Adopting a child is an incredibly rewarding experience. You’re able to bring hope and joy to a child who might have spent years in the foster system or to a baby whose parents couldn’t care for it or have passed away. Many couples and individuals who had trouble conceiving their own child will turn to adoption as an option to be parents.
The process of adopting a child is also long and tedious. People need to be prepared for a years-long journey working with agencies and submitting paperwork before they ever meet their new son or daughter. Few people realize just how complex the process is, which is why we’ve created this blog.
We’ll walk you through the steps to adoption so you can familiarize yourself with the process and be prepared to get started.
- Decide How You Want to Adopt
There are two main ways to adopt a child in the U.S.: through an agency or with a private lawyer. The first option is what most people choose when they’re seeking to adopt a child they haven’t met before. The latter is an easy way to adopt a child you know and is referred to as a private adoption.
There are pros and cons to each option. For example, with an agency, your wait time is often much longer. You have to follow certain application and pre-screening steps before you’re approved for adoption, then you have to wait until the right child needs your care. Agencies are very particular about how they place children and who is allowed to adopt.
With a private adoption, you’ll only have to work closely with your lawyer, not an entire agency. This sometimes makes the process quicker. However, you will have to be privy to all the legal intricacies of adopting a child and you might not get the same support and education that you would through an agency.
- Apply as Foster or Adoptive Parents
Some couples will opt to be foster parents before they decide if adoption is right for them. As a foster parent, you will care for one or more children and make decisions in their best interest, but you do not have any legal rights over the child. The adoption agency will still be considered the legal guardian of the child and they will have the final say over major decisions.
Applying as a foster parent typically means you get to care for a child sooner, but not in the same capacity as an adoptive parent. Adoptive parents, after going through the full process, have all the legal rights of parents and can make major decisions for the child.
- Follow Agency Procedure
Every agency has its own procedure for vetting prospective parents and approving them for adoption. However, most processes follow roughly the same few steps:
- Complete the application for adoption.
- The agency will check your references and do a personal evaluation.
- The agency will do a home visit.
- A reviewer will evaluate all information and make a decision on the fitness to adopt.
Keep in mind that different states have different laws and requirements for each step. For example, a home study in PA might be different from an evaluation in Louisiana. You can ask the agency for a list of criteria or search your state government website for more information.
This is often the toughest step for prospective parents. If you were denied an adoption, then there is usually a waiting period before you can apply again. If you were granted an adoption, then you’ll have to wait until they find a child that matches your application and think would be a good fit for your home.
This wait can sometimes take years. Couples need to be prepared to be patient for their family’s dream to come true. You can check in with the agency regularly to check your status and they should keep regular contact with you throughout the process, as well.
Eventually, the waiting will end and you’ll get the call you’ve been waiting for. The agency will happily tell you that they’ve found a child who needs you as their parents. You’ll start off slowly, with a few supervised home visits and then a day on your own with the child. This helps the agency ensure the child is safe and comfortable in your care before turning them over to you legally.
The adoption process is long and tedious, but it’s so rewarding if you make it to the end.