Join the club!
Just about everybody going through it for the first time feels that way. It’s perfectly natural. But once you get started, it’s not so bad. The key is to take it one baby step at a time.
That’s why I’ve decided to write this article breaking down the adoption process into 7 simple steps. Well okay, so the steps really aren’t that simple. But the idea here is to keep it as simple as possible so that you can better understand the process and have an idea of what to expect. In future blog posts I will explore each of these topics in much greater depth. For now, we’re just touching on the basics.
Note: The steps listed here are for domestic infant adoption in the U.S. If you are interested in an international adoption, or a domestic foster adoption or older child adoption, the steps may be similar, but with key differences. For the purposes of this website, I am focusing on domestic infant adoption because that is what my wife and I are going through and that is what I’m most familiar with.
So without further ado, here are the seven steps of the domestic infant adoption process.
1. Considering your options
Before you do anything else, you first need to think about what kind of adoption you want to pursue. There are many different options, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Do you want to adopt an infant or an older child? Do you want to adopt from your own country or from another country? Are you okay with adopting a child of a different race or with special needs? Do you want an open adoption where you and your child have some degree of contact with the birth family, or would you prefer a closed adoption? You may think you already know what you want, but take time to really think about it and weigh the pros and cons of each. Once you have a good idea, you can proceed to the next step.
2. Finding an adoption professional
Your next step is to choose an adoption professional to work with. This may be an adoption attorney, agency, or facilitator. This is arguably the most important decision you will make throughout the process, so don’t take this step lightly. You definitely want to choose a professional who is reputable and experienced, but you also want to make sure they are the right fit for you. For instance, if you are looking to adopt an infant domestically, then you want to choose a professional who deals with these types of adoptions and not just international or foster adoptions. Or if you want to be a parent within the next year, you don’t want to go with someone who typically has much longer wait times. Make sure you ask a lot of questions when interviewing potential adoption professionals and make sure they address the issues and concerns that are most important to you. One more thing (and this is important): make sure you pay attention to how they deal with birthmothers; you want to make sure they provide them the care and support they need and are not just trying to pressure them into “giving up” their babies.
3. Completing the home study
Everyone going through the adoption process should have a home study done. A home study is basically where a social worker gathers information about you by conducting a series of interviews and visits to your home. You may also need to go through some background checks, medical exams, and provide other information about your finances, employment, and so on. This may sound scary, but don’t let it intimidate you. The purpose is not to put you under a microscope and scrutinize every minute detail of your life. It’s simply to get an idea of who you are and what kind of life you will provide for the child you adopt. The home study also usually includes some kind of training to educate and prepare you for what you can expect as an adoptive parent. So while the home study process may seem very involved and intrusive, it can actually be a very positive experience for you and your spouse.
4. Creating your adoption profile
Just as your résumé is the first impression that an employer has of you when they are thinking of hiring you, your adoption profile is the first impression that a potential birthmother has of you when deciding whether to place her child with you. Therefore, it’s essential that you create a well-written and designed profile. An adoption profile is basically where you tell the birthmother about yourselves and give them a glimpse into your lives and what life will be like for their child. The profile can be a printed book or pamphlet, or it could be an online profile or website. A good profile should include stories of how you met, why you decided to adopt, what you like to do for fun, and more. It should also include lots of good photographs. You may even want to consider creating a video, as this is a great way to connect with potential birthmothers. The important thing is to be yourselves and have fun with it.
5. Waiting for a match
This part can be the most excruciating for many people. Even if you are lucky enough to only wait a few weeks for a match, that short time can feel like an eternity. Many people think that there is nothing you can do during this time other than just hope and pray for a phone call. But in actuality, this is when you should be the most active. There are a lot of things you can and should do while waiting. Use this time to get the word out about your adoption, not only to potential birthmothers, but also to friends, family, co-workers, and others who can help you. Try holding different fundraisers or applying for grants to help defray the costs of your adoption. Start working on getting the baby’s room ready or registering for baby items. Write a journal about your adoption. Read some good books and blogs (like this one? *hint hint*) about adoption. Go on adoption forums and talk with other adoptive parents-in-waiting for moral support. You get the idea. There are all sorts of things you can be doing while waiting to make the time go by faster. Oh yeah, one more thing: For you married couples out there, make sure you take time to spend quality time with each other, go on dates, travel, and all the other fun stuff that you won’t have time to do once the baby arrives!
6. Match and placement
Getting the phone call that a birthmother has chosen you can be as thrilling as finding out you’re pregnant. But don’t celebrate too much just yet. First, make sure you have your adoption agency or attorney screen them properly to make sure she is legit and not a scammer. It’s best to have a professional do this for you as they have the proper training and are not as emotionally invested in the adoption as you are. You also want to keep in mind that they can always change their mind before or even right after the child is born. Once the birthmother has been screened, you may have a chance to talk to her and get to know her and maybe her family. Make sure you show genuine concern for her well being and are not just focused on your own desire to become a parent. Respect the fact that she is making a very difficult and emotional decision, and talk with her about what role she wants to have in the child’s life, if any. Finally, when the baby is born and the birthmother has signed the consent forms to hand over parental rights to you, then you can celebrate. You are now a parent!
7. Post-placement and finalization
Now that you’ve brought home your new bundle of joy, there are still a few loose ends that need to be tied up before the adoption is legally complete. You may have to do a little paperwork depending on your state’s requirements. You may also get a visit or two from the social worker to make sure everything is okay. Finally, you will need to appear in court with your baby and adoption attorney in order to finalize the adoption. From what I understand, this is not a big deal; just a few simple questions and some paperwork, and you’re done. Congratulations! This part of your adoption journey is over, but this is really just the beginning of your new life with your child!
I hope this article helped you to understand the adoption process better. As I said before, I’ll go into greater detail on these steps in future posts, but for now, I just wanted to lay it all out for you to give you a better idea of what to expect.
Any questions or comments? Is there anything you would add? Please feel free to leave a comment below!
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