1. The very first thing you need to know is it can be a difficult, emotionally-wrought process (for both birth mothers and potential adoptive families).
You must attempt to count the cost both emotionally and financially. There are multiple steps as a pre-adoptive family that you must take to ensure that your family will even be selected in the process. The process can be costly, and gut-wrenching. In most states, a biological mother (rightly so) has a number of days post-adoption to consider her choice. In Texas, a birth mother has 48 hours post-birth to decide if she wants to parent her child. There can be times when a family has been selected, the birth family and pre-adoptive family have met and enjoyed each other’s company, and the birth mother will still choose to parent the child. You may have become very close bonding over ultrasounds, sending updates back and forth about getting a nursery prepared, and asking how the baby is developing. There is a very real potential that after the birthing experience a birth mother can decide she does not want to have her child adopted to someone else. That is her right and her choice as a mother but it can be devastating and heartbreaking for a potential adoptive family. Do not go into the process eyes shut and ears plugged or you will likely end up heartbroken for all the wrong reasons.
2. The birth family, in many cases, will have to choose your profile.
This means that while you may have completed the checklist given to you by your agency and your home study and background check are complete, you may have a long wait before you hold a baby in your arms. That is not to say it cannot happen quickly or that you will not be chosen at all. However, it is important to understand that there isn’t an entity just “giving out” babies somewhere and you need to get in line. I realized I had many pre-conceived notions about adoption before I entered into the world of foster care, and almost all of them were wrong. For an example of what your profile should look like I suggest looking at the parent profiles on adoption.com and clicking around at other families like your own that are dreaming about adopting a baby in Texas and around the US. Your particular agency will walk you through this process but it sometimes helps if you have an idea of what is being talked about when you begin the steps.
3. There are state-mandated rules your agency must follow.
While you may find yourself grumbling about an FBI fingerprinting and a criminal background check, for anyone to legally adopt a child it is necessary and required by the state. Be prepared to do things you weren’t expecting to do when you were daydreaming about baby giggles and knitting a receiving blanket. It isn’t nearly as romantic a process as a Hallmark movie makes it out to be, is what I’m saying.
4. Use caution and prayer when selecting an agency.
I’ve already said the word agency quite a few times and now I find myself wondering if someone was searching for answers on what you need to know about adopting a baby in Texas, you may not know you need to find an adoption agency. You can use a search engine to find a list of agencies in your area that offer infant adoption. However a better idea might be to go into a forum community such as the one on adoption.com to ask questions. Some agencies are better than others for different reasons. To get the best insider information it is a good idea to go to the people who are already further ahead in the process than you. Find people in your church or community who have adopted in the past and ask about their experiences. It should be a matter(both as a birth mother and a potential adoptive family) of a great deal of prayer and consideration before deciding on an agency to help you in the future of your family. Which leads me to:
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Raise your hand and ask questions at an information meeting a local agency is hosting. Get online and ask questions in adoption communities. You won’t know if you don’t ask. Many adoption agencies have their monthly calendars posted on their website. Look for things like “parent information meetings” and go to a few. Now some are even being done remotely over video messaging so you don’t need to leave the house. The adoption.com community page is a good place to start.
6. Don’t fear being asked awkward questions.
You will need to complete something called a home study. It’s a state requirement if you want to adopt a baby in Texas and pretty much anywhere else with a few exceptions. Part of that home study will be interviews with you as potential adoptive parents. A caseworker who you probably know but are likely not close friends with yet will ask you questions that could make anyone blush. There are questions about the intimate details of your life that you don’t talk about to anyone besides your partner. Expect to answer questions about your childhood. There are questions about so very many things. The idea is to get an idea of who you are and why you might want to adopt. It also gives the agency a baseline of who you are as a person and if you may or may not be emotionally stable enough to proceed with adopting.
7. Get your ducks in a row.
Financially speaking, I mean. If you have real ducks I can’t figure they’d have much bearing on you adopting (unless you have a duck gambling addiction). Anyway, on a more serious note, one of the things that are looked at during the home study process is your finances. Are you a person who is not great with a budget? Do you struggle paycheck to paycheck? Those are things you will need to work out before the home study takes place. It is a state mandated rule that a person must be financially stable to adopt a baby in Texas. The way you demonstrate that to a caseworker is by having a budget, a few months of pay stubs, electricity and light bills that are printed and current, and a home that is prepared to add a child should you be selected.
So people are about to get all up in your business and you need to understand that is their job. These are the guidelines followed by the state for foster and adoptive parents and you will be required to follow them, regardless of your personal belief system.
Also, domestic infant adoption can cost thousands of dollars in lawyer fees, agency fees, travel, and other expenses. While there is no hard and fast number, it will cost money. There are grants you can apply for that will help mitigate the cost and some employers offer adoption assistance. Research that before you dive in. Some agencies will work with you on a sliding scale.
8. There are age requirements.
In the state of Texas a person or persons who wish to adopt must be over 21 years of age. Some agencies require that if you wish to adopt a baby you must not be a certain number of years older than the baby will be. For example if you are 50 there is a chance you could not adopt an infant because it could be a few years wait time and then the baby will be graduating high school when you need assisted living accommodations. Which is not to say that is unheard of, but be aware age can play a part in both the agency taking you as a client and a birth mother selecting you for her child.
9. You will need to have a community around you.
Make noise in your space about what you are hoping to do as a pre-adoptive family (doubly so if you are an expectant mother who is considering adoption as a choice for her baby. ) If the people around you act happy but concerned, hear them out. If your people talk down to you, tell you horror stories, tell you what an awful choice you’re making, what a bad person you are, etcetera, those are not your people. Find people who will support you when things are difficult because things will get difficult. Sometimes things don’t work as hoped for and your profile doesn’t get picked as soon as you want it to. Things happen. Adoption is a joy; however, you should always remember that for the joyful hello you get as the baby arrives, someone else is saying goodbye (or at least see you later). You need good people around you to help you walk that path when your legs are too tired and you’ve cried your eyes out.
10. Learn adoption positive and birth family positive language.
I still cringe inside every time I think about the day I asked my friend about how her “real” kids were doing. I meant her biological kids. She knew I meant her biological kids. She was a foster mom and the kids in her care were having hard days and I was wondering how big brothers were taking it day-to-day. I am forever thankful that she took the time to gently correct me.”I think you meant how are my biological kids doing adjusting?” I did mean that and I had fumbled my words poorly. I think many people find themselves not sure how to address the subject. For so long adoption was taboo. It was a fact hidden from people until they were grown adults in some cases. My kids have always known they were adopted. My situation is different since we adopted from foster care but the framework is the same. When my youngest was 18 months, we finalized our adoption of her and my two oldest sons who were 10 and 11 at the time. We proudly hang our adoption day pictures on the wall. She tells random people she’s adopted. It’s interesting when I compare it to things I’ve seen in TV shows when a kid accidentally finds out he was adopted and the parents kept it an active secret. Obviously TV isn’t real life, but many people glean their ideas about how life works from shows they like.
I dreamed of adopting since I was a little girl in love with the movie Annie. Clearly I did not have a firm grasp on what adoption looked like when I first began to consider the process as an adult. I always knew I would adopt but I did not know up until my kids walked and were handed to me through my open front door that I would foster to adopt them. When you talk about your child’s birth mom, do so with love and thankfulness. She has given you a dream come true. You don’t have to have approved of all of her life choices to show her gratitude and respect. My kids’ birth parents made some awful choices, but I do not bad mouth them to my kids or where they can hear me talk (though the idea has tempted me in the past). Ultimately they are a link to your child’s past and future. Their health history will be your child’s health history. I have had to pause so many times talking to my kids doctor about things like allergies that I have before I remember “ah yes, she will likely not have a mango allergy as she is not genetically mine. Good to know.” If you don’t know, learn. It will be important. Most adoptions are semi-open or open nowadays. In almost every state you will be required to offer some modicum of contact with the birth family to update them on the baby’s life. This will be much harder if you harbor negative feelings about them.