adopting an infant in the US

5 Things to Consider When Adopting an Infant in the US

Adopting an infant in the US is not for the faint of heart. There is a lot of work and waiting that goes into the process, but the pay-off is worth it. To grow your family through adoption is one of the greatest things you can experience. If you are just starting out in the adoption process, here are some things to consider when adopting an infant in the US:

1. Agency vs. Independent

Adoption has been legally recognized in the United States since 1851. It wasn’t until 1910 that the first adoption agencies were founded. Since then, agencies have been used to assist in the adoption process from offering support to hopeful adoptive families and birth parents to matching families with expectant moms. Many people find a lot of relief and comfort in using an adoption agency when adopting an infant in the US. They provide constant support and take a lot of the stress out of the hands of the hopeful adoptive parents. Agency pricing usually starts around $40,000. Many families host fundraisers, take on extra jobs, and/or take out loans to afford adoption through an agency.

Independent adoption is the process of a hopeful adoptive family and expectant mom connecting and matching on their own without the help of an agency. More and more families are using independent adoption matching. This process is significantly more affordable than using an agency, but everything is left to the hopeful adoptive family. Not only are hopeful adoptive families responsible for matching with an expectant mom on their own, but they handle all communication and coordinate resources for legal, counseling, and financial support. If you are willing to do the work, this is a great option. Adoption.com’s parent profiles are an affordable way to share your family’s profile with expectant moms. This process also gives expectant moms access to more people and profiles, which can be very comforting in their decision process.

One birth mom’s perspective on using an agency:

“When deciding which path I should take when placing my daughter for adoption, I felt very overwhelmed. There were so many websites that came up when I searched for information. It was nice to reach out to an agency that could walk me through everything, sort through parent profiles, and show me families that were a good fit for me.” – Jennifer

One birth mom’s perspective on using independent adoption:

“I knew that I wouldn’t be able to parent my son the way he deserved, so I just started by searching the internet for families that wanted to adopt. It was nice to get unfiltered information and pictures. I also felt a really personal connection to my son’s adoptive mom when we talked on the phone for the first time.” – Cassandra

In an article written for Adoption.com by Rachel Skousen, she says:

“In designing the new Parent Profiles, a central consideration for Adoption.com was ease of use for people who are pregnant and considering adoption. Parent Profiles empowers people who are pregnant and considering adoption to be able to have choices available to them.

Parent Profiles also needed to be a place where they could find exactly what they were looking for. For expectant parents, our search capability enables them to easily search criteria to find parents who meet criteria that are important to them. There are currently hundreds of profiles listed on the site, allowing for a wide variety of families to review.

The new Parent Profiles provides expectant parents with the option of creating a private account that will enable them to use a built-in video chat system to connect with hopeful adoptive parents”

2. Child Preferences

When adopting an infant in the US, you will need to think about the type of child that will be the best fit for your family. The age of your prospective child is something to consider. Are you hoping for a newborn? Have you considered an infant under the age of 6 months? Have you thought about an infant under the age of 12 months? When an expectant mother can have the support of the hopeful adoptive mother during her pregnancy and birth, a connection is built that can carry on throughout the child’s life. The older the child is, the more time his/her birth mom has had the chance to decide on a family for her child, which can be beneficial for both parties. The ultimate decision will come down to what is a great fit for you, your family, and the expectant mother.

Kristen Anderson is an adoptive mom that says this about child preferences and adoption:

“Gender is a touchy subject. This should be considered after you choose which type of adoption you’re doing. Most of the time, you will not be able to choose, however, there are some places that allow for gender preference. The important thing is to do this in the healthiest way possible. You don’t want to have an adoption agency (for newborn adoptions) show your family’s profile to expectant mothers and then say no if an expectant mother chooses you because it’s not the gender you want. You never want to reject a birth mother who chose you. That said, the burden of choosing a gender will be on you as the adoptive family. You will have to let your agency know of your preference (if the agency even allows it), and then know that you will possibly wait longer. This is because your profile book will only be shown to expectant mothers who already know the gender.

Some expectant moms don’t want to know the gender or had no prenatal care so they don’t know. You wouldn’t have your profile book shown to those mothers. You also wouldn’t have your book shown to boy moms if you wanted a girl. So, the burden remains on you that you cut your options mostly in half. There is also another factor—ultrasounds may be wrong. An agency will tell you that this is possible. You may think a girl is being born when out pops a boy. In this scenario, the agency will want to know that you will still adopt the baby. This is because the expectant mom has chosen your family. She has gotten to know you all, possibly for months now, and is trusting you. It would be extremely hard to say no, and then force her to go through the process of picking another family. Technically, it is legal to say no but that would be very stressful for the agency and expectant mom”

3. Open vs. Closed Adoption

The decision to have a closed or open adoption relies heavily on what the child’s expectant mom is most comfortable with. The birth parents will decide how open they want their child’s adoption to be. Open adoption has grown in popularity over the past 30-40 years. An open adoption answers a lot of questions for adopted children. There is an innate desire inside all of us to know where we came from and make connections to our past. Advantages of open adoption for the adopted child include a deeper understanding of their ethnicity/background, no searching or building expectations about their birth parents, possible access to biological siblings, a wider circle of family and support, and the “ability for evolving, dynamic, and developmentally appropriate account of the adoption”

One adoptive daughter’s view on open adoption:

“My birth mom had a hard life. The odds were stacked against her from the beginning. When she chose my adoptive mom and dad to parent me, she just wanted a better life for me. We still stay in contact and it’s nice for me to know that I have someone else out there that loves me. We don’t talk very often, but I really love knowing who my biological siblings are and not wondering where I came from.” – Megan

An article written for ABC News quotes Harold Grotevant who followed 720 adoption participations over 15 years saying, “For people who want to do an open adoption, we have found no evidence that it is harmful.” He adds, “It makes your family more complicated. It is not necessarily the best route for everyone” 

While closed adoption isn’t as popular as it once was, there are still advantages to having a closed adoption. The birth mom’s identity is kept confidential, a closed adoption might make it easier for a birth mom to move on, and it is a way for a birth mom to keep her child safe from dangerous or violent family or relationships. 

One birth mom’s view on closed adoption:

“When I placed my daughter for adoption over thirty years ago, open adoption wasn’t really even on my radar. We had a closed adoption. I have often thought of her and have wondered how she was doing, what she looked like, and who she was as a person. She reached out to me about three years ago after doing some genealogy work and connecting with a great aunt of mine. She told me that she had wondered all of the same things about me – what I was like, what I looked like, what I did every day. When we saw each other for the first time in over thirty years, we both cried when we saw the physical similarities between us.” – Jennifer

With open adoption being overall more beneficial for the adoptive child and birth mother, being receptive to an open adoption will increase the likelihood of matching with an expectant mom and providing a healthy future for your adoptive child. 

4. Infant Preparation

Another thing to consider when adopting an infant in the US is how prepared you are to bring an infant home. For many first-time parents, this is a daunting reality of being physically responsible for a tiny human. Parents who grow their families with biological children, they often take parenting classes, have baby showers where friends and family offer advice, and have their mothers come to help care for the baby in the first few weeks. Whether this is your first child or not, biological or not, it is always good to make sure you are prepared to have a new little baby in your home. 

Most hospitals offer parenting classes to new parents. These classes cover how to bathe, diaper, soothe, swaddle, and feed an infant. There are things that you can do to prepare for a baby in your home, even before he/she arrives. These things include:

  • Gender-neutral clothing items, especially pajamas and onesies
  • Newborn diapers, rash cream, and wipes
  • Bottles made for newborns
  • White noise machine
  • Gender-neutral swaddle blankets
  • Pacifiers 
  • Bath soap, lotion, and baby hygiene kits

For some, setting up a full nursery before an adoption can be hard. Dr. Brown offers some great suggestions for parents that aren’t quite ready to have a full nursery in place:

“Sometimes it can be emotionally difficult to purchase nursery furniture, and have it placed, prior to matching. It may be helpful, timewise, to at least buy a neutral crib and changing dresser and keep it stored away until matching. It may make that time between matching and bringing baby home a bit less stressful if the items are already in your home. If you prefer not to, it will be helpful to research options so that you know what you want to purchase in a pinch”

5. Domestic Travel

When adopting an infant in the US, it is important to prepare for and consider travel. Most adoptive families travel outside of their home state to meet their adopted child and support his/her birth mom in the delivery process. Because babies come on their own schedule, it is important to prepare for every scenario and be flexible. Make sure to research the city before you go. Prepare a list of hotels, restaurants, car rental companies, hospital address, and any other location you might need to have on hand. 

Many adoptive parents are required to stay in the state that the child is born in until they are approved to leave. This may take days to weeks, depending on the state and health of the child. Looking into staying with friends and family or at an Airbnb are great alternatives to a hotel stay and can save a lot of money.

One adoptive mother’s view on travel:

“I was so nervous, because I had no idea when our son would arrive. I made sure that I was as prepared as possible so that I wouldn’t have to worry about anything outside of the baby and his birth mom.” – Rebecca 

When deciding to adopt an infant from the US, there are a lot of different things to consider. Don’t let it overwhelm you, though. When you just take one step at a time, it is easier to manage, and the blessing and gift of adoption are worth it.

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Michelle Donner