When we began our adoption journey in 2010, I knew nothing. All I knew was that we wanted to adopt. I didn’t have much of an adoption support community, and so I basically figured things out on my own through internet searches and reaching out to people who had adopted before–some of whom were total strangers (who have since become friends). During that time, I promised myself that I would always be available to help other people who had questions as they began their adoption search.
Over the course of the past six months, I have had the opportunity to sit down with many women who are beginning their adoption journey and aren’t sure where to start. Their stories are always inspiring. Each has come with differing backgrounds and reasons for wanting to adopt, but they all have the same question: How do I get started? For those who may be asking this same question, here are the basics.
What type of adoption feels right to you? This is a personal question and the answer is different for everyone. There are five main types of adoption.
Foster to Adopt: In every state, there are hundreds of children in the foster care system who are available for adoption. If you are open to the possibility of an older child or sibling group, this may be a good fit for you. You would need to become state foster care certified, which can take a few months. There are challenges for sure, but for many people, this type of adoption has been an amazing blessing in their lives.
Domestic Agency Adoption: This is the type of adoption that most people think of when they hear the word adoption. An agency adoption is where you sign on with a business, referred to as an adoption agency, that matches expectant parents considering adoption with hopeful adoptive parents. An agency adoption is typically the most expensive type of adoption, but the process is usually the fastest. Make sure to do your research before signing on with an agency. Make sure you are working with an agency who is upfront and ethical in their practices, and who treats expectant parents well, offering post-placement support and counseling.
Adoption Facilitator: An adoption facilitator is basically a professional adoption “match maker.” They aren’t an agency in that they don’t handle the legal aspects of the adoption process, they just help people connect. An agency or attorney is still required to proceed with the adoption. Adoption facilitating is not legal in many states, so make sure you know your laws before choosing to hire a facilitator.
International Adoption: There is no doubt you have seen news footage of orphanages all over the world where children in need of love and homes reside. Every year, couples from differing countries travel to these orphanages to adopt these children. International adoption has become increasing difficult over the past few years, but it is still an option. Once again, you must do your research and work with a reputable, ethical agency that is approved for international adoption and knows the rules and laws surrounding it. This type of adoption can take a very long time, costs about as much as a domestic agency adoption, and can comes with many challenges. It is important to take the time to educate yourself on the process of bringing a child from another country and culture into your home before committing to go this route.
Private Adoption: A private adoption is where a hopeful adoptive couple is chosen by an expectant mother without the help of an agency. This is usually done through word of mouth or social media advertising. When a match is made this way an attorney (or two depending on the circumstances) is hired and handles all the legalities of the adoption. This type of adoption is becoming more common as the online world is making it easier to find and connect with people all over the country.
I know which type of adoption I want to pursue, so what do I do next?
Start working on your Home Study. No matter what way you go, you must have a current home study written by a licensed home study provider. The type of adoption you are pursuing will determine they specifics of your home study. If you have chosen foster care, the state will send someone to complete your foster care home study. International adoption home studies have different requirements than domestic home studies, and in some cases, these different types of home studies are not interchangeable. Meaning that one type of home study will not work for another type of adoption. Make sure you get the right type of home study for the type of adoption you have chosen. If you are working with an agency, they often have professionals who will do your home study. If you are choosing to find a private adoption situation, there are many social workers who work independently and can provide you with what you need. Regardless, be prepared to answer pages of paperwork, be interviewed by the home study provider, hand over tax returns and other financial information, obtain a health history and medical clearance from your doctor, and have your home inspected for safety.
Decide who you want to work with. Choose your agency for domestic or international adoption; research attorneys and other adoption professionals. Ask who other people have used and what their experience was like. Would they use them again? What would they do differently? Who would they recommend?
How am I going to pay for this?
Savings. Adoption is not cheap. If you can, start saving now.
Refinancing. Cars and homes can be refinanced in order to cash out on the equity there. This is a way to obtain lower interest rates on loans.
Retirement funds. If you have a retirement fund, you may have the option of borrowing money from that. Most require that you repay what you take out, but it is an option that can provide you with the money needed.
Loans. Check with family first to see if there are any options to borrow money from a trusted source. If not, there are a few low interest adoption loans available. Banks will usually only give you a consumer loan, which can have high interest rates.
Fundraising. Yard sales, bake sales, Etsy shops, T-shirt sales, and other creative endeavors can help pad your adoption account.
Grants. There are several different adoption grants available. They can be difficult to obtain, but it’s not impossible. Apply to as many as you qualify for. Lists of grants can be found here.
FAITH. I know, it sounds funny, but start asking those who have adopted and you will begin to hear some amazing stories of how funds became available once the adoption process started. Just have faith that it will happen for you.
Those are the very basics. Other things to educate yourself on would be Open vs Closed Adoption, Special Needs Adoption, Transracial Adoption, and Exposure to Substance Abuse. Adoption isn’t an easy process. For adoptive parents everywhere the phrase “just adopt” will usually be met with some serious eye rolling because they know that there is no “just” about it. But for those who feel led to adoption, it will be worth it in the end. Take heart and get ready for the most emotionally challenging, joyful, heartbreaking, worst/best experience of your life.