and seem to be continuing to approve those orders, but that could change or be further delayed if the courts close or further reduce operations.
When this crisis first began, I saw A LOT less situations than normal from the adoption professionals I work with closely. A few professionals indicated that they wouldn’t be making new matches except baby born cases, and instead would be waiting until closer to the due date to match an expectant family. In the last few days, I have seen more activity from professionals, cases due soon and cases due in summer and early fall. However, it does still appear to be affecting matching with some professionals in that some professionals are looking to match expectant families with families within their state or families within driving distance, to limit potential complications in the adoption process in the future.
I have noticed more activity in Facebook matching groups, and I speculate that some expectant families may be more likely to self-match during this pandemic instead of contacting attorneys and agencies who might be less available than they usually are. However, some expectant families without support from friends and family during this pandemic may be more likely to reach out to agencies and attorneys for support. My typical recommendations continue even in this crisis: continue a multi-faceted approach with a combination of using adoption professionals (attorneys/agencies) and some adoption outreach allowed in your/other states. I always encourage families to be active through some form of adoption outreach (with guidance from adoption professionals) and would recommend families open to adoption outreach join Facebook groups geared toward matching or continue other self-matching efforts on social media or adoption websites. As always, I encourage prospective adoptive families to also join, search and post in the scam detection groups on Facebook if they are contacted by an expectant family, and consult with adoption professionals about any serious inquiries. Also, make sure you never give any money or anything of value to an expectant family without consulting with an experienced adoption professional (AAAA attorney or adoption agency) in that state to ensure compliance with the state’s laws on living expenses. I also recommend you don’t give substantial time without consulting with an adoption professional, to reduce your risk of emotional scams.
Most professionals are recommending that families travel to the birth by car instead of air. Air travel has been reduced by many airlines, but domestic air travel continues. Some matched families are waiting until baby is born or labor has progressed to leave their homes to reduce the wait time in the expectant family’s state. If you are matched and the baby is due soon, you should check in with your matching attorney/agency to determine if they recommend anything different with travel due to the pandemic. You should be aware that AirBnbs/VRBOs have been restricted/reduced in many areas, so there may be less opportunity for families traveling/awaiting ICPC. In addition, many Ronald McDonald Houses or similar accommodations are full or have changed their operations due to the pandemic, so check to see if those are operating in the state before you travel. I would recommend having a few different options for back up in the state you’re traveling to, and remain as flexible as you can during this uncertain time. I expect travel and the waiting period to be even more stressful than it usually is during this pandemic, but at least some families are not having to worry as much about time off/being away from work during the crisis if their work has already been impacted.
The hospital experience in adoption seems to have been impacted substantially by the pandemic. Many hospitals across the country are not letting visitors in the hospital or are otherwise restricting access to the hospital for safety reasons. In many cases, adoption agencies and adoptive parents are not allowed into the hospital at all, so expectant families or hospital NICUs/nurseries are caring for the babies until discharge. Prospective adoptive parents should expect that they may not have the hospital experience they expected when they started this journey. The hospital experience could also be much more difficult for the expectant mothers, particularly if they are not allowed to have support persons in their delivery, or are forced to care for a child in the hospital that they had planned to have cared for by the adoptive parents. I have heard of visitor exceptions being made for adoptive families in some states/areas, but I believe this is a fluid situation and may depend on where you are traveling to, the severity of the pandemic in that area and the specific policies of that hospital. Please reach out to the attorney/agency you are matched through for specific information on what they are seeing at the specific hospital if your due date is soon. I expect it will get more difficult as COVID-19 cases continue to increase.
I have heard that some hospitals are providing families with less formula, diapers and other baby products when a baby is discharged. So make sure you have gathered these types of supplies before you travel and that you bring them with you to your destination. I usually tell families to travel light and buy things at their destination if possible, but I have changed my recommendations due to low supply during this pandemic. I know some families with young children are having a difficult time finding formula, diapers, and wipes in some areas, so make sure that you have any baby products you might need for a newborn baby for your travel, or even for an unexpected baby born situation if you’re not yet matched. Consider packing a bag full of diapers, wipes, formula, bottles and at least some limited baby clothes.
I expect that the ICPC process might be impacted by the pandemic, however in most states the ICPC employees are considered essential personnel and working remotely. I have actually seen some families be cleared by ICPC faster than normal, but others that are experiencing delays. I know waiting in a state you aren’t familiar with, especially if the area is in a shelter-in-place could be more difficult, so I encourage you to be as patient as possible during the process. Try and enjoy the time you are spending with your newborn as much as possible, and know that for once the rest of the country is (hopefully) staying in and hunkering down like you are at the same time!
Finalization and Post Placements
Scheduled finalizations have been impacted by this pandemic. I have heard of some finalizations being cancelled and not yet being rescheduled, and I have heard of other hearings being changed to telephonic from in-person finalizations. Please reach out to your adoption attorneys/agencies for more information about your particular state or court, if you haven’t heard from them yet. I would expect that future finalizations may also be delayed due to the backlog that closures or reductions will have on the court system.
If your finalization is not yet scheduled and you are awaiting post placement visits, please talk with your post-placement agency about what is being done to conduct those required visits. You should expect some delay or they may be able to make changes to conduct those visits virtually in some states.
Monetary Impact of this Pandemic
I know that many people are being impacted financially by this pandemic. Retirement and investment accounts may be down significantly, jobs may be at risk (and even adoption benefits through those jobs), and the financial impact of all of this can be really scary. I know some people are putting their adoption journeys on hold, reducing their budgets, changing what circumstances they are open to, or otherwise changing how they might have operated before this pandemic began. Make sure you are communicating these changes to the adoption professionals you are working with so that they can serve you best in these uncertain times.
Stay safe and please continue practicing social distancing! I understand that children might be less likely to experience symptoms from this virus, but I know that there are still positive cases impacting newborns and toddlers. For your safety and the safety of others, please stay home and limit contact with others until the risk in our communities is lessened. If grandparents or other family members want to visit, consider the risk to everyone and please consider using FaceTime/Zoom/Skpe instead!!!
Last but definitely not least, If you have already adopted, please remember your child’s birth families during this crisis. This crisis is impacting everyone, so if you have contact with your child’s birth family or an expectant mother you are matched with, please check in on them and let them know that you are thinking of them during this time! But if you haven’t adopted or finalized your adoption yet, please be careful about providing anything of value to them during this time without approval from your adoption attorney.
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