Are you deciding whether to pursue a United States adoption? The adoption process is an exciting journey that will shape the family you are becoming. Although the process is worth every second, it can also be a roller-coaster journey to discover the path to your future family. But if you’re willing to commit to this journey, the result of building your family through adoption is life-changing.
At the beginning of the adoption process, it can be overwhelming to figure out which type of adoption is right for your family. A United States adoption is a general term used for two types of adoptions. The first is known as domestic adoption and involves adopting an infant. The second is known as foster adoption and involves adopting a child or sibling group through the foster care system. Foster adoptions are more likely to occur with children ages 2 to 18, rather than infants, so your first step is deciding which adoption type you want to pursue.
There are some basic questions to ask yourself before deciding what type of adoption to pursue. Do you want a baby or an older child? Are you willing to foster different children before the adoption is complete? Are you okay with waiting a long time for a baby? How much can you afford? Are you able to deal with some of the parenting issues you might face if you foster? These questions will shape your decision to adopt and help you figure out which adoption program is right for you.
For our family, we knew we wanted to pursue domestic adoption. First, I wanted the infant experience and knew that we would probably not get an infant in foster care. We also weren’t sure whether we could handle only having a child temporarily in our home during foster parenting. Although we were concerned about the steep fees of domestic adoption, especially when compared with the significantly cheaper route of foster adoption, we also knew that there might be adoption grants and fundraising options available. Even though we knew we faced a long wait for an infant, we decided to pursue domestic adoption because it seemed like a good fit for our family.
How Much Does a United States Adoption Cost?
Depending on the type of adoption you pursue, adoption costs vary widely and are dependent on many things, like whether you adopt through foster care or pursue an infant adoption. Domestic adoption costs can vary widely, from $20,000 to $40,000, depending on the agency fees. These fees help provide the adoption agency staffing and cover their work and time to ensure the completion of your paperwork. It may include other fees like the cost of counseling for the birth parents. Legal fees, hiring a lawyer, and travel costs are separate fees from agency fees.
Birthparent expenses are another expense that adoptive parents are legally allowed to provide and are not always included in agency fees. Most states allow expenses that are limited to living expenses, medical costs, and adoption-related costs, like counseling. There are also limits to how much money you can provide a birth parent, so check state laws before providing money or ask your attorney or agency for guidance.
On the other spectrum, foster adoption costs are relatively inexpensive in comparison to domestic adoption costs. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average cost of foster care adoptions can range from $0 to $2,500. Much of your expense depends on the child’s specific situation and how many of the fees are reimbursable. Be sure to talk with your caseworker about fees that can be reimbursed so you know ahead of time which aspects of the foster adoption you will need to pay for out-of-pocket.
Although foster adoptions are the least financially prohibitive, do not make your decision on finances alone. You must be prepared for the challenges of bringing a child into your home who may have significant trauma in their life. Since the purpose of foster care is reunification with parents, there is always the risk of a child being placed with their biological parents again. Also, foster children may need counseling, additional therapies, and parental visits, which will consume time and energy. All these things must be taken into consideration before deciding the best course for your family.
Although domestic adoption costs can be overwhelming, it’s important to find ways to fund your adoption that involve other avenues of support. Fundraising opportunities are a great way to raise support. Online fundraising platforms are easy to set up and fundraising can happen quickly through the use of social media and email. The downside of using an online fundraising platform is that these businesses take a small fee from your fundraiser, so the money you raise must cover the fees.
Adoption grants are an option to explore, especially if you don’t mind filling out additional paperwork and following through with grant requirements. However, keep in mind that grant funds are not awarded until you have paid for your agency fees and are provided to the adoptive family as a reimbursement.
Adoption loans are another option for families who may not be able to raise enough through fundraisers and grants. Loans for adoptions charge low-interest fees (3 percent or less). If you need to raise a large percentage of funds for your adoption, it’s best to use a combination of methods to provide the funds for your adoption fees.
Process for a United States Adoption
The steps for a United States adoption often vary depending on your state’s laws, but there are some general steps you will follow no matter where you live. First, you will need to choose between an attorney and an adoption agency. There are differences between the two, and it is good to explore what makes them different and what will work best for your situation.
Adoption agencies provide the step-by-step help you need from start to finish in an adoption. They typically provide a caseworker who will complete your home study and some may even work directly with birth parents and will show your adoption profile to them. Agencies also provide education and support to help prepare you for the challenges of adoption.
An attorney’s role is to specifically help you complete the legal aspects of your adoption. This works well if you are already matched with a birth parent. Attorneys will walk you through the paperwork trail, but you will be responsible to locate birth parents for your adoption and learn about aspects of your adoption that an agency would typically teach you. Your attorney is also not a caseworker. They cannot do your home study, so you will need to plan to get your home study completed through a licensed caseworker. Adoption attorneys typically do not provide the personal support that a caseworker from an agency can provide you or your birth mother. However, one benefit of a lawyer is they are more flexible with prospective parents they will work with. When you don’t meet an agency’s qualifications as adoptive parents, then you may be able to adopt through an adoption attorney.
If you are leaning toward going through a licensed agency, then do your research ahead of time. Look for recommendations from others before you begin your home study. Agencies provide a breakdown of their fees and the step-by-step process for adopting.
Before committing to an adoption agency, ask about the number of adoptions they have completed in the last few years. Questions about how many waiting families they have in their program and the number of birth parents they worked with last year can be eye-opening and can give you some perspective on waiting time. For instance, if there are dozens of waiting families and the agency is only working with two birth mothers, then the wait for most families is going to belong unless something changes. The process, no matter how much you plan, is never predictable and it’s always good to keep an open mind.
After you have chosen an agency or attorney, you will begin a home study for your adoption, no matter whether you are doing domestic or foster adoption. A home study, which is a detailed written report about your family, history, employment, and finances, is completed by a caseworker and shows that you are ready to bring a child into your family. The home study process includes a host of paperwork, as well as a home visit by a caseworker who is required to prove that you have adequate space to add a child to your family. A criminal background check is required as part of the adoption process and will include fingerprint records and checks for child neglect or abuse. Each state varies in its requirements. Check with your agency or attorney to find out what is required in your state.
Once the home study is finished, you will begin your wait. If you already have a birth parent interested in your family, then you will wait until the baby is born and parental rights are relinquished. If you are not paired with a birth parent, agencies will encourage you to complete your family profile—which includes pictures and your family story showing what you can offer a child. Videos, websites, and online parent profiles help prospective birth parents to find you more easily and to access your family information. Although this part of the adoption process may require the longest wait, use all avenues to communicate your pursuit of adoption to those in your network of support. Family, friends, co-workers, and even acquaintances on social media may have connections to prospective parents. You can also use our online Parent Profiles to connect with birth parents.
Birth parents will want to meet you, whether in person or online, before selecting you as their match. During this meeting, you both will share how you’ve come to this decision and whether this is the right connection for both of you. Some birth parents want an open adoption—the chance to maintain an ongoing relationship with letters, pictures, and visits. They want to continue connecting with their child, even after they sign the adoption papers. You will want to decide ahead of time what kind of arrangement you are most comfortable with. Be upfront and honest about your wishes and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Your child’s birth family is an extension of your own and if you commit to having regular visits, it’s important to honor that commitment.
Birth fathers are notified of the birth mother’s desire to consent to an adoption and may be able to claim paternity or sign consent forms if they agree to the adoption. Check your state laws for specifics on birth father’s rights and how this can impact your adoption if they choose to claim paternity and do not consent to the adoption.
Once the baby is born, the birth mother has to wait to sign consent forms for a specific number of hours or days, it varies depending on the different state laws. Once she signs, she relinquishes her rights to her child but may have a time period in which she can change her mind. To find out the details on what your state allows, check with your agency or attorney.
After consent forms are signed, the child can be placed in your home and you can begin to complete the post-placement visits and the steps required for finalization of your adoption.
Foster to adopt is another way to adopt a child and the steps are similar to domestic adoption. A home study will be required through a licensed agency that has contracted to work with the state. Background checks, including criminal and fingerprint checks, a health physical, employment history, finances, a home visit, and a detailed written record about your family will be part of the home study process.
Every state varies with its requirements for foster licensing, but you will need to complete a specific number of training hours to be licensed. This training will help prepare your family for children who have experienced trauma and personal challenges. To meet the demands of fostering, parents need to possess understanding, compassion, and know-how to handle their child’s trauma and past issues. Waiting children, who are available for adoption through foster care, are usually older. Once a child’s parental rights are terminated, then you will be able to proceed with the finalization of your adoption.
Pursuing a United States Adoption is a life-changing process. We encourage you to read more about the type of adoption you are interested in, whether that is domestic adoption or foster adoption. If you still have questions about adoption, contact an adoption professional to learn more.
Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists who can help you get started on the journey of a lifetime.