When looking at adopting a baby from the United States, there are many factors that potential adoptive parents need to consider. Sometimes, it can be tough to even know where to start, especially if this is your first time adopting a child. In this article, we will address ten things adoptive parents need to know about adopting a baby in the U.S.
1. Adoption comes in many forms.
When adopting a child, there is no one way that the process will go. Each family has a very different adoption journey from the next. Many unexpected things might come along the way, but knowing that adoption comes in many forms provides comfort to some potential adoptive families. The main two types of adoption are closed and open.
- A closed adoption is where all the adoption records are sealed once it is finalized. The birth and adoptive families usually do not have contact as the child grows up, and the birth family (in some cases) does not contact the child or vice versa until the child is at least 18 years old. Most times, the adoptee knows that they can now freely contact anyone and do their own research.
- In an open adoption, both families work together to come up with a visitation plan that aligns with their idea for the future with their child. Birth parents can visit regularly and play a large role in the child’s life or can visit on holidays and other special occasions. The options for open adoption are limitless.
- Open adoptions can also be considered semi-open. Usually, the adoptive and birth families send pictures, videos, cards/letters back and forth to each other; video calls, phone calls, birthday presents, and more are also commonly seen in this type of adoption.
Adoptions can also be facilitated in different ways. Finding an agency to work with is usually the route that parents choose when they either want a structured adoption experience or may not know exactly what type of adoption they want. Foster care adoptions are usually handled by the state the potential adoptive parents live in; each state has different regulations for this, so checking with your local Department of Health and Human Services office is a good idea.
2. Know the basics of the adoption process, it will save you time in the long run.
Again, although no adoption is the same, there are some key steps to be aware of before you jump in headfirst. The North American Council on Adoptable Children provides a concise list of steps that potential adoptive parents can follow to be as prepared for a domestic infant adoption:
- Learn about the types and costs of adoption.
- Explore adoption options and do a self-assessment.
- Prepare for the adoption by choosing the type of adoption, selecting an agency, taking parenting classes and adoption training, and completing the home study process.
- Begin the placement process by searching and selecting a child.
- Learn everything you can about your child.
- Finalize the adoption by bringing your child home, filing the petition to adopt, and finding support for once the adoption is done.
3. There is a lot of paperwork you will have to complete to be considered an adoptive parent.
For domestic infant adoptions, much of the paperwork revolves around documents needed for the agency for legalities, as well as personal information to share with expectant parents. Personal photos and letters of recommendation from loved and trusted individuals are required so the agency knows what you look like and can get a better idea of who you are from the perspective of others. The main booklet of information you will need to put together is called a “dossier”. Kathleen Kelly Halverson, a writer for Adoption.com, details the specific forms that are associated with the dossier:
- “Birth certificates for the adoptive parents,
- Marriage certificate (and divorce papers if needed),
- Tax returns,
- Police reports (and potentially fingerprints),
- A financial statement detailing assets, bank information, debt-to-asset ratio, etc.,
- Medical (physical and mental) health letter from a medical professional,
- Any previous adoption paperwork (if you’ve adopted before),
- Letter from your employer.”
A home study document will also be put together by a social worker and the adoptive family. This is the stage in the adoption process where you are interviewed and evaluated by an adoption professional (usually a social worker) to see if you will be “good adoptive parents.”
4. Finding the right adoption agency or adoption lawyer is crucial.
Adoption agencies have different niches and populations that they work with. Although going into the adoption process it may not matter to you which agency you go with, by the time you are in the middle of it, you’ll realize how important choosing the right fit for you and your family is. Some adoption agencies are religious-based, with the most common being Christian adoption agencies. Other large agencies work with all types of families nationwide like the Gladney Center for Adoption. Some adoptions can even be facilitated independently by finding a lawyer that specializes in adoption legal processes. Many legal professionals are trained in this area, so it most likely will not be hard to find a high-quality firm in your area.
5. Plan out your finances before going through with an adoption.
According to the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC), a domestic infant adoption (which is also considered a private adoption) can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $45,000. This is an extremely large chunk of money, which not every family can afford. While many in the adoption community are advocating for these fees to be lowered, reducing the burden of fees and other costs is not something that will happen anytime soon. Some of these fees go towards birth parent healthcare, Adopting an infant from foster care is also an option for families and it comes with a lower cost. According to the NACAC, foster care adoption typically costs around $0-$2,500. This is a much cheaper option but comes with its own set of regulations and nuances.
Before you even begin the adoption process, you need to organize your finances so you are not overwhelmed with the large costs that come with it. Many families have to save up for years before working with an agency. If this isn’t the route you had hoped to take, there are many simple ways that families can go about raising money for adoption including fundraisers, bake sales, selling t-shirts or other items, and accepting donations through platforms like Go Fund Me. It may feel awkward asking for donations for adoption, but you are not the first family to do so and you won’t be the last. Hopefully, one day, adoption costs will be affordable therefore making it a much more safe and ethical practice. Additionally, there are other ways of funding such as loans, grants, employer assistance, military reimbursements, tax credits, and adoption assistance for children that require specialized care.
6. Developing a relationship with your child’s birth family is not a bad thing.
Contrary to past decades when closed adoptions were more popular, meaning that birth and adoptive families did not develop a relationship once the adoption was finalized, open adoptions are becoming more popular. Even with a semi-open adoption, both families openly communicate about the child. It is not a bad thing to do this. The benefits of getting to know your child’s birth family and letting them be a part of your child’s life are endless. It gives your child a better sense of self and access to their family history. They can develop healthy bonds with both sets of parents, promoting positive behavior and growth throughout their childhood and into adulthood. Dealing with the secrecy that usually comes with having a closed adoption can take a harsh toll on adoptees, not to mention the stress of having to track down the birth parents once they become of age.
7. There are parts of the adoption process that you can’t control.
Finding a healthy level of control during the adoption process is one of the most important things you will do throughout it. Remember that there are many laws, contracts, and “rules” that have to be followed; there will be things that you can’t control. The birth mother retains control over how the birth will go and her time with the child before you get to take it home from the hospital. Respecting that sacred piece of control shows that you have the best interest for your child at heart. This can be a hard thing to grapple with, especially with the excitement that comes with finally getting to hold your child for the first time and other special moments. However, don’t let this topic scare you. Most birth and adoptive families do not have any problems with this as long as everyone respects each other throughout the adoption process; so much planning goes into what happens at the hospital and after the adoption is finalized therefore leaving little room for error or surprises.
8. Know what transracial adoption is if you are considering adopting a child of a different race or ethnicity than your family.
Transracial adoption is where a (usually White) family adopts a child that is a different race or ethnicity than them. While this type of adoption is common, there are still some specifics that you need to be aware of. When adopting an infant, there is no period for your child to get used to living in your community as there would be for an older child. However, as they grow they will be faced with challenges such as developing cultural identity and being fetishized by strangers because of their skin color. Being a transracial adoptee isn’t an easy thing, speaking from my own experience growing up. However, having a supportive family and access to family history and/or birth family can be the difference between a happy childhood and one of struggle. This is where realizing that it’s okay to develop a relationship with your child’s birth family comes into play. By doing this, they are more likely to connect with their culture healthily.
9. Figure out and reflect on what your motivation for adopting a baby in the U.S. is. Adopting a baby will not “solve your problems.”
Deciding to adopt a child is a big decision for individuals or couples. There is an infinite number of reasons why people choose domestic infant adoption, such as infertility, difficulty getting pregnant, and altruistic beliefs. All of these reasons are valid, but as a potential adoptive parent, you should think deeply about your true motivation for adopting. Some adoption agencies and organizations can promote unhealthy propaganda about making parents “feel good” about helping the “poor and disenfranchised children of America.” I think we can all agree that this is harmful to not only the child but the family as well. If you want to adopt a child, make sure you are adopting for the right reasons and enter it with a clear conscious and good heart. Of course, not all organizations promote this and not all potential adoptive families have a hidden agenda when adopting. This should only serve as a suggestion for parents who are contemplating adoption.
10. Adoption can be a stressful process for families…take care of yourself.
As we have demonstrated, adopting a baby in the U.S. is not a cut and dry process. It can be lengthy, stressful, and complicated. Taking care of your mental health as an adoptive parent is essential. Although I advocate for putting mental health as a priority at all times, situations like adoption make it even more important. Many parents feel the need to push through stressful events and “stay strong,” but sometimes that isn’t always how things go. It’s okay to be vulnerable and ask for help when you need it. You will be glad you did in the end. Finding a support group, either online or in-person, is a great way to connect with other adoptive families in your community and to have an outlet during your adoption journey. Forums or chat rooms are a similar option to support groups and often can serve the same purpose.
At the end of the day, adopting a baby in the U.S. has its fair share of complications. However, there are so many wonderful adoption professionals that are willing to help potential adoptive families have the best adoption journey as possible. Good luck on your adoption journey.