There are many ways to build a family and many paths to choose from when it comes to adoption. Prospective adoptive parents may consider adoption from foster care, international adoption, or private domestic adoption. Private domestic adoption is the voluntary placement of an infant by the birth parents who legally consent to the child’s adoption by the adoptive parents. Private domestic adoption is the most common form of adoption in the United States with approximately 18,000 infant adoptions taking place every year, according to the National Council for Adoption. If you live in the Lone Star state or are interested in adopting from there, here is everything you need to know about infant adoption in Texas.
Deciding to Adopt
The first step in the adoption process is simply to decide if adoption is right for you. Families come to adoption from all different paths—some from a long-held desire to expand their families through adoption and others through the journey of infertility. If you come to adoption through infertility, make sure you have had time to grieve before moving on to adoption. It can be a wonderful thing to love and nurture a child who is not biologically related to you but it is important to make sure you are prepared before taking that step. Before you begin the adoption process, be honest with yourself as to whether you could raise and parent a child who is of a different race or ethnicity than you. Are you open to a child with special needs? How open do you see your relationship with the birth parents? Adoption is not a single act. It is a lifelong journey—both for the birth parents, and the adoptive parents, and the child.
Which Type of Adoption Is Right for You
Once you have decided to adopt, the next question is which type of adoption is right for you and your family. If you are open to older child adoption, then perhaps adoption from foster care is your path. If you are excited by the prospect of bringing another country into your hearts and home, then look at international adoption. And if you are interested in adopting an infant, then private domestic adoption is typically the way to go. While there are some infants available for placement through foster care, most families interested in adopting an infant choose to match with a prospective birth parent through private adoption.
Beginning the Process
You may choose to adopt a child from Texas whether you are a resident of the state or not. Thanks to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children prospective adoptive parents do not need to reside in the same state as the prospective birth parents for an adoption to be complete. To begin the process of infant adoption in Texas, the first step is to find a professional. Texas allows independent adoptions so families should consider whether agency adoption or independent adoption, with the aid of an adoption attorney, is right for them. There are pros and cons to both sides. The upside to working with an agency is that many agencies are “full-service shops.” This means the agency can handle everything from your home study to crafting parent profiles and advertising, to coordinating prenatal care, benefits, and hospital plans all the way through the delivery and into post-placement visits. If families work with a national agency, the agency may have a greater reach to prospective birth parents, thus decreasing wait times for a match. Additionally, some prospective adoptive parents feel more comfortable working with an agency as prospective birth parents are more thoroughly screened, lessening the potential for fraud. Should you decide to work with an adoption agency, it is important to ask the right questions before signing with them. What are their average wait times from home study to matching? How many families do they work with at once? How much support do they offer for waiting families? What is their communication style? How often can you expect to be in contact with the agency? What is their fee structure like? What happens if there is a failed match? Ask to speak to families who have recently completed an adoption with the agency of your interest. What was their experience like? It is better to have all the information so there are no surprises during the process.
On the other hand, the benefit of pursuing an independent adoption is that the prospective adoptive parents may be more “hands-on” throughout the process. In an independent adoption, the prospective adoptive parents take the reins to coordinate all the adoption professionals necessary to facilitate their adoption process. This may include an adoption facilitator and an adoption attorney. Like adoption agencies, it is important to do your research and ask a lot of questions before securing an adoption facilitator or an adoption attorney. In Texas, an adoption attorney must be employed to handle the legal placement of the child as it is illegal for an adoption facilitator to place a child. It should be noted, too, that in Texas, it is illegal for prospective adoptive parents to advertise directly to prospective birth parents. Only state-licensed agencies, adoption facilitators, and adoption attorneys may advertise. One last benefit of independent adoption is that there is typically more communication between the prospective birth parents and the prospective adoptive parents. These relationships may lead to more secure placements and lay the foundation of a lifelong relationship between the adoption triad.
The Home Study and Pre-Adoption Education
Regardless of whether you choose to adopt independently or with the aid of an adoption agency, all prospective adoptive parents pursuing infant adoption in Texas must complete a home study. The home study must be completed by a state-licensed social worker. For families who live in Texas, this would be a Texas state-licensed social worker. If you live outside the state of Texas, say in Virginia, then you would need a Virginia state-licensed social worker to complete your home study.
While the process of a home study may seem daunting and even intrusive, the purpose of the home study is to provide a snapshot of what life with the adoptive parent(s) would look like for the child. In preparation for your home study, you will need to compile a series of documents to include birth and marriage certificates, results from a recent medical physical, driving records, employment letters, financial statements, tax returns, and child abuse checks, and criminal background clearances. Typically, at least three reference letters are required from close friends, family, and if a child already resides in your home and is in school or daycare, that child’s teacher or caretaker. During the home study, you will be asked to answer a series of questions about yourself, your upbringing, your parenting styles, your values, and your hopes for your future child. Your social worker will help you consider if you would like an open or closed adoption with your child’s birth parents and what medical and social histories you may or may not be open to in a referral. Your social worker will come to the house, typically one to two times, to see where the child will sleep and check for other safety regulations—such as smoke detectors and water safety, in the event you have a pool or body of water near the house. After your home study, your social worker will write a 10 to 12-page report and submit it for approval.
During the process of the home study, you will also begin pre-adoption education. The training is typically around 20 hours total and covers topics such as parenting through attachment, adoptive parent strategies, cocooning techniques, and becoming a conspicuous family. Take this time to read as much as you can about adoption and consider how you will talk about adoption with your child. This time can also be a great opportunity to connect with other prospective adoptive parents in your immediate community. Though in many ways adoptive families are just like any other, the journey of adoption is a lifelong one and issues biological children may never face, such as questions of identity, the adoptive child will struggle with throughout their life. Taking the time before placement to find fellow adoptive families with whom you and your child can share your journey can have a big impact in the years ahead.
For infant adoption in Texas, you may be matched with a prospective birth mother before your home study is complete, if you choose an independent adoption, or after your home study is complete if you are using an adoption agency. Once you have matched with the prospective birth parents, your adoption attorney or adoption agency will work with you and the prospective birth parents to develop a list of covered expenses. In Texas, there are no restrictions on what birth parent expenses adoptive parents are permitted to pay, but typically these costs include medical bills, attorney fees, living expenses, transportation expenses, and any pre and postnatal care. Another thing to consider in advance of the big day is what your expectations and the birth parents’ expectations will be at the hospital. Take the time to have the conversation about who the birth parents want there, who you would like to be there, and how much contact the birth mother would like. Remember, this day is about the expectant mother, not about you.
Once the child is born, the birth mother must wait at least 48 hours before she can give consent to the adoption. Consent must be given in the presence of two witnesses and then signed and verified. In an agency adoption, consent is given to the agency who then gives consent to the prospective adoptive parents. In an independent adoption, consent is given directly to the adoptive parents. Once consent is given to infant adoption in Texas, the birth parents have up to 10 days to revoke their decision. If 10 days have passed without revocation, then the consent becomes irrevocable, unless evidence of fraud or duress can be presented in a court of law. If the birth father is unknown, he has up to 31 days following the birth of the child to register with the Putative Father Registry in Texas. Once consent is given, you may return home. However, if you completed your adoption across state lines, then you must wait until your ICPC clearance comes through before returning to your home state.
Finalizing the Adoption
Once families return home, they will complete a minimum of six months of post-placement reporting. The purpose of these post-placement reports is for a state-licensed social worker to check in and see how both the child and the new parents are adjusting to life post-adoption. Your social worker is there to offer support and guidance so should you or your new child be struggling, it is important to let them know. If you live outside the state of Texas, then you will use a state-licensed social worker to complete your post-placement reports. Typically, families use the same agency that conducted their home study. Once six months of post-reporting have concluded and the social worker has filed their reports then either your agency or your adoption attorney will submit the necessary documents to the court to finalize the adoption. Once the adoption is finalized, your newly adopted child will be recognized and “entitled to all the rights and privileges as if born to you.”
The cost of infant adoption in Texas ranges from $20,000-$40,000 on average. Cost variances depend on using an agency or pursuing an independent adoption and what birth mother expenses you are covering. Travel expenses also vary. Though the costs may seem daunting there are several grants available for adoption as well as the 2013 Adoption Tax Credit, both of which make adoption more affordable.
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