Adopting a child is a long process but in the end it is the best thing to do (most of the time).
Good resources for families interested in adoption are the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Many people do not know where to start when adopting a child; the following steps can start you in the right direction.
- The first thing to do when beginning an adoption is to decide what type of adoption you want to pursue. To do this, consider what type of child you see as part of your family. Do you want to pursue an international adoption or a domestic adoption? The type of adoption you want will affect the agency you choose. This is an important decision; think it over carefully and get information from every source you can find.
- Once you have decided on an agency, there will be a lot of paper work to fill out. There will be additional questions about the child you envision in your home; these questions are designed to help the agency match you with the right situation.
- The agency you use will require that you complete a home study. A home study is a report about you that is required by the state and is conducted by a professional licensed by your state of residence - this is usually a licensed clinical social worker. The home study paints a picture of how your life currently is and gives information about your background. Your agency will most likely have their own home study team. If you are pursuing a private adoption (one using a private attorney), your attorney will have references to home study agencies.
- Along with interviewing you, your spouse or partner if you have one, and your personal references, the home study worker will visit your home. The number and timing of the interviews vary depending on your state of residence. You will also be required to complete a criminal and child abuse background check and in some states you will need to be fingerprinted.
- Along with the home study you will be asked to write a letter to the birth parent(s) and to send photos of you, your family, and your home. This is typically referred to as your profile.
- Once all the paper work has been filed and approved, the agency will present your profile to the families wanting to place their baby for adoption. This can be an exciting, anxious, and frustrating time. Most agencies will work with you and try to make it as pleasant as possible. Many birth parents will want to interview you by phone; some will want to meet in person before making their final decision.
- Once you have been selected by a birth parent and you agree to the plan, you are said to be "matched." The birth mother can only sign relinquishment papers after the baby is born. At that time (usually 24 - 48 hours after the delivery) her parental rights are terminated and at that point (in most states) the relinquishment becomes irrevocable.
- After placement, your social worker will check in with you and see how you and your new baby are adjusting. This period of supervision varies from state to state. It can be as little as 3 months or it can be a year or more depending on the state and the age of the child at placement (longer supervision is required for children who are over 6 months of age at placement).
- Once you have completed your post-placement supervision, you will be cleared to finalize the adoption. You will return to court where a judge will issue an adoption decree. At this point legal guardianship transfers from the placing agency to you and you become the child's legal parents. A new birth certificate will be issued.
- Be patient.
- Research the adoption agency before selecting one.
- Adoption does not have to be too expensive for the average family.
- Consider adopting an older child. They don't need as much care as infants, but sadly, the older they get, the less the chance of them getting adopted is. I would personally recommend ages 3-7.