Are you ready to begin the process to adopt and raise a baby? Looking for some guidance on how the process might work? Hoping for some resources to help you along the way? Read on for all of this and more!
Choosing an adoption path
Once you have decided that you want to add a child to your family through adoption, one of the first things to consider is the type of adoption that you want to pursue. Most folks who are specifically looking to adopt a baby will pursue domestic infant adoption. However, there are limited opportunities to adopt babies through foster care and international adoption as well.
Domestic infant adoption
Domestic infant adoptions are typically completed with the help of a lawyer or agency. The cost of completing a domestic infant adoption can range between $8,000-$40,000 (though these are not guarantees; there are always exceptions). If the prospective adoptive parents have (or are willing to search out) a relationship with an expectant mother who is thinking about making an adoption plan, it is usually simpler for them to work with an adoption lawyer. If the hopeful adoptive family is looking for a third party to help create a “match” with an expectant mother, they will typically choose to work with an agency. Many adoption agencies work in the United States, and choosing one may feel like a daunting task. Although you will want to consider the costs and timeline for adoptions provided by the agency, there are also ethical implications to consider. You may want to seek feedback from adoptive parents in your community on agencies to pursue or avoid.
Often, parents who want to adopt and raise a baby will not consider adoption through foster care, but I think this option is worth a second look. Although the majority of children in the foster care system are not infants, there is a growing number of babies entering care as a result of the opioid crisis in many parts of the country. These infants may have a variety of medical needs and will typically be on the path to reunification with their birth families. Foster families need to be prepared to not just consider but support this possibility. If reunification or placement with a family member becomes impossible, foster parents are often considered as a potential adoptive resource for the child. If this option becomes available, the financial cost is either nonexistent or very minimal. Pursuing foster care with the single goal of adopting an infant is unrealistic. Pursuing foster care to provide safety and care to a vulnerable child may just open your heart to a great adventure that will change your life.
Again, this option is less often pursued by hopeful adoptive parents looking to add an infant to their family. However, it may be worth checking out the adoption policies in a few countries, particularly if you are open to adopting a child with special needs or a sibling group. There are children around the world in need of safe homes, and there are often grants to help offset the significant cost of international adoption in these cases.
After you have chosen the type of adoption that you are going to pursue, the next step is to have a home study completed. The exact details of your home study will vary by agency, but generally, it will involve a series of visits by a social worker (and likely a fire marshall and health department inspector too) over the course of several months. All adults in your home will be interviewed and, depending on their ages, any children already in the home may be interviewed as well. Your home doesn’t have to be spotless before the social worker arrives. You must keep track of all required paperwork (keep copies of everything!), submit requested items promptly, and answer the social worker’s questions honestly. The home study will likely include background checks, documentation of physical examinations for each member of the family, verification of household income and expenses, vaccine records for pets, and completion of training required by your agency. Once your home study is complete, you begin what is, for many, the most nerve-wracking part of the adoption process: waiting to be matched with an expectant mother or a child.
While you wait
There is no way to anticipate how long the waiting season of your adoption journey will be. For some parents, it is a matter of days, and for others, it is several years. Most fall somewhere in between. However, there are many ways that you can attempt to make the most of your waiting season. If you don’t have any children in your home, now is the time to do all the things that you will not be able to do (or will be very difficult) once your child comes home. Travel the world. Take on a special project. Renovate your house. You can also spend part of your waiting time physically preparing for your child. If your goal is to adopt and raise a baby, this may include decorating and furnishing the nursery and gathering the necessary baby gear and equipment. If you are expecting a baby shower, you will want to do a little research and create a baby registry so that friends and family can help welcome your child in style. You will also want to locate a pediatrician (or family doctor) and research how to add your child to your insurance policy. You should make a plan to arrange for the needed leave from your job (if necessary) and will probably want to talk with your boss as timing the arrival of your child may be unpredictable and allow for only very short notice. If you are planning to arrange daycare for your child soon after arrival, you may want to begin researching options now. Daycare spots for infants are scarce in many geographical areas. I always tell hopeful adoptive parents that a great use of their waiting season is learning as much as they can about attachment, early trauma, and post-adoption depression. Use this time to seek out the wisdom of members of the adoption triad (birth families, adoptees, and adoptive families). Read books (The Connected Child by Purvis, Cross, and Sunshine is a great place to start), articles, and blog posts. Learn all you can and make a plan for intentional attachment with your child and self-care.
Whether your wait is short or long, it will eventually end. You will get “the call” and head off to meet and bring your child home. Again, the exact process for this varies by the type of adoption that you choose and your child’s particular situation. Usually, a child must live with a pre-adoptive family for a set amount of time before finalization can occur. Then a judge will bang a gavel, and your journey as an adoptive family will officially begin.
Parenting an adopted child
Sometimes folks who want to adopt and raise a baby focus all of their attention on the actual process of adopting. While this is understandable, the reality is that adoption is inherently different from birthing a child, and even if you have parenting experience with biological children, you will likely find that you need to parent your adopted child differently. There is a prevailing cultural narrative that babies adopted at birth did not experience loss, and therefore will not display the effects of early trauma. The reality is that even in cases where an expectant mother had good prenatal care and the child was born healthy, the child loses a connection to the first primary attachment figure and will grieve this loss in some way. Even if an infant does not experience abuse or neglect, factors like a difficult pregnancy, difficult birth, and early hospitalization can be experienced as trauma. Of course, if there is not consistent prenatal care and if alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs were used during pregnancy, there may be other health issues that arise at birth or further down the road. Although each adoption story is different, if you talk to adoptive parents (no matter how their child joined their family), you will likely hear echoes of the effects of early trauma. Be aware. Be educated. Be your child’s best advocate through the mental health and educational systems (if needed). Be persistent in getting your child the help and services he or she may need. And be hopeful. You are not alone. Seek out the support that you need from family, friends, and fellow adoptive parents. And don’t be afraid to ask for professional help if you or your child need it.
Perhaps you are open to building your family through transracial adoption. If so, please seek out friends and mentors from your child’s birth culture. Listen to their stories, learn from them, and allow your child to grow up knowing adults and children who share his cultural heritage. Surround yourself with art, books, movies, and toys that allow your child to see himself represented in the world around him. Consider racial diversity when you are thinking about churches, schools, neighborhoods, and social events. And talk with your child about race and culture early and often.
Maybe you’ve decided to adopt and raise a baby through a special needs adoption. While medical or mental health needs may arise in any adoption, typically special needs adoptions are completed through foster care (in which your child may be entitled to keep insurance coverage through the state and even possibly qualify for a monthly adoption subsidy) or international adoption (in which case your adoption may be expedited and/or some fees lowered or waived). If you are adopting a child with an identified special need, you will want to research needed treatments or therapies. Fellow special needs parents will be an invaluable resource in this journey. They can provide a listening ear, wise advice, and recommendations for community resources. Find—or start—a support group if you can. And get ready to embrace your beautiful child in all of her complexity.
A growing number of families in the United States are being formed through single-parent adoption. If you are in this situation, there are a few special considerations you may want to make along your adoption journey. First, you will want to gather your tribe. As independent, efficient, and goal-oriented as you may be, it’s simply impossible to do everything yourself as a single parent. As you begin your adoption journey, not everyone will be on board. That’s okay. Find the family members and close friends who offer unconditional support and hold them close. You will need them for emotional and practical support both before and after your child comes home. Second, seek out professionals who can help make your life easier. Before your child comes home, try to line up childcare providers, occasional babysitters, doctors, dentists, and therapists. Having these practical matters handled early will free up time for you to bond with your child during those first few weeks. Finally, although none of us like to think about it, make a plan for your child in case something happens to you. Having these tough conversations and putting a plan in place early will set your mind at ease and will also reassure your child once he or she is old enough to ask. Single-parent adoption is hard, no doubt. But it can also be incredibly beautiful and rewarding.
The journey to adopt and raise a baby can be long and full of a variety of emotions. At the end of the day, though, holding your child will make it all worthwhile.
Do you feel there is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by a child? We’ve helped complete 32,000+ adoptions. We would love to help you through your adoption journey. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.