Welcome! I am so excited you are considering adoption both for expectant parents and hopeful adoptive parents. We are all here for the children and because our hearts are full of love. Often, it’s hard to know where to start and who to ask for help. Multiple sources are cited below and I recommend Adoption.com, Adoption.org, and Adopting.org for resources or questions. These sites assist with helping hopeful adoptive parents and expectant parents who are considering adoption. The Adoption.com North Carolina Guide should be reviewed as well. In the following article, I will do my best to answer any and all questions about the process of adopting a child in NC. Let’s get started.
1. Where to Begin
First, give yourself a big hug and know that you are worthy and loved. You are under enormous stress to make the right decision when every circumstance is so unique. You need to explore all the options and what is best for you as an individual as well as what is best for your child. The first step is education, I recommend the articles Choosing Adoption for Your Baby or Options for Unexpected Pregnancy.
If you are considering placing a child in North Carolina, many agencies are available to offer counseling, answer questions, and remain supportive even if your final decision isn’t adoption. Make certain the agency you choose has the same belief system you do and is principled in their treatment of the situation. Adoption.com is a great resource to learn more about adoption agencies for expectant mothers.
In North Carolina, a private adoption is also an adoption option that utilizes an adoption attorney instead of an agency. In these cases, the expectant mothers and hopeful adoptive parents work directly with an adoption attorney to complete the adoption. Check out this article about making ethical choices for adoption.
After choosing your guide for your adoption journey, reach out to trusted family or friends, especially if there is someone who has chosen the same path as you. Write down the pros and cons of each scenario and talk it through. Counseling is highly recommended from the beginning of the process to help with coping with emotions throughout the process. An adoption counselor is often provided by agencies.
If you choose adoption, then consider whether or not you would like an open adoption. The agency will have resources to help with this decision as well. Please be aware that, unfortunately, in North Carolina, open adoption agreements are not legally binding. Lastly, educate yourself on the adoption laws. Adoption.com North Carolina Guide is an excellent resource.
Hopeful adoptive parents
You know you’ve been thinking about adoption, perhaps you’ve been considering it for years. Today is the day, there is no better time than right now to start making an adoption plan. Adopting a child in North Carolina is the right choice. The first decision you need to make is what type of adoption should you select for your family. Below, I will discuss foster adoption, domestic adoption, and international adoption. The best place to begin is by talking to people. Find others who have taken this path before you and ask all your questions. Expose your fears and concerns and you’ll learn more about your options. Insight is essential.
Second, check out the pocketbook and consider what is best for your budget. In North Carolina, you can adopt through an agency or through your county. There is also the possibility of a private adoption with an adoption attorney. You may even consider learning more about fostering and its connection to adoption.
Next, get signed up for some introductory discussions, webinars, or classes. Do it. There are no commitments if you attend and don’t want to continue. Your job is to absorb as much education as possible prior to the placement of a child. Lastly, is completing a home study and preparing for a kiddo to be placed. I chose foster adoption and I went through my county, but that’s just me.
2. Types of Adoption for Adopting a Child in NC
In North Carolina, there are as many as 6 types of adoption. I will be discussing the primary four: foster, domestic, independent, and international. There are distinct positives and negatives with each. Educate yourself on all of them and ask questions to those who have already made this journey. Groups are available online through social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. Try Adoption.com/forums too. Don’t get overwhelmed, your conscience will guide you in making the right decision.
In North Carolina, the primary goal of foster care is to help families resolve their challenges and reunite safely. Do not let that keep you from looking at foster care as a form of adoption. There are nearly 11,000 kids in foster care, many which have already had their parental rights terminated and are searching desperately for a forever home. The astonishing truth is that nearly 500 children age out of the system in North Carolina yearly having never found a family. It is particularly challenging for children who have or who have been labeled as having special needs. These needs include physical, mental, and developmental disabilities, as well as medical conditions.
Tragically, children who are over the age of 6, are part of a sibling set trying to stay together, or are a minority are also included in this group. Age ranges are from infancy to 18. You may utilize the county’s programs or adopt through an agency. Agencies may cost up to $2,000 whereas the county covers all costs and frequently offers a stipend to children who are considered special needs. Consult with others who have made these decisions already to get a well- rounded idea of your options. Learn more about Child Welfare Services for Adoption and Foster Care when you are considering this option.
There will be required training in foster adoptions. The state utilizes Trauma-Informed Partnering for Safety and Permanence/Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (TIPS-MAPP) which is excellent and helps prepare you to parent a child with a history of trauma, grief, and loss. It’s a different approach than traditional parenting, but the need is immense. If this is a weightier concern for you, read this article on How to Foster/Parent Children From Hard Places and Five Things You Should Know About Older Child Adoption.
This is the form of adoption most people have heard about and most often involves infants. In this arena, expectant parents choose to place their child for adoption and voluntarily opt to terminate parental rights. In North Carolina, these adoptions are managed by adoption agencies or a private adoption attorney. Public adoptions are handled by the county with an agency typically assisting. Private adoptions (often called infant adoption) involves an agency matching hopeful adoptive parents with the expectant parent. This process can be tedious, time-consuming, and frustrating. Adoption.com’s article on marketing yourself is an excellent guide to help with how to get more attention to your family. The requirements are more lax than foster adoption; however, a home study and training remain mandatory. The cost is typically higher and increases when an infant is involved depending on the services required.
When adopting independently, hopeful adoptive parents and the expectant parents work directly with an adoption attorney or adoption facilitator instead of the county or an agency. This streamlines the process, allowing for a faster adoption but it is vital that you are cautious and heed the legal advice; your moral compass needs to be paying attention. The cost of independent adoption is generally over $40,000.
As I’m sure you suspected; international adoption is adopting from another country. Infants and adolescents are available for international adoption. There are numerous countries to select from. The rules in these countries are often strict in an attempt to control the possibility of human trafficking. Their stands for adoption will also be different than North Carolina. This process takes longer than other types of adoption. Most require between 2-3 years to complete. The cost of international adoption is comparable to independent adoption. There will be home studies and training classes in addition to travel expenses to and from the country. The range of time spent in these countries can vary from 1 week to a few months. Sometimes multiple trips will be necessary. It is so helpful, once a country is selected, to inundate yourself with knowledge of the child’s culture and history. Do your best to learn the language as well, it will be of great service when your child makes the massive transition to North Carolina.
3. Requirements for Adopting a Child in NC
The legal requirements for adopting a child in NC are fairly straight forward. Hopeful adoptive parents are required to be 18 years of age or older. If you are considering foster care as well (there is no dual licensure available in North Carolina) the age requirement increases to 21. You will need to show health records and financial information as well as be able to demonstrate emotional stability and mental capacity to raise a child. Full background checks will be conducted including fingerprinting. This will extend to anyone potentially living with the child. There are no legal restrictions regarding marital status, religion, or sexual orientation. Agencies may have differing personal policies, which is why it’s important to find an agency consistent with your beliefs. It is also not mandatory to own a home. Renting is fine as long as you are capable of demonstrating the financial ability to care for your child. Other children can already be living in your home and you can even be pregnant. To learn more about these and other requirements, check out these articles on Home Study Documents Required in North Carolina and Preparing for a Home Study.
4. Education and Resources to Prepare for Adopting a Child in North Carolina
This is your time to learn and learn and learn. Read books. Some adopted children, even those adopted as infants, will require different parenting strategies than those typically implemented with other biological kids. Trauma has been shown to have negative effects on brain development. Severe stress during pregnancy or a difficult childbirth process can even cause a change in the amygdala and affect the fight/flight response in addition to increasing the production of stress chemicals in the brain. Read The Primal Wound and The Body Keeps the Score to aid in understanding this concept. The book which helped me the most was The Connected Child, and The Connected Parent. Both discuss the way children’s brains can be affected and explain their resulting behaviors in a way that is understandable. There are plenty of items for your parenting tool box. My favorite book about domestic adoption is The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption. Other options are available through these articles: 11 Great adoption Books You Should Read and Preparation and Support an Adoption Reading List.
Training is another great option. In North Carolina, the program most utilized is Trauma-Informed Partnering for Safety and Permanence/Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting or TIPS-MAPP. I would also encourage learning about TBRI (Trust-Based Relational Intervention). This may not be helpful initially with infant adoptions, but it may come in handy when an adoptee is older. As an adoptive parent, I didn’t really understand the ideologies until I was actively trying to parent kids from hard places. Suddenly, knowledge became invaluable. There are also books available for expectant parents who are considering placing their children for adoption.
5. Post-Placement and Finalization in North Carolina
Even after a child has been placed with you, there are still requirements that will need to be met. Families may need help with ensuring safety and learning to be a family. Two post-placement visits will be scheduled in order for the social worker to report to the court how the family is progressing and document that all requirements have been met. Parental rights must have been terminated either voluntarily in domestic adoption or as a result of the courts determining the parent is unfit in foster adoption. In addition, for domestic adoption, there is a 7-day waiting period after the birth parent has consented to terminate their parental rights in which they are legally able to change their mind. The final adoption hearing is typically brief. You will be sworn in and asked some general questions regarding the adoption. Then the judge will issue a final decree of adoption which terminates all of the state’s legal involvement. The paperwork will be required to obtain an amended birth certificate and a new social security number if needed.
My hopeful adoptive parents, the energy and time required for this process can be overwhelming. Remember, these children need you, you need them, and the reward is worth the journey. There are resources available and connections to be made with other adoptive parents. Support groups are essential. Stay educated and never stop reading and expanding your knowledge.
To my expectant parents who are facing such difficult decisions and feel the weight of the world, I honor your bravery and feel your sadness. Know your options, pursue counseling, and let others help you through this life-changing endeavor. You are enough.