If you’re thinking of adopting a child in Oregon, you should know that there are over 7,000 children in foster care on any given day. Many of these kids are available for adoption. Many of the kids in the foster care system in Oregon are older than 5 years old, have physical, mental or emotional disabilities, teens, and siblings who are in a group that need to be adopted together.
No matter what path to adoption you choose—be it private domestic, international, or foster to adopt, you should first take the time to get acquainted with the rules and requirements that will impact you and your adopted child throughout and after your adoption journey is complete.
Is Adoption Right for You?
Before you decide what type of adoption is for you, it’s important to determine whether or not adoption itself is right for you and your family. Acknowledging that adoption can be a wonderful way to grow your family while becoming a family for a child who needs one also means acknowledging that in order for you to become an adoptive family, a child somewhere out there will be losing a birth family.
As indicated on the Adoption.com website, “Nearly every child adopted from foster care has experienced neglect or abuse, so even children who don’t officially qualify as having ‘special needs’ will have, well, special needs. … In the adoption world, a child is considered to have special needs if he or she:
a. is older, generally over the age of two (this varies from state to state),
b. is a member of an ethnic or racial minority,
c. is a member of a sibling group of two or more children,
d. has a physical, mental, or emotional disorder,
f. has a recognized high risk of physical or mental disease, or
g. has any combination of the above factors or conditions.”
Quite frankly, most every adoption, foster to adopt or infant adoption technically fits the special needs category as it has become widely accepted that all adoptions include at least some level of loss and trauma—whether a child is 1-day-old or 21 years old.
Understanding that you may very well likely become the most important person in a child’s life who has undergone one of life’s greatest losses is key to being an adoptive parent. Whether you refer to yourself as an adoptive parent or parent—you are assuming responsibility and promising unconditional love to a child for the rest of your lives together.
Who Can Adopt?
According to Oregon.gov, prospective adoptive families are as diverse as the children who need homes. Each family comes with their own life experiences, education, income, occupations, and lifestyles. Successful adoptive families are made up of caring people who are ready to make a lifelong and life-changing commitment to a child. Additionally, Oregon applicants are considered regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.
You can be:
- Single, married, or domestic partners
- Reside in a house or apartment, but you must have room to house a child
- Work inside or outside the home
- At least 21 years of age or older
- Able to provide sufficient income to support your family
- Physically able to care for a child
- Able to pass a child abuse and criminal background check
Who Can Be Adopted?
Adoption.com, A Family for Every Child Heart Gallery, and Christian Family Adoptions Heart Gallery of Hope allow you to learn about some of the children who are awaiting adoption, while the Oregon Family Outreach website has partnered with the Oregon Department of Human Services and Boys and Girls Aid to provide statewide recruitment, support, information, and community organizing for foster care and adoption and offers information on how you can reach out to a child within your community.
The Adoption Process in Oregon
Oregon.gov offers prospective parents an Adoption Step-By-Step Guide, which includes topics such as “find out more,” “make the decision to adopt,” “attend training,” “complete an application,” “home-study,” “wait for a match,” and “supervision.”
While adoption has a very specific process, no two journeys are the same. Be sure to do plenty of research going into adoption and work closely with your chosen facilitator or agency to ensure you are receiving the most accurate and up-to-date information possible to avoid delays and setbacks. Understand that even under the best of circumstances, the adoption system is not perfect and while there are sure to be twists and turns no one ever saw coming, it’s important for you and for your waiting child that you stay the course.
Choosing an Agency in Oregon
The Child Welfare Information Gateway suggests that those looking to find an appropriate adoption agency “take into account your family’s personal preferences regarding the adoption services provided by that agency. While there are overarching characteristics that should be true of any agency, there are different qualities that families might find important.”
Further, the National Council for Adoption website offers several suggestions to help you to choose an adoption agency that’s right for you.
Oregon.gov offers a list of 12 contracted adoption agencies to complete placement reports for independent adoptions.
How Much Does it Cost?
There are no fees to adopt a child in Oregon from foster care when using the Oregon Department of Human Services as your agency; however, you can expect that private agencies will charge for their services. Oregon agency fees may range from $2,000 to $10,000.
You will want to keep track of the fees you pay throughout the process and make sure to ask questions and voice your concern if a cost doesn’t make sense. Typically, for families adopting through foster care, you will be reimbursed for many if not all fees. For information and advice on the cost of adoption as well as information on loans, fundraising, grants, and employee contributions, click here. Some of these costs can also be offset by income tax credits.
For information and advice on the cost of adoption as well as information on loans, fundraising, grants, and employee contributions, click here. Some of these costs can also be offset by income tax credits.
Additionally, subsidies are available to families who adopt children with special needs, and many children are eligible for federal or state adoption subsidies.
The Special Needs Adoption Coalition is an organization of private agencies providing special needs adoption services in the state of Oregon. Some private agency fees are reimbursable if you adopt a child from Oregon foster care. Similarly, adopting families can and do adopt children from other states and may be eligible for partial reimbursement of fees or of nonrecurring adoption-related costs through the child’s state and/or federal options.
The Adoption Assistance handbook provides information about financial assistance for adoptive families.
How Long Does It Take To Adopt a Child in Oregon?
The initial adoption process typically takes between four to six months to complete. Because each situation is unique, the time it takes to be matched and have a child placed in your home is on a case-by-case basis.
Foster certification typically takes between one and four months.
What Sort of Training is Involved?
Oregon DHS provides training to prepare parents for transitioning a child into their new family and parenting, children who may have been abused or neglected, and children who have experienced disruptions in their life. Typical training topics include:
- Children and special needs
- Process to adoption
- Finding support and resources
Home Study in Oregon
A home study is done to show the social worker your home and how a child would fit into it. They want to make sure it’s a safe and healthy environment for the child to be in. They also use that time to make sure all the proper paperwork for your home study is in order and to help educate you so you’re prepared to parent an adopted child. Home studies are not meant to scare you away from the possibility of adopting!
As is noted in an Adoption.com article, home studies typically consist of a home visit, an interview, and a series of documents that you need to complete, “including an autobiographical statement, health evaluation, financial statements, background checks, references, and copies of important legal documents.” All of the information gathered is compiled into a written report that your social worker will provide to Oregon’s Department of Family Services. In the case of international adoption, your paperwork will be submitted to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
According to the Adoption.com website, some of the documents you will be required to complete include:
- “Birth Certificates
- “Marriage Certificates
- “Divorce Decrees
- “Tax Returns, W-2s, Financial statements, etc
- “Employer Verification or Letter from an accountant if you are Self-employed
- “Medical reports
- “Letters of Reference
- “Criminal (Local, State, and/or Federal) Background checks
- “Child abuse checks”
Additionally, some of the basic health and safety precautions your social worker will be looking for may include:
“Check/get smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. Even if the latter two aren’t required, they’re still a good idea to have. Also, discuss/review a fire safety plan with your family.
“Identify possible hazards and either address them or have a plan/explanation on why they aren’t an issue. Pools are typical structures that a preparer may want to know/see how you plan on keeping children safe around.
“Make sure firearms are properly stored and be prepared to discuss your gun safety policy with the preparer.”
Home studies are meant to help prospective families to be well prepared for adoption and your assigned social worker will be happy to work with you to ensure that you are ready to help an adopted child safely transition into your home.
Click here to find a home study professional in your area, links to home study requirements by state, and information on home studies specific to international adoption.
Finalizing Your Adoption
Finalization is different from state to state and you should speak with your adoption facilitators, social workers, and caseworkers to ensure you are complying with requirements. Many states necessitate that you have an attorney to legalize your adoption. International adoption typically requires re-adoption through your state of residence. You can find out more information at Childwelfare.gov.
Whether completing the adoption of an infant or an older child—domestic or international—you should plan to prepare for when you bring your child home. Make sure to have your support system in place, everything from contacting medical professionals, specialists, and educational professionals.
For children with special needs, you will want to have trusted therapists, counselors, and other adoption support services in order to ensure that you’re prepared to provide for them.
For transracially adopted children, make sure to open your home to feel safe and welcoming. There are different ways you can do this, perhaps you could place items or food around the house that will seem familiar to them so they could be more comfortable. Do not try to replace their identity or minimize their past, but encourage them to take pride in their first culture while adapting and adopting a new culture and traditions. Meeting in the middle guarantees all members of the family can share the best parts of themselves and learn and grow from the experience..
No matter the child, joining a new family and entering a new home is a life-changing adjustment. Be flexible and open. Some things will go smoothly, while other things may not. So take heart and take a deep breath. Know that parenting is always unpredictable—and parenting an adopted child is even more so.
Be present with your new family to allow everyone to adjust and to help with the process of bonding. Don’t invite people over right away, give your new child some time to adjust to the entirely new environment they’re in. Many medical professionals agree that giving them time before inviting friends and family over can help the child with this period of adjustment.
Make sure that you look up and be present! One of the most important things you can do will be providing structure and routine to facilitate bonding and healing. It will take time to adjust as a new family but make sure to take time and work together, play together, and enjoy time together.
Your adoption journey does not end once you’re all home under the same roof—in fact, some would argue it has just begun. The Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center is a non-profit, state-funded organization for families who adopt state children.