Hello, Michigan residents! I am here to help those who are looking into adoption in Michigan; a guide to assist you in your endeavor. Couples who have a difficult time conceiving, cannot conceive at all, or just want to add more children to their family may look into adoption as an option. Knowing you cannot have children of your own or only conceiving once or twice but want a big family can be a difficult thing to deal with and may cause some grief.
Before we delve into the seven steps to adoption in Michigan, let’s look into what the grieving process is and what it can entail. If you have ever experienced any kind of loss or sorrow, you are aware that there are five stages and that no one’s experiences with it are likely to be the same. You might even encounter each stage at different times, thinking you might be done dealing with it just to be hit over the head once again.
- Stages of Grief
Denial: When something unexpected and emotional happens (ie: finding out you cannot conceive), you may find yourself denying that there is an issue. You may get through some of the other stages but come back to this one often, perhaps especially if there is a long waiting period while wading through the adoption process.
Anger: This is often an emotional stage and maybe generally covering the emotional hurt that you may be struggling with. Since anger may be easier to deal with you may tend to lean toward this emotion more throughout the adoption process.
Bargaining: You may find yourself asking God or a higher power to allow you to conceive “just once” or “one more time” and you will never ask for that or anything again. However, bargaining does not work as it can and usually leads back to anger because your “wish” may not have been granted.
Depression: This is yet another stage you may find yourself in several times during the grieving process as you grieve the loss of what could have been, and do your best to figure out your next steps.
Acceptance: Eventually, you must learn to accept your circumstances, and once you do that, doors may open for you to grow your family in ways you may never have thought of.
When dealing with the stages of grief, having a counselor or therapist available to you can be a wonderful thing. They are trained in assisting people who may be going through these many emotions to learn how to manage and heal from them.
Now that we have touched on the emotions of grief that you may be feeling at this particular time, let us talk about adoption.
- What is Adoption?
Many people, even those who have heard the word adoption, do not know what it really means. As stated in the dictionary, adoption means, “the act or process of establishing a legal relationship between a child and a parent other than the child’s biological parent, thereby entrusting the designated adult with responsibility for raising the child.” This means that you, although not being biologically related to the child, adopts the title of parent to this child.
- Types of Adoption
There are a few types of adoptions that I would like to discuss before getting into the steps you must take. These are:
Domestic adoption: In the United States, this is usually the type that occurs most often. This is because most couples who adopt, especially if they cannot conceive on their own, tend to want to adopt a baby. Unfortunately, it can take years to be matched with a birth mother.
International adoption: This is the type of adoption where you adopt a child/baby from a different country. There can be a lot of red tape and paperwork that is required in the countries that allow intercountry adoption. Intercountry adoption can take a long time just getting through the different rules from these countries. There are countries that allow intercountry adoption such as Haiti, Korea, China, etc. But there are children in every country that do not have families and are in great need of one.
Kinship adoption: This type of adoption is where a family member or relative adopts a child. This might happen if there is an accident and both of the child’s parents are deceased. While not commonly spoken of, these situations can happen.
Foster adoption: Foster adoption may seem to be the easiest form of adoption. First, you want to become a foster parent, and in most cases, if a child is already residing in your home, doing well, and you love the child, the next natural step would be to adopt him/her, making them a part of your family.
Step-parent adoption: When two people marry and there are children involved, the parent that is not biological to a child may want to legally adopt. This may also be a way of bringing the child and the step-parent closer together. This is typically possible in cases when the other biological parent is deceased, there is a history of abuse, or there are other extenuating circumstances.
- What Does it Take to Qualify to Adopt in Michigan?
As in every state, adoption in Michigan has laws and criteria that must be upheld by the person or people wanting to adopt a baby or child. These are the requirements that must be met when seeking to adopt:
- You can be single or married, but it might be a bit harder for those in communities such as the LGBTQ community as there can still be gray areas where that is concerned
- Must be over the age of 18
- Married at least two years (being single does not bar you from being able to adopt as it is becoming more and more common)
- Are financially stable enough to afford the costs of adoption as it can sometimes get extremely expensive
- Have stable employment
- Are healthy enough to raise a child
- Have a clean home and enough space for a child
- No criminal record
- The Steps to Adopting
The first step, and possibly the most important, is making the decision to adopt. Whether you are single, married but cannot conceive due to infertility, or want to add to your already growing family, you should discuss with your partner and/or any children you may have about this decision as it affects them as much as it does you.
Once you’ve made your choice to adopt, your next step may be to find an adoption agency, or perhaps to find an adoption attorney to help guide you through the next several steps of your journey.
What is an adoption agency? According to Adoption.org, “An adoption agency can most easily be viewed as ‘the middleman.’” Agencies are often the intermediary in most adoptive journeys. Agencies are organized to facilitate adoptions and be in service of both birth parents and hopeful adoptive parents.” One such agency that is not based in Michigan but assists with adoptions across the U.S. and the world is The Gladney Center for Adoption. You will want to make sure the agency is one you can work with as they may be advising you on every aspect of your adoption.
You may also want to find an attorney who specializes in adoption. Adoption attorneys can provide advice and support on the legal aspects. They can help to make certain that all laws in Michigan are followed and perhpaps answer any legal questions you have along the way.
This next step, perhaps with the assistance of the agency you have chosen, is to create your profile. This can be easier to accomplish nowadays because there is something called photolisting. This can allow you to shape your profile online so it can be easier for birth mothers/parents to find and possibly choose you. Not far into the past, in order to create a profile, it was all done on paper, in pen with tangible photos, and could take a long time to complete.
The home study may possibly be the most nerve-wracking part of being considered for adoption. For adoption in Michigan it usually entails several parts, but you do not have to be nervous if you follow these suggestions in preparation:
- You may want to make sure you talk on a deeper level than just “Yes, we want to adopt,” perhaps by asking yourself and your partner questions such as:
- What type of adoption? Domestic, international, foster, open, closed, or partially open/closed?
- Are your parenting styles different? If they are, how will you work together so the adopted child gets the best discipline whenever it is warranted?
- Would you be willing to adopt a special needs child?
- Are you going to have a relationship with the expectant parents?
- How can you prepare any children that you have not only for the adoption but also for the home study?
- Is there anything illegal, or even legal, that might hinder your ability to adopt?
For adoption in Michigan, there are two areas that the social worker assigned to your case will probably be looking at. One, whether you have what it takes to be an adoptive parent, and two, making certain your home is full of love and that you have enough space to give the child a home. In total, most home studies by the time they are finished can be between 15-20 pages long. No one is perfect, rather, it is the agency’s job to be sure that a couple, or an individual, are/is ready.
- Meeting a Birth Mother
Petitioning for adoption in Michigan is not much different than many other states. After your home study is complete and you have passed, perhaps with the help of the agency or your adoption attorney, you can begin the paperwork for the right to adopt. Once that is done, you wait.
The day has finally arrived; you have been chosen to meet a birth mother. You may be so excited, but try to tamper it because you may be aware that just because you are meeting a birth mother does not necessarily mean you will be chosen to adopt her baby. Sometimes, the birth father can also be involved. When talking with the birth mother, you might want to consider some fun questions to ask to make communication easier. Questions like:
- What is your favorite book?
- Do you like school?
- What is your favorite/least favorite subject?
- Do you want to go to college? Or if they are in college, what are you studying?
- What do you want to be?
- What kind of music do you like?
- Who is your favorite singer or band?
- Are there any names you want to us to consider as an option for the baby should we be chosen?
- Do you know what type of adoption you want?
- Would you be willing to work with us on the type?
By asking questions that are not too deep to begin your interview, you may allow the birth mother/parents to learn to trust you. This can be the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
- Finalizing the Adoption
The final step is finalizing the adoption in Michigan. There is a hearing set forth by a judge in Michigan where the parental rights of the birth parents are terminated. If an open adoption is chosen by both parties, this could be when the judge will suggest a visitation schedule depending on the feelings of all involved.
So, you are now parents…how does it feel? Although the road to having a family is long and difficult for some, knowing that someone can be willing to allow you to give her child a better life because she knows she cannot, can still be worth the work it takes to get your forever family. One thing you will probably never forget, even if closed adoption is the option chosen, is the people who entrusted you to raise their child and give them the love every child deserves. Knowing that fact would make me, if I were the adoptive parent, work that much harder to give the child more love and affection than they know what to do with.
DISCLAIMER: Although this is a guide to assist prospective adoptive parents in their journey through adoption, it, in no way takes the place of finding an adoption agency and/or an adoption attorney to walk you through the process.