There are many paths to growing your family, including adoption. The process might seem long and complicated at first. You should expect a lot of waiting and get ready for a ton of paperwork. With patience and a little education, however, you can have a happy ending: about 135,000 American children are adopted each year. If you’re just setting out on your adoption journey, read more about the five major stages of the process.
Learn about adoption
This list will give you an overview of the adoption process, but you’re just getting started. The laws and regulations in your state will be an important place to begin so you know what limits and opportunities will be available to you. One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is to choose whether or not you’ll work through a formal adoption agency like A Child’s Dream. A good adoption agency can be your best resources for education and support during the adoption process so choosing the right agency is important. Before you commit to working with an agency, compare your options and research their reputations and reviews. An agency can help you sift through all the information out there and focus your energy on the adoption procedures that best fit your situation.
An agency can help you learn about the many types of adoptions, including the benefits and common concerns that accompany each choice. For example, if you plan to adopt an international child, you’ll need to become familiar with the laws in your future child’s home country and maybe even learn some of the local language! An agency can help you navigate regulations, requirements, and optional preparations.
All legal adoptions in the United States require the adoptive parents to complete several screening steps that ensure children are placed in safe and appropriate homes. Altogether these steps are described as a home study. This screening process can take up to a year or move faster if you submit paperwork quickly and the screening agency has openings.
You will be asked to pass a background check that may require visiting a police station and being fingerprinted. You may need to submit financial information, marriage records, personal references, and even medical records. Your home and current family will be assessed. Most home studies involve one or more visits to your home from a licensed social worker when all members of the family are home, including children and pets. Ideally, the social worker will confirm that you have adequate space and safe accommodations for an adoptive child.
Once your home is approved to accept a child, your agency will work with you to begin the matching process. This is one step where the type of adoption you pursue and the kind of agency you work with will make a big difference in your experience. Some agencies have lists of children already available that your family can choose from. In this case, you may move forward to placement in as little as a few weeks. Other agencies will ask you to provide a portfolio or scrapbook about your family and let the birth mother choose a family she thinks is the best match. When a birth mother chooses your family, the agency works as the negotiator to present the option back to your family and you can choose whether or not to accept the match. Once you accept, the placement process will begin. In this kind of matching program, the timeline can vary drastically based on how many potential birth parents the agency works with and how quickly your family is chosen for a referral. This can take up to a year in some cases.
After a referral is accepted, there is, of course, more paperwork! Legal arrangements will be made and any remaining financial arrangements will be settled. Usually, after everything is signed and notarized, your child will be placed with your family, but the adoption is not final yet. After placement expect several agency visits where a social worker will check in on your child’s transition and talk with you and your spouse about your own adjustment to your new family member. For domestic adoptions, you will likely need to appear in court for a judge to review your documents and finalize the adoption legally. If you are adopting internationally, you may need to stay in your child’s birth country until this step is complete, and you may not be able to experience full-time custody during the placement phase. Although the placement stage can look very different for each family, once those court documents are filed, your child is a full member of your family!
Grow as a family
The legal paperwork is finally done, but the adventure has just begun. The adoption process isn’t only about finding and placing your child in your home, it’s also about becoming a family together. All adoptive families handle conversation about their child’s origins in a way that’s right for them, but it’s important to know that adopted children benefit from being able to ask questions and talk openly about their birth parents, the adoption process, and what it means to be a family that grew from adoption. There are social workers, therapists, community groups, and online blogs that can provide ongoing support and information to help you navigate those conversations in age appropriate ways as your child grows.
Adoption is a wonderful way to bring a child into your home, but the process isn’t always easy. Use this guide as a starting point to learn more about the major steps in your adoption journey.
This is a guest post