The land of pineapples and hula skirts is more than just a hideaway for honeymooners. For those interested in adoption, Hawaii is also an excellent place to raise a child. With its safe neighborhoods, delicious cuisine, and balmy breezes, Hawaii is family-friendly and nature-nurtured.
The Big Island is home to many wonderful public and private schools as well as endless sand and surf time. Neighbors are known to look out for each other in the friendly cultural way that tourists can’t resist.
Agencies like Ka Makana, Hawaii Adoption, and Angel Adoptions can all help facilitate adoptions, Hawaii-style. The cost of a domestic infant adoption is anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000, including home study fees, legal fees, and agency fees.
In a domestic agency adoption, families apply to adopt a baby born in the United States. The home study will gather information about your profession, personalities, interests, and finances that will be put on file for you. It usually involves a home inspection, which is designed to make sure that your house is a safe, supportive place to raise a child.
Remember, you are not applying for a home-renovation show! Clean spaces and a separate bedroom for your child are the main things your social worker is looking for. You will have the opportunity to discuss your parenting philosophy, as well as your upbringing and hopes for your child.
Your profiles, including a web or photo-book portfolio, will be shown to birth mothers who will choose a family for their child. The wait time for adoptive parents using an agency averages about 2-3 years.
Most agency adoptions are open adoptions, meaning that the birth mother will have at least some contact with you after you adopt. In most cases, this will involve emails or texts giving updates on occasions such as birthdays or holidays. Very open adoptions involve in-person visits with birth parents. Closed adoptions, in which the birth mother has no contact with her child after they are adopted, occur only if that is what the birth mother asks for. A communication plan between the birth parent and adoptive parents can be worked out before the baby is born.
Couples and singles over the age of 18 are eligible to adopt in Hawaii. They must be financially able to support a child.
Private adoptions are similar to domestic agency adoptions in that you will be adopting a baby within the United States. Most of these are also semi-open, although closed arrangements happen more often when folks adopt privately.
When you adopt privately, you will work directly with a lawyer. You will want to find someone you can trust, who takes the time to listen to your desires and hopes as an adoptive family. Ask for references from other families who have adopted successfully through him or her.
Private adoption is a little less costly than agency adoption. It will total around $15,000 to $20,000. This includes legal fees, home study fees, and birth-mother expenses.
You and/or your spouse will probably have to do a little more legwork if you use an attorney. You may find yourself involved in placing ads for birth mothers or taking phone messages. You may not, however, be “competing” with other families as you do when you use an agency. A competent adoption attorney will be able to guide you through the process and help row you safely to shore with the child you have always dreamed of.
International adoption is the most expensive adoption option, no matter which state you live in. It will cost you somewhere between $30,000 and $45,000 with travel expenses, legal fees, and home study fees. International adoptions are usually not open adoptions, and you are able to provide a home for a child who would not otherwise have had as many opportunities in life.
Agencies like Hawaii International Child have international adoption programs in countries like China and the Philippines. If you are open to adopting a child between 6 months and 14 years of age with a correctable medical issue, international adoption may be something you want to consider. Sibling groups and children with special needs are also readily available in most countries that Americans adopt from.
All international adoptions now require travel. Popular countries for Americans to adopt from include China, South Korea, and Ukraine. Flying to your child’s birth country to bring them home allows you to experience their culture and nation first-hand. It also allows you to bond while being free from the distractions of your daily American life.
The distance for Hawaiian families adopting from some Asian countries is not as wide as it is for those on the mainland. You can travel within a few hours and rest before meeting your new child.
Paying for an adoption may not be as difficult as you think. In fact, if you and/or your spouse have a combined income of less than $207,140, you are eligible for a federal tax credit of $13,810 per child. If you make less than $247,140, you are eligible for part of the credit.
While a tax credit is not a windfall, it is money that you will not have to pay in income taxes in order to recoup some of what you spent on adoption-related expenses. The credit is per child, so it could be doubled or tripled if you adopt siblings. You will have up to five years to use it.
In addition to the tax credit, many employers also offer assistance to families who adopt in the same way that they will fund a certain amount toward infertility treatments. There are also a number of private adoption grants that you can apply for.
Foster Care Adoption
Foster-to-adopt is by far the least expensive way to adopt in Hawaii. Adoption through foster care is less than $3,000 in legal fees, and this can easily be recouped with the tax credit, along with any other adoption-related expenses. The court filing fee to start a foster care adoption is only $175.
Becoming licensed as a foster or adoptive parent in Hawaii involves completing a home study, passing an FBI background/clearance check, having a state history clearance, passing a child abuse and neglect registry check, and demonstrating sufficient space in your home for a child.
In order to become a Hawaii foster parent, you will need to be at least 21 years old and in physically good health. You can be married, single, or divorced. You will need to demonstrate proof of a steady income to support the current members of your family, as well as supply employment and character references.
There are currently 2,766 children in foster care in Hawaii. Nearly 878 of them are already available for adoption.
Most of the children available for adoption are between 3 and 8 years old or are part of a sibling group. If you wish to adopt a child who is younger than 3, you may want to consider fostering first. You will receive a monthly stipend as a foster parent to meet the basic needs of your child, such as food and child care. Vouchers and reimbursement can also be provided for clothing. Currently, the stipend is $529-$575 for each child ages 0-5, $650 for each child between 6 and 11 years old, and $676 for children 12 and over. Children adopted through foster care receive free health insurance in the form of Medicaid until they are 18 years old.
The downside of fostering a child is that there is no guarantee that he or she will become available for adoption. Your adoption agency may be able to identify a group of children who are more likely to have their birth parents’ rights terminated in the future, but they cannot promise that they will. However, in cases where parental rights have already been terminated, adoption should be a fairly smooth process.
When adopting through foster care, there is additional funding available for children with special needs. The definition of special needs is broad and includes more than just traditional special needs diagnoses such as autism. In fact, older children, children who are part of sibling groups, and children from different racial or ethnic backgrounds can also be considered special needs.
Nearly ⅔ of the children in foster care also have a sibling in care. Research has shown that siblings adopted together have a greater chance of a successful adoption. There are many emotional benefits as siblings support each other and help one another feel more secure as they adjust to their new family and community.
Children over 8 years old are generally easy to adopt through foster care. They may receive such benefits as free college, monthly subsidies, and health insurance even after they are adopted. Older children also do not require midnight feedings and diaper changes. Most can tie their own shoes and brush their teeth. The majority are also in school most of the day, making adopting an older child a good option if both you and your spouse have full-time jobs. Adopting an older child gives you a chance to be a bridge of healing for a child whose past has been full of hurt.
Adopting a child of a different race is a unique and wonderful experience. While it is similar in many ways to adopting other children, you will want to be aware of the sensitivities of your child. Confront racism anytime you see it. Seek out other multiracial families and allow your child to interact with children of many different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Attend cultural events where children can interact with children and adults of the same ethnicity. Most of all, remind your child that they are as loved and as wanted as any other.
If you are interested in foster-to-adopt in Hawaii, agencies such as Hawaii International Child, Partners in Developmental Foundation, or the Hawaii Department of Human Services can help you get started.
Once you become licensed to adopt through foster care in Hawaii, you will also be eligible to adopt the foster children whose parental rights have been terminated in other states. Keep your eye on the state heart galleries and let a child’s social worker know if you are interested. You will then be supplied with the child’s full profile. Remember that you might not be the only one interested in some cases. If a match is made, you can meet with those who know your child best such as their teachers and social workers. You can then begin having in-person visits with your child and be able—finally—bring your child home. Adoptions usually occur in court about a year later.
Time to Adopt, Hawaii!
If you are serious about adopting in Hawaii, contact an agency or lawyer today. You could be getting ready to say “Aloha!” to your new child.