Adopting a child can best be described as a journey rather than a process. A journey involves traveling from one place to another, usually taking a long time. The destination, of course, is becoming a forever family. But numerous stops will occur along the way from the starting point of the journey to that destination. What places might prospective adoptive parents go along that journey?
A well-known saying notes that it takes a village to raise a child. It can also take the input of others to embark on an adoption journey and the encouragement of others to continue on an adoption journey. Thus, hopeful parents may find themselves at the home of, or at least in the presence of, friends who have made that journey before them.
Pursuing an adoptive placement is an out-of-the-ordinary experience. As a result, prospective adoptive parents want information about what to expect, what they should know, and what they should ask. Picking the brain of adoptive parents with whom a prospective adoptive parent is acquainted is a common way to gather information and discuss bumps in the road of that journey. While adoption resources can certainly explain the procedure and answer questions, hearing information from someone who has personally taken the adoption journey provides a unique and helpful perspective.
With access to the internet, prospective adoptive parents have untold amounts of information about adoption and issues related to it at their fingertips. These resources can be accessed at any time of the day or night and as soon as a question pops into their mind.
What types of information can be found online? Since the adoption process is established by state law, the actual statutes addressing adoption in each state provide detail as to the requirements for, time frames of, and prohibitions about adoption. Why not check those provisions out? In Florida, the state’s adoption laws are found in Chapter 63 of the Florida Statutes which are available for review.
Once a match is made, issues about the birth mother’s health may arise. What is the effect of her smoking on the baby? What if she drank alcohol before she realized she was pregnant? Researching questions such as these can be helpful; however, a prudent course of action would be to look at more than one medical site to see if consistent information is provided.
To adopt privately, a prospective adoptive parent must work with an adoption resource, an attorney or an agency, to handle the process. Online searches identify and vet such resources. An attorney or agency’s website will reveal the type of cases handled and the length of time such work has been conducted. Licensing of the resource by the state can also be confirmed online.
Contact with Attorney/Adoption Agency
Once an adoption resource has been selected, a prospective adoptive parent must meet with (or at least be in contact with) that resource to make the necessary arrangements to proceed. A retainer (with an attorney) or initial payment (with an agency) will have to be paid, and a stack of paperwork will be provided for completion.
Financial Advisor’s Office
Adoption is an expensive proposition. According to findlaw.com, a private adoption can cost up to $40,000. Since most prospective adoptive parents do not have that large a sum sitting in a bank account and available for adoption, determining how they will pay for adoption is a key issue upfront.
When plumbing issues arise, a plumber is contacted. When financial issues pop up, a financial advisor’s input may be required. These professionals can offer advice for covering adoption costs under the specific financial circumstances of the adoptive parent.
Home Study Provider’s Office
The welfare of a child is the paramount concern in an adoption. So, state adoption law universally requires those adopting a non-related child to be checked out in advance and approved to have a helpless minor placed in their home. This background check is called a home study.
The laws of each state will indicate who is authorized to conduct a home study. The possibilities include social workers, agencies, and mental health counselors among others. Whatever home study provider is used will have extensive contact with the prospective adoptive parent to complete the required investigation. This background check might entail a home visit, interviews, and the production of documents such as financial records, marriage certificates, and personal references.
A common requirement in the home study process is determining the health of the prospective adoptive parent. Why is this issue important? The individual will be entrusted with the care of a minor dependent upon him/her if an adoption is successful. Thus, the parent’s health must be such that this duty can be fulfilled. If issues of substance abuse or terminal illness are uncovered, the home study provider may conclude a placement should not be made in that home for the child’s best interest.
Part of delving into a prospective adoptive parent’s health requires documentation from a medical professional. A form detailing the findings by that professional is often requested to allow the home study provider to assess the impact of health issues on the individual’s ability to parent. The issue is not whether an applicant is in perfect health but whether any health issues existing would detrimentally impact the ability to parent to the extent a placement is not advisable.
To obtain completion of the required medical forms, an appointment with or an examination by a doctor may be necessary. In some instances, a doctor may be able to complete the forms based on recent annual checkups or appointments with his patient.
Law Enforcement Office
A criminal background check is an important step in the home study process. Fingerprinting may be necessary to conduct the required investigation. To obtain fingerprints, a trip to a local law enforcement office could be on the agenda.
As with an applicant’s health, a clean record is not required. The home study provider must determine if any arrest history would be a cause to deny approval of the placement for the child’s welfare. Key considerations are the nature of the offense and the timing of the offense. If the offense involves physical violence or a crime involving a child, those would raise red flags. If the offense was something that occurred many years prior (say when the applicant was young and in college with a clean record since), there will be less concern than if an offense occurred recently.
Among the plethora of paperwork to be completed during an adoption are documents that must be notarized. These documents are critical, so it is important to assure they were indeed signed willingly by the actual individual identified in the document. Notarization can only occur if the document is signed in the notary’s presence with the requisite identification produced.
Where does a hopeful parent find a notary? Attorney’s offices commonly have notaries on-site as do banks and car dealers. A recent development is the concept of mobile notaries; these individuals offer their service, for a fee, by coming to the location of the individual needing his signature notarized. If state law allows notarization based on personally knowing the individual, a prospective adoptive parent may enlist the aid of a friend or acquaintance whom they know.
Getting ready for the adoptee is not simply about paying fees, completing paperwork, and being approved in a home study. A practical side to preparation is having items on hand which are necessary to parent. Those items will vary depending on the age of the adoptee. An infant requires more paraphernalia—infant carrier, diaper bag, blankets, diapers, wipes, onesies, etc. While a fully stocked and assembled nursery is not required, at least the basics must be available. An older child’s arrival may call for pajamas, a few toys, and some books to begin time in the forever home.
In some cases, the cabbage patch from which an adoptee is taken is located in another state. When adoptive parents are in one state and the adoptee is in a different one, that qualifies as an interstate adoption. The adoptive parent must travel to the state where the child is to take placement of the adoptee.
But the process is a bit more complex for new parents than merely traveling from State A to State B, picking up the adoptee, and returning to State A. It is illegal to take the adoptee out of their home state until clearance has been given for that transport.
The necessary clearance is obtained through a process called ICPC processing. ICPC is an acronym for the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children. The ICPC office in both the adoptive parents and adoptee’s states must review and approve a packet of adoption paperwork before the child may legally be removed by the prospective adoptive parents. This review is not simultaneous; the adoptee’s home state reviews the paperwork and clears it before sending it on to the adoptive parents’. As a result, an adoptive parent will be spending several days after placement with the adoptee in their home state.
If adopting internationally, prospective adoptive parents will not only be figuratively going on an adoption journey, but they will be undertaking a physical journey to reach the country of the child’s birth to take placement. The number of foreign adoptions has been declining for years. According to figures from the U.S. Department of State, international adoptions totaled 2,971 in 2019 and 4,059 in 2018. Four countries were the source of the most foreign adoptions in 2019—China, Colombia, India, and Ukraine. Prospective adoptive parents receiving a new family member from those countries are traveling not only to a different country but a different continent.
In infant adoptions, a baby is often placed directly with prospective adoptive parents upon discharge from the hospital. In these cases, the new parents get to go to the hospital for a fun reason—to pick up their new family member!
Unfortunately, no set itinerary can be provided for hospital trips. Babies arrive when they decide to arrive, often surprising everyone involved with the timing of their delivery. A due date is merely a target date; babies are born on their due date less than 5% of the time.
Similarly, parents wait for the discharge of a baby for an indeterminate amount o time. Medical issues (baby’s health) and the schedules of medical professionals will control that timing.
To pay for an adoption, financial arrangements must be made. These arrangements may include applying for a loan, obtaining a certified check to cover fees owed, or wiring funds to the adoption resource. These types of activities likely require a visit to a brick-and-mortar bank as opposed to handling things online.
As adoption is a legal process, court proceedings will occur to make an adoption official. With the advent of the pandemic, many courts have transitioned to holding final adoption hearings online utilizing Zoom or a similar platform. With vaccinations on the rise and infections dropping, some courts have returned to in-person hearings. Whether in court live and in person or being present virtually, adoptive parents will need (and want!) to participate in an adoption final hearing. What a great milestone to achieve and a happy event in which to take part.
The financial adoption journey may not end once an adoption is finalized. Adoptive parents should check into the availability of claiming the Federal Adoption Tax Credit. This credit, currently set at $14,400.00, can be claimed on the federal income tax return filed for the year in which the adoption is finalized. Various requirements, caps, and limitations are imposed for eligibility. A tax professional can assist in determining if the credit is available and, if so, the extent to which it can be claimed and how.
Regardless of what type of adoption is pursued and how the adoption journey unfolds, prospective adoptive parents will experience an emotional roller coaster ride. Adoption is not for the faint-hearted because the journey involves ups and downs and high stakes—the viability of an intended forever family. Those who are persons of faith may find the adoption journey one where they spend a great deal of time on their knees.
An adoption journey is an arduous and often long process to realize the dream of creating a forever family. This journey is not a straight shot from Point A to Point B. Various stops along the way must be made to enable those on the journey to reach their destination. These varied places may include in front of a computer, at a doctor’s office, in a bank, with a financial advisor, in a hospital, and at an out-of-state or foreign location. But the best stop of all will be when a forever family is attained. At that point, another journey begins—living life together.Are you and your partner ready to start the adoption process? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to begin your adoption journey. We have 130+ years of adoption experience and would love to help you.