How do I Start the Adoption Process?

General guidelines for the start of your adoption journey.

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My husband and I are in the beginning stage of pursuing adoption. Although we are familiar with various types of adoption, i.e., private, agency, international, open, etc., we are not sure where to start. Is there a “how to” publication or source? 

This is a question we hear often in chat, at the forums, and in discussions among those approaching adoption.

The answer is, “Yes, there are ‘how-tos,’” and they consist of general guidelines that can apply to any form of adoption, whether domestic or international and specific regulations for each state and/or country. Regulations and requirements can also vary from agency to agency.

General Guidelines

There are several steps that are common to most types of adoption:

  • Educate yourself and your family members.
  • Decide what type of adoption you want pursue.
  • Investigate ways to handle adoption expenses.
  • Select an adoption agency/facilitator and/or attorney.
  • Complete an agency application form.
  • Begin the home study process.
  • Attend pre-adoption and parenting classes.
  • Be matched with or locate a child.
  • Prepare for your child’s arrival.
  • File a petition to adopt.
  • Finalize the adoption.
  • Learn about post-adoption services and education.

State and Country Specifics

While many of the steps may be common to all types of adoption, it is important to remember that adoption law differs from state to state and from country to country.

For example, some agencies dealing with adoptions from Korea have weight restrictions for adopting parents; states have their own laws covering relinquishment of parental rights; adoption facilitators can operate in some states and not others; and post-adoption contact agreements are legally enforceable in some states and not others, to name a few.

These state- and country-specific details are available from your State Adoption Specialist for state information, and from the US State Department for individual countries. Note: While many Web sites reprint information from the US State Department, be sure to check the original source for updates as regulations change frequently.

Before selecting (or during the selection process) a public or private agency, facilitator, and/or attorney for domestic or international adoption, be sure to connect with others who have adopted through the same agency, from the same country, or are similar in other ways to your own in chat rooms, forums, and other community gathering places or through local support groups.

Common Sense

Your best judgement and knowledge of your own capabilities and expectations will help you make the best choice for yourself and your family. Talking to others who have taken these same steps and who offer a wide range of experience is valuable and insightful, but only you can determine the manner in which you adopt. Well-meaning friends, family, and acquaintances may question your choices, and dealing with others’ attitudes and perceptions is going to be a large part of your adoption experience. Follow your heart, and make sure you are completely comfortable with the ethics of the people you work with along the way.

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