Enjoy road trips? The destination may be exciting, but the journey of getting there can be lengthy, exhausting, and irritating. Travel companions often whine, “Are we there yet?” or “How much longer till we’re there?” Adopting a child is similar to the familiar road trip; this journey offers numerous opportunities for prospective adoptive parents to ask are-we-there-yet-questions. Answers to some adoption-related questions are available here—although the information provided, like the answer to the whiny child in the car on a road trip, may not be the desired response.
When Will I Be Matched with a Birth Mother?
The million-dollar question for any prospective adoptive parent is when a match with a birth mother will be made. There is a reason why this question holds so much weight. The answer is difficult and inexact in terms of timing. In fact, the best answer, and the most honest one, is, “Who knows?”
Matching prospective adoptive parents with a birth mother is not a scientific process reduced to a mathematical formula. Too many variables are involved such as the desires of the prospective adoptive parents (What is the age, gender, race,, and health of the child) and the requirements of the birth mother (married couple, racial preferences, religious preferences, etc.) There is no simple answer to this question because it is not a simple process.
Although it is impossible to predict precise answers, it is possible to make some general observations about waiting times. A much longer wait can be anticipated for infants than for older children. Shorter waiting times can be expected for minority children.
Most people seeking to adopt want a newborn, so the demand for newborns is much higher than their availability. According to the National Adoption Foundation, a newborn adoption could take between two and seven years. Wait times have become longer still as a result of the steady decline in the number of babies being placed for adoption over the past several years as reported by the National Council For Adoption.
While the answer to this question is discouraging as it relates to infant adoptions, a prospective adoptive parent can take steps to impact the wait time in three different ways. First, working with more than one adoption resource is a prudent step. This strategy increases the chance for placement because all of the placement eggs have not been placed in one proverbial basket. Logically, if a prospective parent has multiple resources seeking a match for him or her, then a placement is likely to be made more quickly than if that task is conferred on only one adoption resource. Second, the prospective adoptive parent can spread the word about his or her desire to adopt which could lead to locating a match opportunity on his or her own. Finally, the hopeful adoptive parent might consider expanding his or her desires in the kind of adoption being sought after—a higher age range, a more diverse racial preference, etc.
When Will the Birth Mother Select Adoptive Parents?
At some point, a prospective adoptive parent’s hat will be thrown into the ring for the birth mother’s consideration. At this stage in the process, the parent will be on pins and needles awaiting word of the birth mother’s selection of an adoptive home. How long will that take? The honest answer is that it will take as long as it takes for the birth mother to come to her decision. While it is possible for an adoption resource to set a deadline for the birth mother’s decision, why should they? Whatever choice she makes will have lifelong consequences and permanently affect her child’s future. This is not a decision the birth mother needs to rush. Such a decision deserves thorough consideration. For some birth mothers, the choice may come quickly; others may need to take their time.
When Will My Home Study Be Completed?
All states require prospective adoptive parents to receive a favorable preliminary home study before a child can be placed with them for adoption. Therefore, completing this necessary step in a timely manner is important. So, how long does it take for a home study to be done?
An exact length for the process is impossible to identify because several factors impact the time required for completion. One thing, however, is certain. The answer requires counting not days or weeks, but usually months. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, a home study can take between three and six months to complete.
The type of home study needed is an important consideration. While no single format exists for a home study, the checklist for domestic adoptions is generally the same. Nevertheless, home studies that are undertaken for international adoptions usually require more time because foreign countries often have additional requirements for these types of adoptions. More requirements equate to more time.
The responsiveness of a prospective adoptive parent will also affect the time required for completion of a home study. How quickly they can provide needed documentation such as current medical reports, tax returns, pay stubs, etc. to the home study provider is an important factor. Having paperwork organized and promptly produced upon request facilitates completion in a shorter time frame. If training, such as parenting classes, is required, the adoptive parent should not delay in beginning and completing such training.
In some cases, a home study provider may provide the option of expediting, or more quickly completing, a home study. This option will, of course, require additional payment beyond the usual home study fee to put the process on a fast track to completion.
When Will the Baby Be Born?
Babies may not come with instructions, but they do come with a due date or EDD (Estimated Date of Delivery). That date, however, is not a firm one. It is subject to change based on the results of sonograms and the baby’s size.
Even if a due date remains consistent during the pregnancy, it is not a guarantee as to when the new arrival will make a debut. At most, it is a target date. A study by the non-profit Perinatal Institute in the U.K. revealed that a due date is rarely accurate. Its results showed that babies were born on their due dates a mere 4 percent of the time. Thus, a due date is more accurate at pinpointing when a baby will not be born.
When Can I See the Baby in the Hospital?
The ability to visit a patient in the hospital, including infants, depends on the hospital. Each hospital sets its own policies about visitors. These policies may address who can have access as well as when. For the foreseeable future, visitation policies will be more restrictive given the impact of COVID-19.
Being present for the baby’s birth adds another layer of considerations. Even if the hospital allows an adoptive parent into the facility, that does not guarantee he or she can enter a delivery room. Who can be present for the birth is left to be determined by two people: the patient and the doctor. The birth mother may not feel comfortable having an adoptive parent present during delivery either for modesty reasons or because she wants that time with her baby. The doctor, who is akin to the captain of a ship, controls what happens in his or her delivery room. For safety reasons, he or she may limit the number of individuals present. If only one additional person is authorized, the birth mother might desire to have her mother, the birth father, or a close friend present. Accordingly, adoptive parents may have to wait until after the baby’s birth to see their new family member.
Access to babies in a hospital nursery is typically limited to authorized staff and those who have a hospital band. For health and practical reasons, a large number of individuals in a nursery is not desirable. To control access, banding is utilized. A birth mother is usually given one band for the baby and may direct to whom a second band may be given. That choice is her call. If she elects to give that band to the birth father or a family member, adoptive parents may not have access to the baby based on hospital policy.
More and more hospitals are offering bonding rooms to adoptive parents. These rooms are usually hospital rooms in which the adoptive parents may stay during the baby’s hospitalization and spend time with their new family member. This practice allows for important bonding to occur as early as possible following birth and permits new parents to learn to care for their child under the watchful eye of trained medical staff. The number of visitors allowed in such rooms may be controlled as well as the age of such visitors. Minor adoptive family members, for health reasons, may have to wait until the baby is discharged to have contact.
When Will My Adoption Be Finalized?
Once a child is in an adoptive home, the new parents will be eager for their status as mother and father to be legally recognized. They want their adoption finalized as soon as possible. Nevertheless, adoption is a legal process, and court proceedings are not known for being speedy. Finalizing an adoption is not something that will be accomplished in a mere matter of days.
Because each state enacts its own set of laws governing adoption, the applicable state law determines the amount of time that must elapse before an adoption may be finalized. For instance, under the adoption statutes in Florida, finalization cannot occur any sooner than 90 days after the minor was placed in the physical custody of the prospective adoptive parent.
But, even when a minimum timeframe has elapsed, finalization cannot automatically occur. Several steps must be completed in an adoption case before a final hearing may be held. This includes the termination of the birth parents’ parental rights and the completion of post-placement supervision. Thus, outside factors play a part in how quickly the process moves forward. Will the birth father readily sign a consent if that is the ground being used to terminate his rights? Is the case worker’s schedule open to schedule post-placement supervisory visits in short order?
Understandably, it is impossible to give an exact time when finalization will occur. What will be clear, though, is the minimum time required under state law before a final hearing may take place.
When Will the Amended Birth Certificate Be Received?
Once an adoption is finalized, the prospective adoptive parents become the child’s legal parents. The process may also involve changing the child’s name. But the child’s existing birth certificate shows the child’s legal name at birth and the child’s birth mother. A birth or legal father may also be listed in some circumstances. The adoptive parents will want to have documentation of the child’s new status as their child in the eyes of the law; this status is evidenced by the issuance of an amended birth certificate commonly referred to as an ABC.
Because the state of the child’s birth issues the original birth certificate, they must also issue the child’s amended birth certificate. The agency to whom an amendment request must be made is often referred to as an office of vital records or office of vital statistics. Each state has its own set of requirements for what is needed to process such a request; these requirements include documentation of the adoption’s finalization, a fee for processing the request, an application form or letter providing the necessary information, and proof that the person requesting the amendment has the legal authority to obtain it.
The time it takes to process a request for an amended birth certificate will vary from state to state and the office’s workload at the time. The information on the form requesting the amended birth certificate may specify the response time or it might be found on the office’s website. In Florida, for example, the Application To Amend A Florida Birth Record indicates an amendment is generally completed within two to three weeks. If faster service is needed, rush processing is available for an additional fee. According to the State of Texas Department of Health and Human Services’ website, a request for an amended birth certificate as the result of an adoption can only be requested via mail and takes 25-30 days to process with the processing time starting when the application is received.
Wanting to know when various events such as a match, seeing the baby in the hospital, and finalizing the case will occur in an adoption is common and understandable. But adoptive parents need to realize the adoption journey does not involve a definitive timetable. An adoption attorney or agency may be able to provide some general ideas as to the timeline, but, like a road trip, it is impossible to know in advance exactly what lies ahead and its impact on the timing of arrival at the desired destination. The best advice for prospective adoptive parents is to not focus so much on the whens of the adoption journeys and enjoy the reason why you are on it—to expand your forever family.Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.