How to Adopt

No matter what your reasons are for adopting, we are here to help you understand the process.

MK Menon February 12, 2019
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Congratulations on considering adoption as a way to grow your family. People find their way to adoption for a number of reasons and some of them are quite challenging. No matter what the reasons are, we are here to help you understand the process of adoption and make this part a little bit easier.

Before You Investigate How to Adopt, You Must Decide Whether to Adopt

Before you embark on the journey to adoption, it’s important to think about whether you are ready to be a parent to a child that isn’t biologically yours. One of the big reasons I hear people shy away from this option is because they have strong feelings about raising a child that is connected to them genetically. For some people who have infertility challenges, adoption seems like the only option, but that doesn’t mean it is the right choice right now. It’s important to think about whether you are in a place emotionally to connect to someone else and pour out your love to him or her if you are still in the midst of grieving. Adoption often enters people’s lives when their original plans have gone astray. Know that you are not alone if this is the position you find yourself in. There are a number of resources for people at all stages of the adoption process, and it’s worth spending time looking into these as you consider the future of your family.

I Want to Adopt. So…Now What?

You’ve done your soul searching and your research and have decided on adoption. That’s great to hear, but there are still many decision ahead, the first one being this: what type of adoption do you want? Are you interested in adopting from the state’s foster care system, would you like to do a private adoption, or are you keen on looking overseas? Are you open to a child of a different race than yourself or your spouse, are you particular to a certain age, do you think you could support a child with special needs? The answers to all of these questions will help guide you to the right type of adoption.

How to Adopt Domestically

One option is to adopt from within your own country and this is considered a domestic adoption. Prospective parents can utilize an adoption agency or employ an adoption attorney, both of which will help walk you through the process. The cost and time for completion varies, but do expect to pay anywhere from $8,000 to $40,000. This money is used to pay for the trainings, support, home study, legal fees and documents, pre- and post-placement services, as well as the agency employees’ salaries. There are a number of ways to lower your final out of pocket expect, which will be covered in another section. Once you have decided who you will work with, there will be a number of interviews, screenings, and paperwork. A home study must be completed before a child can be placed with you. This home study will occur over several visits and is when a social worker comes to your home, and through collection of medical, employment, and criminal background checks, interviews with all members of your family and some close friends, evaluates your home for safety concerns, and will determine whether your home is suitable to have a child placed with you. Many people cringe at the thought of having such an invasive exploration of their lives, but bear in mind, this is for the best interests of the child and inevitably for your future family. This home study component is integral in nearly every adoption scenario, so embrace it as a small step towards your forever family.

How to Adopt through the Foster Care System

Adoption through the state’s foster care system is a domestic adoption, but since the process and type of child that people usually adopt are so different, a separate section is dedicated to foster care adoption. There are a few keys differences that make foster care adoption both easier and more difficult. While it’s hard to put a price on family, for many people, a major appeal of working with the foster care system is that the majority of costs are covered by the state. The only cost you most likely will have to bear involves modifications to your home which will need to be aligned with appropriate safety regulations. Knowing that every other type of adoption will result in tens of thousands of dollars of expenses, this is a big benefit.

Of course, one drawback of adopting through the foster care system means that you may have a few children placed in your home before there is an opportunity to adopt. Roughly half of the children placed with foster parents will return to live with their biological parents, but that timeframe is specific to the biological family’s circumstance. The goal of foster care placement is to reunify families because many of the children are coming from homes that have temporary health or financial challenges. Many of the children are also part of a sibling group, which may seem overwhelming for a prospective parent.

Lastly, while not impossible but certainly rare are finding infants in need of a home. Most of the children placed in foster care are older, with a median age of 8. These children will age out of the system at 18, so any age from infant to 18 is possible. Of course, some may consider it an advantage to skip a certain developmental period or would like to have a child that is similar in age to one of their older children. In order to get started with this type of adoption, one must become a licensed foster care parent. Just like private adoptions, this will involve lots of paperwork, interviews, and a home study. Once you have been approved to have a child placed with you, there is a waiting period that will vary depending on the type of child you have requested.

Through the experience of having a child placed with you, you will gain experience parenting and will get to know the child better for when or if he or she will become a permanent member of your family. Even if you seek out adoption as the only option through the foster care system, you may still be required by the state to get a license to foster a child in your home. This does not mean you will be put in a position to have a child placed in your home when there is no option to adopt. Like all relationships, it’s best to be open with your social worker about your needs and desires so that he can do his best with matching you with a child.

How to Adopt Internationally

International adoption opens you up to a world of opportunities (no pun intended). People who have ethnic ties to other parts of the world may consider this option so that there is some thread of ethnic commonality, but ethnic ties pale in comparison to the cultural upbringing. If you are adopting an older child in particular who has been raised in a foreign culture for years, looking similar will not give you some sort of innate understanding. Instead, with international adoptions, it is essential to respect where that child has come from in regards to her food, music, dress, and so much more.

International adoptions do pose some added challenges in terms of the process as you are not only working with the adoption laws of your own country but those of another country. In the last decade, international adoptions have decreased drastically due to changes in regulations and attitudes of the sending countries. For that reason, it is important to work with an adoption agency that is well versed in international adoptions and even better if they have recent experience with the intended country you hope to adopt from.

Once you have identified an adoption agency, they will walk you through the mounds of paperwork, understand your preferences for type of child, be your liaison with contacts in the sending country, and will help you arrange travel plans to either visit the country and/or go to the country to meet your future child. While the cost of international adoptions and domestic adoptions can be similar, one major difference is that your travel costs can vary widely since you can’t just hop in the car. A five-hour flight to a neighboring country compared to a 20-hour flight across the world will certainly impact your credit card balance differently. While there are opportunities for tax credits related to adoption, these will only go so far when covering travel expenses, which is a nonnegotiable component of international adoptions.

How to Adopt without Breaking the Bank

One hurdle people face when it comes to adoption is the cost. Some people utilize loans, do fundraisers, and just save for this milestone. Know that the government does offer certain tax creditsfor adoption-related expenses and that if you adopt through the foster care system, nearly all of the costs will be covered by the state. It’s unfortunate that money can be a barrier to your dreams, but with the right resources, you can at least find a way to reduce that burden.

Visit Adoption.com’s photolisting page for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families. For adoptive parents, please visit our Parent Profiles page where you can create an incredible adoption profile and connect directly with potential birth parents.

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MK Menon

MK Menon is a transracial international adoptee. She was adopted as an infant in a closed adoption yet managed to successfully trace her roots in her twenties. This year she hopes to publish her memoir about her journey to her birth mother. She's a vocal advocate for adoptees tracing their roots. She works as a research scientist and freelance writer. When she and her husband aren't chasing their toddler around the house, she loves cooking up a storm. She currently lives in California.


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