What would be your first question if you were considering adoption? If you wanted to start the adoption process today, where do you start and what do you need to know? What is important to know about an adoption agency before you decide to work with them? If you find yourself waiting for your child and feeling overwhelmed, where can you turn?

In a recent podcast of ReFramed, Emily has a revealing and informative conversation with Jennifer Lanter, a Gladney employee. Jennifer shares professional and personal experiences she’s had at the agency and answers viewer questions concerning adoption. Questions are answered concerning the agency, Gladney Center for Adoption, fees and affording an adoption, placing and adopting an older child, and average placement times.

First, who and what is Gladney Center for Adoption? “Gladney has placed children in loving homes for more than 130 years. We work hard for the bright future of each child we serve. But we’re also distinguished by the lifelong, personalized service we provide to everyone involved—the birth parents, the child, and the adoptive parents.” This agency works with the entire adoption triad, the expectant/birth mother, and the prospective adoptive parents. Their goal/value is to ensure that the best safety resources are in place for the child.

When an expectant mother finds out she is pregnant and feels unable to care for a child, she hopefully pursues the best options for her and for her child. There are many “easy connect” ways to connect with Gladney. First, there is the phone which an expectant mother can use to contact Gladney 24/7 and speak with an options counselor. Secondly, one can text and message an options counselor through phone text or messaging on their website. Their website also shares a very detailed step-by-step process for an expectant mother reaching out to Gladney. These steps include the following: gathering information, establishing your goals, reaching out and meeting your case worker, completing forms, choosing an adoptive family, planning your delivery, and finding support after your delivery. It sounds overwhelming, but it becomes very manageable when taken step by step.

Gathering information means reaching out to an adoption agency, such as Gladney, through the website or phone. They will help you evaluate your options. As the expectant mother, what are your options, opinions, and goals? Do you want to be a parent, and can you be a responsible parent in your situation? Can you be the kind of parent your child deserves? Coping with an unplanned pregnancy is a hard time, with many hard decisions that are not easily made, but a time that expectations need to be dealt with honesty.

“Reach out” means that the case worker will reach out to you to give you any or all additional information you could need about all of your options. Meeting with the case worker will start the process for the adoption plan.

Completing the forms and required documentation presented from your case worker would be the next step in creating an adoption plan. Choosing a family would include reviewing profiles of prospective adoptive parents.

Planning your delivery involves working with a doctor and your caseworker to map out and document how you want your hospital stay to be during delivery.

Support after delivery includes support groups, as well as some assistance regarding employment, housing, etc., if needed.

In addition to providing the step-by-step process, Gladney’s website offers a wealth of additional information for expectant and birth mothers. There are many links to prospective adoptive parents’ profiles for expectant mothers to view. There is also, Adoption Today, which is a wonderful page on their website which debunks some stereotypes and myths surrounding adoption and reveals the realities of adoption today. It discusses the role everyone plays and the decisions each person involved in the adoption plan determines. The Adoption Today states it beautifully: “Adoption has evolved in exciting ways, and an options counselor will help you understand the possibilities. Ultimately, adoption is a plan crafted by you. And the plans are as varied and unique as each expectant mother.”

For prospective adoptive parents, there are also many ways to learn about all of Gladney’s adoption programs, to request information, or to just contact a staff member to learn more about Gladney in general. Gladney has three major adoption programs: domestic infant adoption, their New Beginnings program (partnering with the state and foster systems), and international adoptions.

The first discussed is the domestic infant adoption program, which is the program an expectant mother would join if she is choosing an adoption plan. This entails reading through profiles of prospective adoptive parents and working with their counselors for the hospital adoption plan. This is the initial program that Gladney began when they opened in 1887. For prospective adoptive parents, their offer includes “Flexibility in the adoption process; Assistance in developing a family profile; Guidance from experienced staff; Experienced and respected legal staff; Membership in a parent support group; Parenting education;” and “Confidentiality.” The website also includes additional information about the criteria, the process, financial information, and post-adoption services.

Gladney also has a Medically Fragile infant program. This offers adoptions for prospective adoptive parents who are open to adopting an infant with special medical or congenital needs.

A question of major concern with adoption, especially with domestic adoption, is whether a birth mother can change her mind, and what happens if she does? Can she keep the baby? The answer is yes. Although prospective parents might be matched with an expectant mother, nothing is official in the legal system until she signs the relinquishment of her parental rights after birth. The time period varies by state, but typically the relinquishment papers are signed in the hospital 24 to 48 hours after birth.

What happens to the prospective adoptive parents if the birth mother decides to parent the child and not continue with the adoption? At Gladney, Jennifer states, they work very closely with these families, as it will be a time of grieving for them. When they are ready, Gladney will again show their profiles to expectant mothers. One thing Gladney alleviates is the monetary burden. If a birth mother a prospective adoptive couple was matched with changes her mind, there are no monetary repercussions—a burden the prospective family should not have to deal with or face. Jennifer does state that because of their lengthy pre-counseling with the expectant mothers, Gladney has a low percentage of failed adoptions. (Gladney adoptions only fail about 20% of the time.)

Gladney also works with international countries and has many international adoption programs, including China, Colombia, and Taiwan. “Always an adventure, international adoption gives you a unique opportunity to open your home and heart to a child from outside the United States. International children enrich the lives of their adoptive families and deepen their connection to foreign cultures and customs.” A wonderful expansion to their China program is their Superkids program. This allows prospective adoptive parents to travel to China and visit local social welfare institutes. During this visit, they spend time with the children, learn about their development, interact with them, and use this as a tool moving forward with the adoption.

The final program offered by the agency is a very unique program, called the New Beginnings program. Gladney is based in Texas. They have teamed up with the Texas Child Protection Offices to recruit families and “[connect] families with children in the foster care system that are immediately available for adoption.” This is unique since it bypasses foster care, and the children can go to immediate adoption placement homes. It is important to know that someone interested in adopting from this program should be open to adopting children who are 7 years old or older, sibling groups, minority children, and medically challenged children.

In all her overviews of the Gladney programs mentioned in the podcast, Jennifer relayed the importance of education and post-adoption support. Prospective adoptive parents are required to complete educational courses/classes with Gladney. Expectant mothers must also meet with an options counselor to discuss all options and start creating an adoption plan if that is her decision.

Post-adoption services are valuable for everyone involved with an adoption. For parents who adopted, Gladney offers Gladney University training, support groups through Gladney Family Association, and clinical services and support. For adults who have been adopted, they offer counseling, links to many resources, and adoption records to aid reunions (if the adoption happened through Gladney).

Another very important element for prospective adoptive parents and adoptive parents are support groups. While these groups are not required, Jennifer states they are very beneficial for families to have the support and knowledge from other families who have been there and been in their shoes. There is also Gladney Family Associations, which is a way for adoptive families in the same geographical region to connect. If you placed a child for adoption, they continue to offer many resources, as well as ways to request an update from their post-adoption program.

Another relevant question that most people considering adoption ask is that of finances and fees. For the domestic infant program, Gladney has one flat fee that covers everything, from start to finish. This fee does not change and there are no repercussions for the prospective adoptive family if their matched expectant/birth mother changes her mind sometime during the match period. International adoption fees vary slightly from country to country because of different requirements. For the New Beginning program, there is a minimal fee to complete a home study, but no program fee in working with the state Department of Child Services.

Jennifer states in the podcast that she never wants finances or fees to be a deterrent for someone wanting to adopt. She also expresses the importance of education and awareness with family and friends. She says that adoption is a great time to speak with family and friends. While you are going through the adoption process, educate family and friends about adoption, let them know what you are doing, and maybe they will be willing to contribute financially.

Gladney also offers many informative resources for expectant mothers and birth mothers. These resources include counseling, respite, medical care, financial support, legal services, and network supports.

Counseling includes future planning regarding career and budget counseling. They also offer a group counseling class, “Family Loving Decisions,” for families of an expectant/birth mother to learn about adoption and how to support her after placement.

Respite is provided when the families need short-term rest or short-term assistance.

Medical care is available to help with finding doctors and scheduling appointments.

Financial assistance can be available for pregnancy-related expenses and can help with the Medicaid process if needed.

Legal services can help with the entire adoption process and can help confirm your needs are heard and met.

Networks and support can provide lifetime support for anyone who has made an adoption plan.

A key question that many planning on adopting want an answer to is about placement time and how long the entire process will take. Jennifer states in the podcast that the timing of placement for a domestic infant adoption depends on the openness of the prospective adoptive parents. But, Jennifer states, placement typically occurs within 12-18 months. The other programs typically are a little faster than that.

The podcast also discusses parents adopting an older child, as well as a parent placing an older child for adoption. Jennifer states that she has a lot of respect and consideration for a mother who makes the decision to place her older child for adoption. Contributing reasons could be due to life situations, homelessness, employment hindrances, or anything that bars her from caring for her child. Jennifer reaffirms that counseling is the number one priority for these mothers to ensure they are making the best choice for everyone. They are provided any needed resources to ensure this is the best choice for mother and child. If it is determined that placement is the best option, it is the same process as a domestic infant adoption; the mother reviews prospective profiles and gets matched when she makes her decision.

Adopting an older child presents many variables for adoption agencies. Some prospective parents want an infant, but many are open to an older child, or even sibling groups. Many, if not most, international programs will be working with a toddler or older child. This is due to the process and time it takes for a child to be considered adoptable by their country, and then the timing of the adoption process and coordination between that country and the United States. Sibling groups can also be found in some international programs. The other program where it is common to see adoptions of older children and siblings is with Gladney’s New Beginnings program.

Jennifer is a wonderful resource and a wonderful benefit for Gladney. She was able to share her personal and professional knowledge about adoption and Gladney Center for Adoption. Her biggest tip for everyone listening is, “While it may seem hopeless on this journey, if you work with Gladney, that is where the hope really begins.”