It is the moment, perhaps, that you have been waiting for. You’ve been asked to adopt a child. Whether you have been waiting, or if the question came to you out of the blue, there are many things to consider (and get started on!) when faced with this incredibly loving, yet challenging question.
If you have been approached by a friend, family member, or someone in your community who knows you are interested in adoption, one of the first things you should do is meet with this person, discuss the reasons why you are being asked to adopt the child, and establish if the birth father is aware of the plan. Communication with birth parents is crucial in developing trust and openness.
Some questions and items to discuss with the birth parents include:
- Expectations after adoption in terms of involvement with the child,
- Whether the birth mother is obtaining proper medical care (if she’s pregnant)
- Whether or not the birth parents are utilizing care services such as a local pregnancy center and adoption counselors.
Most adoption professionals would agree that birth parents need support in some form of counseling during, and after, their decision to place a child for adoption. Adoption is life-long decision, and it is a permanent one. There is significant grief and loss in adoption, as well. Encouraging the birth parents to engage in support is one way that you can show concern over their well-being, and also communicates that you are aware of and care that the birth parents’ needs are being met during a difficult time in their lives.
If the child is not a newborn, it is critical to establish the reasons why the birth parents are seeking to make a plan for adoption. Older child adoptions are complex, and one must take into consideration the attachment of the birth parents and family to the child, and vice versa. If the child is in an abusive situation or one where he or she is in immediate risk, then it is important to contact your local child protective services office.
Another thing to consider is seeking legal advice and ensuring that the birth parents are also obtaining the legal counsel of an attorney. It is strongly advised to seek attorneys who specialize in adoption, and/or work closely with your local juvenile court or the appropriate court that facilitates adoption in your community. Each state may differ in terms of when the birth parents can legally give consent for adoption, and the timeline of when adoptive parents can petition the court for adoption of the child. Make sure you are seeking and obtaining correct information!
You will also need to have a home study prepared for your adoption. A home study is essentially a description of your life, including a description of your home, employment status, health, financial status, federal and state background checks, child abuse and neglect checks, personal references, understanding of adoption, attitudes toward openness in adoption, and related information. You must have an approved home study that is written by an adoption professional. Each state may vary on the qualifications of the home study preparer, so make sure to do your research before selecting someone to write your study.
For foster families who are approached to adopt a child in their homes, case workers should be able to guide you through the process, and assist in getting the required documents ready. You will need to make sure that your foster care home study has been updated to reflect an adoptive study, and that you have taken the training that your state of residence requires for adoption. An attorney will be involved, so it is often best to pick an attorney who has experience with foster care adoptions.
Being asked to adopt a child is an honor, and life-changing for all involved. Prospective adoptive families and birth parents are in a unique position that focuses on the well-being of the child, and can work together in creating a beautiful experience—if the situation is appropriate for contact between birth families and prospective adoptive families (some foster care situations do not lean towards this).
Permanency through adoption for all children, regardless of the type of adoption, is something that offers children the love, stability, and protection of a family. If you have been asked to adopt a child, consider yourself blessed to be in the remarkable position of making an incredible difference in the life of a child.