Maybe it occurred to you while you were walking past the Lunchables at Target. Or maybe you were playing catch with your nephew and remembered that part of you that never grew up.
Folks adopt older children for a myriad of reasons. Why you begin the process is not nearly as important as the home you provide for a growing child without a family.
If you are wondering how to adopt a kid, let’s take a look at where you can go to get the kickball rolling.
1. Adopting Older Children
Adopting an older child is usually easier than adopting an infant. Oftentimes, children are classified as “special needs” simply because of their age or because they have siblings who need to be adopted with them. Older children are much more aware than infants that they need a family. Their gratitude toward adoptive parents often comes in the form of very real words and pictures.
Older children have big-kid personalities, including needs, wants, dreams, and yes, challenges. You may not have to guess at what they are feeling or thinking, as they can tell you right away.
Some parents choose to adopt an older child because they are single and have a job, but are eager to start a family. Older children are more independent and can attend school most of the day. If you are excited about providing a home to a child who would not otherwise have one, your reasons for adopting may come from a variety of places, and that’s okay.
2. How To Adopt A Kid From Foster Care
There are over 70,000 children in the U.S. foster care system whose birth parents’ rights have been terminated and are available for adoption, according to the FY 2018 AFCARS Report. Many foster kids have experienced trauma in the past, and need a caring, forgiving home to provide them with the fresh start they are so desperate for.
Adopting from foster care is very affordable and often free. It usually totals less than $3,000 in legal and home study fees, and many states will subsidize this. In addition, children classified as “special needs” may be eligible for an ongoing stipend for meeting their needs, including counseling and child care. Children adopted through foster care may be eligible for free healthcare in the form of Medicare. Many may also receive college assistance or even free college tuition!
You do not need to be married or wealthy to adopt from foster care. In fact, single-parent families accounted for around 28 percent of adoptions from foster care in 2018, according to the AFCARS Report. You do, however, need to be over 21 years old and able to provide an environment where children can grow physically, mentally, and emotionally. Financially, you need to be able to support yourself without adoption assistance.
You can attend an orientation meeting in your state to find out more about the foster care adoption process. You will learn about the types of children available for adoption in your area, as well as the length of the process. You may then be asked to complete a simple application with basic information such as your name, profession, and address.
A home study will be conducted that involves interviews both inside and out of your home. You will be asked about your own lifestyle and hobbies, as well as your reasons for wishing to adopt. The social worker may inquire about your own upbringing and parenting philosophy. Your home does not have to be immaculate, or a palace, in order to pass a home study! It only needs to be a clean, safe, comfortable place to raise a child. The home study process is also an opportunity for you to talk about the gender, needs, and age of the child you hope to adopt. You will also need to pass a background check.
In order to become certified, your state will also require you to complete pre-adoption training. In these classes, you will learn techniques for disciplining children who have a history of trauma and abuse. You will also get some strategies for bonding. Flexibility and a sense of humor will go a long way toward helping you become a strong parent. Pre-adoption classes can take between four and 12 weeks.
Once you become approved as a foster parent, you can finally become matched with a child. You may be able to go on your state’s Heart Gallery website and begin requesting information about specific children. If the child’s social worker approves the match, you will be given additional information by the child’s teachers, social workers, and counselors. Remember that you may not be the only prospective parent interested in some cases. Many states will allow you to request information on children in the foster care systems of other states.
Once you are comfortable moving forward, you will begin in-person visits with your child. It is then time to welcome them into your home! It is natural to be nervous at first. Cooking your child’s favorite meal or having their favorite games available shows that you have been thinking about them and might make them excited about their new home.
It is important not to rush the bonding with your new child. Keep showing them that their needs and wants are important to you, and be on the lookout for moments when you can laugh together, or when they will open up to you. Keep rehearsing your routine with them to give them a sense of security and consistency.
It may take about 12 months to adopt a child through foster care. Be patient and make the most of every moment. Foster care adoptions are generally completed in court.
3. How To Adopt A Kid Through A Private Agency
Some private agencies work with foster care to help find families for children in the system. Others will help you look for a child or children within a certain age group to adopt privately.
Private adoption can give you a bit more security than fostering in order to adopt. Parental rights have already been terminated. The cost of adopting, however, is higher when you are using a private agency.
An agency adoption can cost anywhere between $20,000 and $40,000 or more per child.
There is, however, a National Adoption Tax Credit of $13,810 per child for 2018 if you and/or your spouse have a combined income of less than $207,140 per year. If your salary is less than $247,140, you are eligible for part of the credit. The year you can apply for this tax credit varies and if you qualify also varies, go to IRS.gov for more details.
Check with your employer about money you may be eligible to put toward an adoption. Some health plans offer a flat fee per child the way they would for infertility treatments. Other folks choose to look into applying for adoption grants. Some are specific to sibling groups or older children, and the grants can also be used to defray your adoption costs.
4. How To Adopt A Kid Internationally
There are currently older children and siblings available for adoption from almost all of the most popular countries to adopt from. In 2019, these include India, China, and Ukraine.
Some families prefer international adoption because these adoptions are closed, and no future involvement with birth parents is expected. Others feel drawn toward a particular country or culture. Some parents adopt internationally because they know about the orphan problem around the world, and want to do their part by welcoming children without a home.
Adopting internationally is typically more expensive than a domestic adoption. Keep in mind that the tax credit still applies, and it will be doubled or tripled if you adopt a sibling group. Remember that all countries require at least some travel that could last anywhere from one week to three months. Do not adopt internationally unless you are ready for a little adventure!
Before you adopt internationally, do a little research to find out which agencies service the country or countries you are interested in.
When you are in the exploring phase, make sure you can get a schedule of fees and a timeline. Most international agencies will be able to provide this. Find out how long you will be expected to travel. Make sure this is okay with your employer. Some folks are able to work remotely for a period of time while they are overseas. If this doesn’t work for you, let your employer know as soon as possible how long you will be gone for, even if you aren’t sure which dates you will be traveling yet.
The first step toward adopting internationally is to fill out an application with your agency. You will then begin the home study process. If your agency is located out-of-state, they can usually find a local agency to partner with for this phase. You will also need to fill out an I-800 form in order to adopt a foreign-born orphan. Your approval, as well as your home study and application, will be sent as a “dossier” to the authorities in the country you wish to adopt from.
You will then need to wait for a referral from your country. You will get a picture or two, along with as much information as the country can provide about your child’s background and medical history. Be sure to have your child’s information looked at by a medical clinic that specializes in international adoptions. Social media groups for parents who have adopted internationally are a great way to find a clinic you are comfortable working with.
Once you are confident that you have done your due diligence, it is time to accept your referral. Your agency will probably give you a week or two to make your final decision.
Travel to a foreign country is exciting. You may have to leave with only a week or two of notice. Keep in mind that lifestyle is different in other countries. You may have to bring adapters, ice cube trays, or extra toiletries. Social media groups are great places to find people who have traveled to your country before and can give you expert advice.
Bring a few items for your child, but not so many that you won’t be able to fit them in your suitcase! Depending upon your child’s age, you may need a stroller, extra clothes, or games and toys. Some countries have a “bonding period” where you will be spending a lot of time in a new country with your child. Games that you can play together to pass the time will be a great help to you!
Make sure to pack a nice outfit for your court date. Keep in mind that you are representing your home country, so you will want to look casual but neat. You may also need to make a trip or two to the U.S. embassy while you are there.
Before flying home, you will need to secure a passport and visa for your child. Make the most of your time by sightseeing and sampling local cuisine while waiting for paperwork to be completed!
Introducing your family to relatives at the airport can be one of the most exciting parts of the adoption process. Remember that your child may be feeling confused, so try not to overwhelm them at first. Gradually introduce them to their new routine, and try to have fun traditions to ease the transition.
As with all adoptions, there may be a few post-placement visits. Be honest about your accomplishments and challenges as a new family. Often, children grow in leaps and bounds during their first year home. Don’t expect perfection, and keep your mind on the positive parts of your journey!
How To Adopt A Kid
Adopting an older child is rewarding and beautiful. With the right attitude and support, you will wonder why you didn’t welcome a child in need of a home into your life sooner!
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.