The decision to start the adoption process can be daunting. It’s a choice that will impact the rest of your life and the life of your child. As with any overwhelming situation, it is important to scale back and consider the small step that is in front of you. You may not be able to make all of the decisions right now, but you can make one small step in the decision-making process. There are many different avenues you can take when figuring out how to start the adoption process. This article can be a starting point for determining your best step forward when considering how to start the adoption process.
The Steps: There are several steps you will need to take to start the adoption process. After steps one and two, you will have a caseworker or lawyer to assist you in the remaining steps and decisions.
1. Talk Through Your Decision with a Trusted Friend, Mentor, or Therapist.
No matter where you are in this decision, it is helpful to talk through this decision with a trusted friend, mentor, or therapist. This decision is one that will impact your life and your child’s life in significant ways, so another perspective can be helpful. Not only that, but it is also important to have support during this life-changing season. Determining how to start the adoption process is not easy, so having people who are on your team support you is vital. It is easier than ever now to connect with people who have walked this same road. You can find birth mom support groups, birth mom coaching, or read about other birth mothers’ stories. You can ask people who have already been through the process your questions, without fear of judgment.
2. Find an Adoption Agency or Lawyer.
This is a vital piece of starting the adoption process. Adoption agencies and lawyers have experience in adoption and can guide you through the steps required. Make sure you look for an ethical adoption agency that is going to treat you well and help you make the best decision possible for you and your child.
- An adoption agency, such as the Gladney Center for Adoption, would be able to walk you through the steps to pursue adoption. At Gladney, they match you with a caseworker who walks you through the process of adoption. They help you complete the paperwork necessary, help you choose a family, and help you make a plan to place your child with the adoptive family. At an agency like Gladney, your medical and legal fees are covered. Not only that, but Gladney has a Next Steps program that can provide you with educational opportunities, counseling, and training to provide you with lifelong support after the adoption process is completed. Placing a child for adoption is not an easy decision, but agencies like Gladney can help you do what is best for you and your child.
- If you do not want or need the help of an agency, you can enlist the help of a lawyer. The legal costs are normally covered by the adoptive family, so you won’t need to worry about the cost.
3. Decide What Kind of Adoption You Want.
As you start the adoption process, you may be wondering what type of adoptions are available to you. While there are valid reasons for all three types of adoption, open adoption has become more and more common because it is beneficial to all parties involved—the adoptive family, the adoptee, and the birth parents. In our family’s experience, my children’s contact with their biological family has been beneficial because it provides them an opportunity to learn where they came from and who they share characteristics with. It also helps them solidify their identity. Our children get so excited when they get to speak or visit with a member of their biological family. While contact doesn’t erase their loss, it does provide a pathway to healing. Knowing where they came from and what their family members are like is an essential part of the formation of their own identity, and an open adoption can certainly help them with this (if open adoption is a possibility). When starting the adoption process, consider the types of adoption available so that you can make an informed decision.
- Open Adoption: An open adoption allows for open communication. It gives adoptive families, adoptees, and birth families the opportunity to speak to one another by phone, in person, or through the Internet. This type of adoption is beneficial for everyone involved because it allows an adoptee to benefit from both sets of parents.
- Semi-Open Adoption: Semi-open adoptions allow communication between adoptive families, adoptees, and birth families through a third party. It also allows adoptees to have access to medical history. Although having access to medical history may seem insignificant, it can give adoptees a sense of control over their future because they will know of any health concerns they may need to be aware of.
- Closed Adoption: While closed adoptions used to be normal in the United States, now only 5% of adoptions in the United States are closed. A closed adoption gives you privacy as a birth mother and is a valid option if that is what you believe is best for you and your child.
4. Choose a Prospective Adoptive Family.
There are about two million families waiting to adopt a child in the United States. You will have the opportunity to review families and choose one for your child. If you choose an open or semi-open adoption, you will have a relationship with this family for the rest of your life and your child’s life. An agency like Gladney can assist you in making this decision. You can also look at prospective adoptive parents in these Parent Profiles.
5. Create a Plan of Action for Adoption Day.
At the end of the process, you will have the opportunity to choose the delivery of your child. This usually happens 24-48 hours after birth; it differs from state to state. There are several possibilities, and a caseworker or lawyer will walk you through your options.
As you navigate the adoption process, I want to encourage you no matter what you decide. Consider your options and seek help in making this difficult decision. Remember that you are not alone. Thousands of parents have gone before you and stand with you in this decision. During this time of considering your options, take time to care for yourself and your child. Show yourself and your child that you are worthy of respect, care, and kindness. Remembering your value and your child’s value will help you to make the best decision.
The care you give for your child during the nine months of pregnancy will be formative in her or his life. We know that a mother not caring responsibly for her child during pregnancy (such as exposing the child to drugs and alcohol while in the womb) can cause adverse, lifelong effects on the child. Contrarily, lovingly nurturing a child during pregnancy can promote beneficial lifelong effects. Whether you choose adoption or not, caring for your child and yourself during this time is crucial to both the child’s well-being and yours. If you need assistance with prenatal care, you can review these articles:
Although I have never been in your position, I feel that even reading this article could trigger grief or sadness. In no way am I trying to speak to how you are feeling without having experienced it myself, but loss causes pain no matter how it happens. Be sure to care for yourself and recognize how you’re feeling as you learn how to start the adoption process. Walking through this decision could bring feelings of guilt and shame. While I can’t tell you how to feel, I can shed some light on the situation and point out three good, positive, and wonderful perspectives on these very difficult circumstances. You are bringing life to your child; you are giving the precious gift of family, and you still play an integral role in your child’s life.
You Are Bringing Life to Your Child
The decision to place a child for adoption is not a light burden to carry. It is one that will require sacrifice, love, and dedication. When choosing adoption, you are choosing to give your child life despite the pain and grief it will cause you. If you truly believe that adoption is what is best for your child, you are bravely choosing to bring new life into the world while knowing it will cost you. You are choosing to sacrifice for the sake of another, which is a selfless act of love.
You Are Giving the Precious Gift of Family
Because of your selflessness and sacrifice, you will be giving the precious gift of family to someone else. With two million families waiting to adopt a child, it is clear there are many couples who would love to start a family but are not able to. When you place your child for adoption, you are giving the precious gift of family—not only to your child, but also to a couple longing to hold a child in their arms, change diapers, and provide the best life possible. The very act that costs you could bless someone else. You bravely choosing life through the adoption of your child is bringing a family together.
You Still Play an Integral Role in Your Child’s Life
A common misconception about adoption is that the role of a birth parent disappears when the adoption occurs. Actually, you still play an integral role in your child’s life. It is a natural occurrence for children who have been adopted to question where they came from, their identity, and who their birth mother and father are. These are not questions that will be easily avoided, so you hold a special place in their life that no one else can, whether you chose closed, semi-closed, or open adoption. With an open adoption, you can develop a deep, close relationship with your child. Although you will part with your child, you might still be able to experience milestones, talk with her, and perhaps even visit with her. Your participation in her life will be meaningful and worthwhile—for you, for your child, and even for your child’s adoptive family.
While I have not placed a child for adoption, I have been on the receiving end as an adoptive parent. The little connection my children are able to have with their biological family has been life-giving to them. I have seen my children light up when they are able to communicate with biological siblings and parents. Biological family members are significant parts of their life, and the relationships they have with them contribute to the formation of their identity in positive ways, helping them know and connect with their roots. You can play a valuable and meaningful part in your child’s life. Although you will not be able to participate in his everyday life, you will still hold a special place in his heart.
The adoption process is just that—a process. There are many steps involved and multiple decisions you will have to make. As you discover what life might look like after adoption, remember you only have to take one small step forward today. Talk to a trusted friend or therapist about the decision and gain a different perspective. Call an agency like Gladney and ask them to walk you through the first step you would need to take. Take care of yourself and your baby as you decide what is best. But mostly, remember that no matter what, you are an important part of your child’s life.