American adoptions (i.e. domestic adoptions) are much different than the used to be ten or even five years ago. I should know. I’ve adopted six children in the last 25 years! From foster care adoptions to private adoptions in two different states, my wife and I have had the joy of grafting in beautiful children into our family tree! Adoption used to be a stigma and a taboo subject; now they are publicly celebrated. Adoption used to be only for the rich; now anyone can adopt. Adoption used to be only for the infertile; now, people have different motivations to adopt, including caring for other family members, helping the community, and even faith-based motivations.

Why American adoptions? This article is no knock against international adoptions. In fact, if you have the resources, the patience, and the ability to do so, go for it! But consider this: it is getting considerably more and more difficult to adopt overseas. Rising costs, added restrictions, and ever-increasing regulations make international adoptions ever rarer. Due to those issues, international adoptions have decreased 81% since 2004!

Secondly, American adoptions ought to be considered because we have lots of children here in the U.S. that need a forever family. Statistics show that over there are over 100,000 foster children waiting to be adopted. Some of which could be your neighbors or your relatives.

Here are the steps you need to take when pursuing American adoptions:

Choose a private adoption or a foster care adoption

The first step in an American adoption is to decide whether to pursue a private adoption or a public (i.e. foster care) adoption. A private adoption usually occurs when two parties agree to transact a legal adoption. This means the legal guardian (usually the biological mom) voluntarily relinquishes her rights. She can then choose a family to place her child with. This is an agonizing, yet brave, decision that the birth mom makes who may be facing an unplanned pregnancy.

A foster care adoption occurs when a foster parent adopts his or her foster child through the foster care system. In America, there are over 100,000 foster children who are free for adoption. Being “free” for adoption means that biological parents have had their parental rights legally terminated by the courts and are no longer the legal guardians. If there are no appropriate relatives who come forward to adopt, a foster parent may be considered for adoption. This is a natural transition because the current foster parent already has an established relationship and connection with the child, who is basically already a part of the family. Adopting one’s own foster child is simply the icing on the cake.

Choose an agency

You would never think of going on a guided tour without a tour guide. Why would you adopt without an adoption agency? An adoption agency is your tour guide on the journey called the adoption process. The adoption agency organizes all your information to present to the court and/or the state. An adoption agency or foster-adopt agency is an invaluable tool when seeking to adopt. They can find children free for adoption, help you to avoid common pitfalls and can also help to improve your ability to parent. An adoption agency also assists in many areas outlined below:

- Complete a home study. A home study is a written summary of the adoption agency’s investigation of your ability to parent. It contains the applicant’s family history, references, the family’s philosophy on discipline, and experience and education concerning children.

- Complete a background check. It is an adoption agency’s job to facilitate multiple background checks on the applicant. They conduct criminal, CPS (Child Protective Services), and driving background checks. After all, they want to ensure that the newly adopted home is the safest home the child could be placed in.

- Complete training. Prospective adoptive parents sometimes overlook this important piece of the process. Even the most experienced parent or grandparent may not be prepared for the challenges that come with adding adopted child to their home. Are you familiar with RAD? How about FAS or Down syndrome?

Are you familiar with childhood trauma? A good adoption agency will properly prepare an applicant with thorough training. Foster children free for adoption are in care because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned. And even adopted children who have not been abused have undergone the trauma of being separated from their birth parents. A good adoption agency will provide excellent preservice training to prepare you to care for these children.

Finance your adoption

If you choose to adopt through the foster care system, there is good news: foster care adoption costs little to nothing! The costs are picked up through the city, county, or state through which you adopt. However, if you choose a private adoption, there can be many different options to assist in the high cost of an American adoption. From adoption loans, adoption grants, to employer-financed adoption benefits, private American adoption can be affordable! The faith community even has creative ways to raise funds for American adoptions so that it becomes a total team effort. Lastly, the Federal Government has helped ease the burden of adoption when it comes to what you can claim on your taxes, regardless if you have a private adoption or foster care adoption. From claiming your adopted child as a dependent to filing for the adoption tax credit on your tax return, American adoptions have become less of a burden than in past years. Lack of finances should never be a barrier to adoption.

Complete an adoption profile

Modern American adoptions have taken a great leap forward with photolistings. A photolisting website is a great way to promote your own family and to inform others that you are a viable adoptive family! If it is a good website, they will help you create your own Parent Profile. On your profile page, you can post family photos, videos, and a short profile of your family. The purpose of promoting your family is to give a birth mother the power to be actively involved in placing her child in the family of her choice. This is incredibly empowering and takes away the fear of “giving up” a child to a total stranger. That barrier is removed with Adoption.com’s Parent Profiles technology.

Search for a child

Years ago, if you wanted to adopt a child, adoption agencies would use Blue Books. These were huge 3-inch binders that contained photos and descriptions of kids who were free for adoption. Now, with internet photolistings, we can view dozens of photos and profiles with just one click. A photolisting is a website that presents photos of children who are looking for an adoptive family. More recently, adoption agencies have also used YouTube to promote children who are looking for a forever family. These children are usually older, are sibling groups, or have physical or developmental disabilities. Adoption agencies list these children with a court-ordered release.

Get matched with a child

The turning point of every adoption is “The Match.” It is the moment when your social worker presents the possibility of a child being placed in your home as an adoption. In the old days, adoption agencies may have made a match based on looks, ethnicity, nationality, etc. Now, American adoptions are more focused on the skill sets and experience of the family. For example, if a couple has experience with special needs children, older children, sibling groups, or children from another culture, odds are they will be placed with a child first. Yes, most prospective adoptive parents seek infants. But the reality is, the children mentioned above need homes too. Be flexible! Think out of the box! You’ll be matched quicker that way.

Complete all legal documents with an attorney

The reality is this: if you want a successful adoption, you need a good attorney. If you search for attorneys in a private adoption, it could cost thousands of dollars. However, in a foster care adoption, the attorney may be appointed to you, and the state may cover the entire cost. At worst, in a foster care adoption, the state will reimburse all attorney fees incurred. An attorney may work on the following documents:

- Adoption Certification: a document certifying your acceptability to adopt.

- Petition to adopt: a document requesting an adoption finalization.

- Adoption agreements: a document between adoptive and biological parents outlining the terms of future contact with the adoptive children.

- Order of Adoption: the final adoption document, signed by the judge, granting the adoption of a specific child(ren) to the applicants.

- Celebrate your adoption finalization! Adoption Day is a momentous occasion. Many people celebrate in different ways including photos, parties, or perhaps a meal at a child-friendly restaurant with friends and family. This day means so much to the child that he may never realize that he’s is no longer an orphan. The parents too are no longer childless. American adoptions are life-changing and life-giving for the parents and child and should be treated as such.

American adoptions have changed through the years. Adoption is accessible to all, and though I wouldn’t encourage everyone to adopt, I would encourage everyone to at least consider it. There are children out there that need a forever family. Could you be the one to provide what they need?