Adoption can be a wonderful way to add to a family. Although the process can be long, complicated, and expensive, the reward is immense. Sharing your life with a child and becoming a parent is one of the greatest gifts and will change lives forever. Many couples considering adoption can feel overwhelmed and have many questions. Luckily there are resources and guides to help navigate the process. But before couples start getting their paperwork together, they must consider why they want to adopt. Potential parents need to take an honest look at themselves and their lives and really consider how bringing a child into the family is going to work. Adopting a child is a lifelong commitment, and couples need to assess if it is the right commitment for them.
Questions to Ask Before Adopting a Child
Before getting too far into researching the adoption process, each potential parent should ask themselves some key questions and examine their motivation. Then the couple needs to make sure their answers are aligned. This first step is challenging; it is important to be completely honest about the reasons for adopting a child. Potential parents should consider these questions before getting deeper into the adoption process.
- Why do I want to adopt a child?
- What age am I willing to adopt?
- How much of a relationship do I want with the biological parents?
- How will adoption affect other family members?
- Am I open to adopting a child of a different cultural background or a special needs child?
Once you know what your ideal adoption situation looks like, you can start researching the different paths to adoption.
Ways to Adopt a Child
There are four ways that couples can adopt a child. The decision on which is the best for your family depends on lifestyle, finances, and personal preference.
- Foster care to adoption.
- A professional adoption agency.
- Adopt through a private lawyer.
- International adoption.
Adopting through foster care is the most affordable option, and if couples are open to adopting school-age children, often eight or older, this is an excellent option. The foster system provides support and guidance throughout the process. Once approved to become foster parents, couples can experience fostering a child before they adopt. There are hundreds of thousands of children that are in foster care, waiting to find their forever families.
Adopting a Newborn
Adopting through an adoption agency or private lawyer is the best option if a couple decides that they want a newborn. An adoption agency will guide the process and handle the details of finding the birth mother and meeting the state requirements for legal adoption.
Adopting through a private lawyer, sometimes referred to as private or independent adoption, is an intensive process, and the couple will be involved in every aspect of the process. For some families, this method of adoption is too intense, coupled with the emotional ups and downs of the adoption. In addition, private adoption is not legal in every state. If couples choose this method, it is important to find a reputable lawyer with experience to guide couples through the legal process.
In the past, many families chose international adoption, which was more common; nowadays, it is less common. Many countries have put strict limitations on the international adoption process. In fact, every country has its own rules and regulations. To that end, finding a legitimate international adoption agency is necessary. When considering international adoption, couples should consider cultural and language differences. Plus, the price can be substantially more considering all of the travel requirements to meet all of the legal terms for the adoption. In addition, many countries have strict rules about non-traditional families, including single parents and LGBTQ families.
Costs of Adopting a Child
The Child Welfare Information Gateway, an agency adoption, explains the general cost of adoption for each type of adoption. But these are general guidelines, and each situation is unique with many variables. Adopting through an adoption agency generally ranges from $20,000 to $45,000. While independent adoption with a private lawyer ranges from $15,000 to $40,000, and international adoption from $20,000 to $50,000.
What is the Home Study?
A home study is an assessment of the living situation that the child will be brought into. The entire process can take anywhere between a couple of months to six months. During the home study, a social worker will interview every person in the household and assess the household for safety, security, and other key factors in providing a nurturing home. Equally important, the social worker can answer questions and provide resources for training or adoption counseling to help prospective parents prepare for the life transition. In addition, they can help you navigate the paperwork and legal documents required. Some examples of paperwork that may be required are:
- Criminal background check
- Child abuse background check
- Medical documents, including health assessments
- Financial information, including tax returns, salary, and budget
- Personal and professional reference letters
When the home study is complete, and the potential parents have been approved, they are ready for the next step. In the case of an adoption agency, they will match the couple to a birth mother. This process can take as little as a month or as long as several years. If couples are using a private lawyer, they will be responsible for finding the birth mother and making the connection.
Open vs. Closed Adoption
In the past, adoption was primarily closed, with the child having no contact with the birth parents and family. Nowadays, open adoption has become more popular, with the child retaining some connection with the biological parents. For some families, this means the adoptive parents send a picture once a year. For other families, that may mean a once-a-year visit or regular interaction. Every situation is different, and this is something that adoptive parents will need to decide in their situation. In some cases, the biological parents lost custody due to addiction or illegal behavior, or abuse. In other cases, the child was put up for adoption due to other factors like financial hardship, teen pregnancy, or other issues.
The decision to have an open or closed adoption is personal, and circumstances may dictate which type of adoption is best for the child. There is ongoing research that supports the child having a relationship with their biological families in some form. The research has shown that it is beneficial for everyone involved, including the birth parents, adoptive parents, and the child. And with genealogical websites, an adopted child can choose to find out about their biological family later in life if they choose.
Adoption Support Groups
Adopting a child changes lives, and navigating immense life changes can be tricky. Because of this, many adoption experts advise couples to go to counseling before adopting. Counseling can help couples communicate their expectations and fears before adopting to ensure that their family planning and ideas about adoption are clear.
In addition, many families may continue counseling after the adoption is complete to help them connect with their child.
Likewise, older children from foster care who may have experienced trauma or abuse will need counseling or therapy to help them adjust to their new life and family.
In the case of adopting a newborn, families may need additional support; caring for a newborn is an exhausting endeavor, and new parents may need emotional support through those early sleep-deprived months.
Aside from counseling, there are support groups available to connect with other families that have shared the adoption experience. Support groups are an invaluable resource for connection throughout the entire adoption process and the experience of bringing a new family member home.
Resources to Help Parents Adopt
Taking the first step towards adopting a child can feel overwhelming. And finding the financial resources can stop loving families from reaching their dream of becoming parents. Luckily, there are many resources for families to help them navigate the process.
- Creating a Family
- National Council for Adoption
- North American Council on Adoptable Children
- Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys
- Gift of Adoption
- Help Us Adopt
Adopting a child is the gift that keeps on giving. Becoming a parent is a wonderful feeling and a life-changing moment. The opportunity to love and care for a child is an enormous responsibility that is as rewarding as it is challenging.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©iStock.com/AnnaStills.