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Adoption Basics

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Adoption Explained: Domestic

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If you are just starting down the adoption path, the research alone can be overwhelming. There are so many paths to choose from.

The very first thing you will need to do, no matter which path you choose, will be to get a completed 'home study'. A home study is required by nearly all states, and is conducted by a social worker that is licensed by the state in which you reside. Home studies are performed to evaluate you as a prospective parent. The social worker will visit your home, interview all family members, and prepare a written report. This report (if approved) will declare that your home would be a good home to place a child in. That written report will be submitted to a Judge when you are ready to finalize the adoption of your child. Each state has different regulations that govern the requirements of a home study, but in general, the following information is included in a home study:

  • Personal and family background - your upbringing, your parents, your siblings, key events, and what was learned from them
  • Significant people currently in your lives
  • Marriage and family relationships
  • Motivation to adopt
  • Expectations for the child
  • Feelings about infertility (if this is an issue)
  • Parenting and integration of the child into the family
  • Family environment
  • Physical and health history of the applicants
  • Education, employment, and finances - including insurance coverage and child care plans if needed
  • References and criminal background clearances
  • Summary and social worker's recommendations
  • A home study can be completed by a social worker employed by an adoption agency, by an independent social worked licensed by your state, or by a social worker employed by your state government if you elect to pursue foster parenting instead of private adoption.

The cost of a home study varies greatly. I generally tell people to shop around and the two questions you should ask are ~ how much will it cost, and how long will it take to complete. Prices can vary from $400 to $3,000. Some home study providers can complete a home study in 3 to 4 weeks while others may take 8 months or a year.

Next, you need to decide what type of adoption you want to pursue. Your decision will determine what type of organization you need to work with. Do you want to pursue an international adoption and bring your child into the United States from another country, or would you prefer a domestic adoption (adopting from within the United States)? Opinions here are mostly personal preference. International adoptions require many more levels of paperwork and process. They may or may not take more time, they require travel out of the country, newborns are rare, and the cost is usually much more significant. The plus side of international adoption is that as long as you are willing to work through the process, you usually will get your child, and usually without the emotional uncertainty that can sometimes accompany a domestic adoption.

Adoption Explained:  International

 

There are many different ways to pursue a domestic adoption, so you need to do much more research on your own. Every state has their own adoption laws, so you need to know the requirements of your state. Most adoption laws are written to protect the rights of the birthparents, so the birthparents cannot terminate their parental rights until after the birth of the baby. This leaves hopeful adoptive parents in limbo until after the birth. Birthparents can and do sometimes change their minds about placing the baby after working for months with an adoptive family. This can cause quite an emotional roller coaster ride for adoptive families. Sadly, some adoptive families may have several failed adoptions before a birthmother actually follows through and places her baby with them. This process also lends itself to abuse from birthparents that are in need of money and ready to scam adoptive families.

Adoption Explained:  Domestic

Most states also have laws that help protect the adoptive parents. States usually have limits on the amount and type of assistance a family can provide a birthmother. So yes, you need to be careful, but in a domestic adoption, you will always be out on a limb with your heart and your finances until those final termination of rights papers are signed by the birthparents. But don't let me discourage you. We have assisted many, many, birthmothers that only ask for a loving home and family to place their babies with. Most domestic adoptions are newborn babies that go with the adoptive family when they are discharged from the hospital a day or two after birth.

If you choose to go with a domestic adoption, you then need to choose a path toward finding your child. Your choices can include one or more of the following:

  1. You can choose to adopt through your state government by becoming a Foster Parent. This is probably the cheapest way to adopt, but it is not an easy road. God Bless the Foster Parents that are caring for these children in need, but if your goal is to adopt a child quickly, this may not be the path for you. If you choose this path, you will work with the department of children and family services of your state government and become a licensed Foster Parent. You can tell your social worker that you hope to adopt and would only like to take in children that may be up for adoption, but in most cases, no one knows if these children will be placed for adoption, or returned to their biological parents. You have to be prepared to care for a child perhaps for years, only to see them eventually returned to the biological parents.


  2. You can choose to work with a private agency that is licensed as an authorized child placing organization by your state. Agencies are required to adhere to licensing and procedural standards that are supervised by the state. A great deal of research is required here. Every agency has their own policies and procedures. Many have adoptive family criteria that must be met before they will work with you such as age limits, biological children restrictions, and religious or sexual orientations. Some agencies have waiting lists that stretch out many years. And, some agency fees are bordering on absurd. Many I have called will not even give you a total cost estimate. They start with $500 to talk with you, $2000 for a home study, then a $1500 search fee, $2000 to counsel your birthmother, another $4000 for a placement fee, then comes post-placement visits. Many of the big name agencies around the country are charging $30,000 - $40,000. I cannot justify these fees and my husband and I probably would not have our two girls if we had paid this high of a fee. Yes, an agency can do most of the adoption process for you, and many states do require some type of agency involvement, but do your homework here. There are good agencies and bad agencies.


  3. You can choose to work with an attorney that specializes in adoption. Most adoption attorneys have developed their own private networks and are able to locate birthmothers to match with their families. This is a good thing to do, and since you will need an attorney to handle your adoption anyway, it certainly can't hurt. Often these adoption attorneys do not have a large enough network to attract very many birthmothers, so don't limit yourself to this option, but still, it only takes one to select you, so don't overlook this opportunity either.


  4. You can choose to work with a facilitator. A facilitator is a person or organization that works to help locate and match them with an adoptive family. There are many different flavors of facilitators, and they can function and provide their service any way they choose. Facilitators are private companies and as such have little supervision and oversight by the governing bodies. This does not mean that they are not ethical professionals with good standards, it simply means that there are very few oversight mechanisms in place at this time. So, this option also requires a great deal of research and reference checking. As private companies, facilitators are also much more innovative and motivated to expand their reach and can often attract many birth families and adoptive families with a high rate of successful placements. Again, there are good companies and bad companies.


  5. You can choose to work with a service such as A Loving Choice Adoption Services that can assist you throughout the adoption process. A Loving Choice provides services similar to a facilitator in that we are a marketing service where we advertise our services all across the country and Puerto Rico. We present our contracted adoptive families to the birthparents that come to us looking for help with an adoption plan. A Loving Choice has experience and working relationships with many adoption attorneys, agencies, and other adoption professionals all across the states and Puerto Rico that can offer guidance regarding your adoption process. We are not a licensed agency, nor are we licensed social workers, but with our knowledge of the adoption process, we are well aware of when licensed agencies, social workers, and/or attorneys are needed in your adoption plan, an we will help you locate the required professionals. Working as a ministry, we are not profit motivated and almost all of our incoming fees are returned to advertising for our families. We believe our marketing fee is one of the lowest in the country.

Throughout your adoption journey, never stop researching and educating yourself and your family. The Internet is a wonderful place to read and talk with other people about their adoption experiences.

Tell everyone you know about your adoption plans. You never know when a friend of a friend may know of a birthmother that is wanting to place her baby.

Investigate ways to handle your adoption expenses. Determine what your adoption budget is before choosing an adoption path to follow.