While adopting a child is a joyous and exciting moment in your life, it is also a very lengthy and often complex process. Understanding the adoption process will make it easier to anticipate any delays and prepare for the long road ahead.
The first step after you decide to adopt a child is to determine what type of adoption you want to pursue. There are, in fact, a few different types of adoption and each one brings its own set of pros and cons.
Also understand that any type of adoption can be quite expensive so you’ll need to be prepared for the financial ramifications of your decision.
Once you’ve chosen the type of adoption process you want to pursue, the next step will be to find potential birth parents.
Finding the Birth Parents How you locate the birth parents will depend greatly upon the type of adoption you choose. For example, an agency adoption will match you will potential birth parents, eliminating the need for you to go searching on your own. On the other hand, an independent adoption will require you to find the birth parents yourself and because some states have specific requirements about what hopeful adoptive parents can and can’t do in this regard, you’ll need to consult your state’s laws before beginning your search.
Once the birth parents have been located, you’re reading to begin the adoption process.
The Home Study All states require the adoptive parents to submit to a comprehensive investigation known as a “home study”. This investigation is typically conducted by a social worker and the process can be quite invasive for those that aren’t prepared.
Home studies look at every aspect of your life to ensure that you are capable and competent to take on the responsibility of raising a child. Your financial stability is examined as well as your current lifestyle. The investigator will consider how many children you already have in the home, how your career will affect your ability to care for a new child and whether or not your marriage is strong and sound. They’ll also look at your criminal history as well as both your physical and mental health so be prepared for some very personal questions and an extensive peek at your most intimate life.
The home study also serves as a counseling session for adoptive parents by helping to prepare them for the obstacles that lie ahead as well as the unique issues they’ll face as adoptive parents.
The social worker will finish the home study by writing a formal report that summarizes their opinion of the adoptive parents in relation to adding a new child to the family. If the report is negative, the adoptive parents can appeal through their respective state agency.
Consent to Adopt
The birth parents will be required to sign a consent to the adoption but you should be aware that most states do not allow such a consent to be given until a few days after the birth of the child.
During this time, you will likely have contact with the birth parents, either directly or through an agency or attorneys and you will also be expected to pay the birth mother’s uninsured medical expenses and costs for prenatal care as well as legal expenses (if any) and counseling.
However, the consent has not officially be given regardless of what forms you may have signed up to this point. The birth parents can at any time during the pregnancy, change their mind and decide to keep the child.
Also understand that this consent is usually revocable for a short period of time and because of that some agencies require the child to be placed in foster care until the period of revocation has passed. You’ll want to talk to your agency or attorney to find out how this will be handled when the baby is born.
The Court Hearing
Once the consent has been given (or the rights terminated) and the home study is complete, all parties will receive notice of the adoption hearing.
This is the official hearing where the court will determine whether or not to approve the adoption petition. Your attorney will typically file this petition on your behalf and all parties who are required to give consent will be notified of the time and place of the hearing.
At the hearing, the judge will review the consent from the biological parents as well as the home study report from the social worker. Adoptive parents can also include a request for a name change in their petition.
Should the judge approve the petition, a final order will be issues declaring the adoptive parents to be the legal parents of the child and ordering a name change if one is requested.
Older Child and International Adoptions
You should note that this process can vary greatly when adopting an older child or a child from another country. To be sure that you’re fully prepared for the unique challenges of your adoption, discuss all your options with your independent facilitator or adoption agency. There are also support groups for older child and international adoptions that can help you and your new child adjust.
You may enjoy this book on the overall adoption process as well as this book which focuses on international adoptions .