The adoption process can seem daunting and mysterious to families who are just getting started on their journey towards building a family, but don’t worry! Read these ten steps and you’ll understand the basics about how a family goes from research to a welcome home party for a newly adopted child. If you still have any specific questions after you’re done with the article, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our adoption consultants will respond to you.
1. Research, Research, Research!
AdoptTogether has made an effort to compile some of the most important resource materials for families taking their very first steps in the adoption process.
So you’re in the right place!
After finishing this article, be sure to look through the rest of our blog posts to answer the more specific questions that will surely arise as you advance through this process.
Furthermore, an important aspect of the research process is to talk to people, lots of people. Friends, relatives, adoptive families, and anyone else who may be impacted by your decision or have valuable insight for your family.
Some of the most important questions to ask questions upfront, all of which can be answered in some way by the AdoptTogether resource catalog, are:
- “How much does adoption cost?”
- “How long can an adoption take?”
- “What is an open adoption?”
- “What is a home study?”
Lastly, there are many blogs & articles written by people with first hand experiences as well as books such as The Connected Child that have quickly become the so-called “Bible” for adoptive parents.
2. Decide Which Type of Adoption Is Right For Your Family.
The basic types of adoption are as follows:
- Domestic Adoption – Through an agency or independently; typically through an adoption attorney.
- Foster Care Adoption
- Embryo Adoption
We go into detail about the major differences between these types of adoption here.
3. Discuss Important Considerations With Your Partner.
Even if you’re a single parent adopting, it’s crucial to talk with those who will be at the nucleus of your child’s life. Here are some essential talking points to discuss with your partner:
How do you plan to pay for your adoption?
How much interaction would you prefer with your child’s birthmother?
Are you willing to adopt a child with special needs?
What age, ethnicity, and gender are you open to?
Where in your family’s birth order do you want your adopted child to be?
4. Narrow Down Your Options
Once you find an agency or attorney whom you feel meets your criteria, request an in-person meeting, phone call, or attend an informational meeting.
Make sure to ask these questions as you consider which adoption professional to handle your adoption:
- Are they licensed to work in your state?
- What does their fee schedule look like?
- How many placements do they have per year?
- What is the average wait time for your program of choice?
- How many waiting families do they have in your program of choice?
- If going through an agency—how many birthmothers are they currently counseling?
- If going through an attorney—how do they network your profile with birthmothers?
5. Start Fundraising!
For most adoption processes, families typically will need to have an average of $5k to get the process rolling. Those funds usually go toward agency fees and home study fees (fees and their breakdown vary by service provider).
Now is a good time to create your AdoptTogether profile and continue to update it as you progress through the following steps!
Once you complete your application, typically online, and select your program of choice there will typically be a fee administered at this point.
Upon further review of your application, the agency will let you know which of their programs you are eligible for based on several factors: your age, income, health, family size, etc.
Once you’ve provided any supporting documentation requested such as financial statements and personal references, you should be well on your way to being approved.
7. You’re Approved!
At this point, you will typically be provided with an adoption services contract (the exact process depends on your agency). Be sure to read this contract carefully before signing and ask questions if you’re unsure!
Pay special attention to their fees, agency responsibilities, family responsibilities, refund policy, additional expenses disclosure (if applicable), termination, and complaints & grievances.
Agency fees are normally due upon return of contracts.
8. Get started on Home Study Paperwork
The home study process is one of the major hurtles in the adoption process. Some parents report that it was smooth & easy, others say it was a complete pain in the…you know.
Your adoption professional will walk you through the process which includes:
- A complete background check, getting fingerprinted, a complete historical background summary, a health report or physical from your doctor, a copy of your health insurance benefits/coverage, a complete financial summary including pay stubs, W-2s, previous year’s tax returns, list of any debts, and lastly a compilation of legal documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, and passports. (Requirements may vary by each adoption)*
You will also write out brief outline or story of your life that your social worker will use as a guide during your home study interviews.
Next, you will complete training hours as required by your adoption professional. Trainings are offered by your agency or are available online depending on your program and country of choice.
Lastly, make sure your house is up to date on all safety requirements such as smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. It’s important to identify and mitigate any potential hazards such as fire places, stair ways, or pools. Your case worker may even require you to develop an emergency evacuation map of your home.
9. Home Study Interviews & Visitation
After filling out the necessary paperwork, a social worker will visit your home several times for interviews. Many couples fear this portion of the home study as it they perceive the social worker as someone looking to prevent them from adopting by scrutinizing their life with a fine-tooth come.
We assure you, this is not the case!
Your social worker is on your side. So be open & honest with them so there’s nothing that may come up at the last minute to hinder you from adopting. Again, your social worker is on your side!
They will ask a series of questions to learn more about your family and how it relates to your adoption.
Remember, relax, be flexible, and have a sense of humor!
They aren’t there to interrogate you. They are there to make sure that your family can be a safe, healthy, loving environment for a child. Depending on your history, they may need to ask questions about sensitive subjects—so be prepared for some necessary vulnerability.
After you complete all of your interviews, your social worker will get to work writing your home study. This can take several weeks. Be patient!
10. Compile Your Final Documents
Congrats on getting your home study approved!
You’re at the very last leg of this process.
For a domestic adoption, it’s time to put together you family’s profile book. This book will be shown to birth parents searching for an adoptive family. Your profile book should represent who your family is, what you enjoy, and what your life is like (birth parents want to imagine how their child could fit into your family and day-to-day life).
Consider writing separate letters to both the birth mother and birth father from both you and your partner (separately) to include in your book.
If you’re adopting internationally, it’s time to compile your dossier.
The dossier is a packet of paperwork that contains country-specific legal forms as well as your own personal legal documents and home study. Many of these forms will need to be notarized or officially sealed.
This process can take months, so try your best to be patient.
You will be waiting on other people and government systems, making appointments, sending and receiving documents.
When you submit your dossier, it’s important to make copies of everything and mail with tracking updates so you can be assured everything has arrived on time and to the appropriate persons.
You’ve finished the first ten steps!
CONGRATS! But, now what?!
Wait well. This is truly an art.
For Domestic Adoptions:
- Your family is now considered a “waiting family.”
- Your profile book is being shown to birth parents considering making an adoption plan.
For International Adoptions:
- Your family is now considered a “waiting family.”
- Your agency will contact you with program updates and when they have a referral for your family.
We hope this article helped give you an overview of what to expect on your adoption journey! We’ve got a lot more resources for you, so be sure to scan through any topics listed in our blog that may be relevant for your particular process & share with anyone you know who may benefit from them.
By Chloe Briggs, AdoptTogether Adoption Consultant
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