Is it OK to Put a Time Limit on Your Waiting-to-Adopt Time?

How long should you ride the adoption roller coaster?

Robyn Chittister July 10, 2015
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Our son’s adoption happened more quickly than a pregnancy. The time from when we signed with our home study agency until the day he was born was eight months. We knew our second adoption would take longer. We were specifying sex (girl) and race (all or part “African American”). Private domestic infant adoptions were taking longer at the time, too, in part because of countries closing or slowing down their international adoption programs.

We started our home study in March 2010. By July 2011, we had had one failed match and had been scammed once. Our home study was set to expire in September 2011.

Yes, that’s right. Home studies expire. In most states, they expire after one year. In a few states, they expire after two years. When your home study expires, you have to go through a home study update. Like the initial home study requirements, the update requirements vary from state to state. One thing I’m certain all states have in common? All home study updates cost money.

In July 2011, we were not optimistic. Although we had technically only been waiting 10 months, because we had started the process in March 2010, we felt like we had been waiting for those four months as well. Furthermore, my son had been asking for a little sister since he was 18 months old. He was 5 1/2. How many years younger would his sister be?

My husband and I made the difficult decision to not update our home study unless we were matched again before it expired. I cried. I sat in the nursery that we had decorated for the baby who didn’t even exist (scam) and felt like our family would never be complete.

We did end up matching in August 2011. Our daughter was born in October and came home in November. We had to expedite our home study update, which consisted of more than half of what our home study was—including the references from other people. (Because our references were going to say, “You know, in the last year, I’ve totally changed my mind. These people suck as parents.” Seriously?)

Waiting indefinitely takes a toll. However, prospective adoptive parents need to be realistic. The fact is, according to the Adoptive Families Cost & Timing Survey, private domestic adoption is taking an average of two years at this time. That’s two years from starting the process until you have a baby placed with you. If PAPs give themselves a time limit of one year, that’s simply not realistic.

When considering if it’s time to stop the waiting and accept your family as-is, ask yourself the following questions:

- Why are you thinking of stopping?

- Are you concerned that your age might be a problem, either because you feel “too old” for an expectant mother to choose you, or because you feel that you’d be “too old” to parent your child?

- Do you have other children in the home? Are they experiencing stress by waiting? Do you feel the age difference would be too great? How would they feel if they never got a younger sibling?

- Do you think your family is complete in its current state?

It is absolutely OK to stop waiting and decide your family is complete. Before you do, however, make sure that you’ve set realistic expectations of the process and evaluated your emotions. The adoption roller coaster is a ride unlike any other. I’ve heard it said that, as long as you hold on, you will eventually adopt. I do believe that. However, you need to choose what’s best for you.

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Robyn Chittister

Robyn is a full-time writer and mom through private, domestic, open, transracial adoption. She resides in New Hampshire with her family of two adults, two children, and a fluctuating number of animals. She is seriously passionate about adoption and tries to use her words wisely--both here and at her personal blog, Holding to the Ground.

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