Are you considering adopting a child? If you, you probably already know how daunting the thought and planning involved can be. But with a clear checklist of what you need to consider as a prospective adoptive parent, you’ll find that you can do your due diligence and put your best foot forward in the process — one day at a time. Obviously, every individual adoption is unique, but we’ve prepped some of the most important things most parents need to consider when starting out. Here’s the only adoption checklist prospective parents need.
Arguably the most work-intensive part of the process, the application and home study will be a little different depending on your state and agency. Overall, a home study provides the state and agency with enough information to feel confident that they are placing a child into good hands when they facilitate your adoption.
For your application, you’ll probably give:
Once you have applied, you’ll receive a much larger packet of information and paperwork to complete. You may also participate in the following, which are common for adoption:
Lauren Jiang, LMSW, who is Director of Permanency & Client Services at Spence-Chapin Services to Families & Children, says the child characteristics checklist can be a bit of a surprise for many clients. “As families undertake this intimate home study process, they may worry that their social worker will judge them if there are certain special needs or characteristics they are not open to; what I encourage prospective parents to remember is that your social worker wants the same thing that you do, for the right fit match to be made so that children are placed into families who understand their needs and parents are set up to succeed,” says Jiang. “Honest reflection when completing your child characteristics checklist is so important, albeit difficult.”
In many contexts, this will also be the time when you create a profile to introduce yourself to potential birth parents; this is especially common in domestic independent infant adoption. Hal Kaufman at My Adoption Advisor points out that one part of the adoption process that is in their control is their effort on this step: Prospective adoptive parents “can work hard to create an outstanding adoption profile, versus quickly throwing one together so they can check that box on their to-dos,” he says.
For many families, their home study is resolved in about 6 months, making them officially “waiting families.” During this waiting time, before you get an important call about a “match,” there are many valuable things you can do.
One of the biggest will be getting prepared to finance the adoption; while adopting from the foster system is not expensive, independent adoptions are a different story. “The cost of adoption takes families by surprise ($20,000 to $45,000),” says Steffany A. Aye, LSCSW, LCSW, the Founder and Director of Adoption & Beyond, Inc. “Families don’t initially realize that most adoption agencies are not run by the state, nor do they received state funding. Therefore, private adoption agencies are supported like most any other business through fees for services or donations.” Making a plan for an adoption loan, adoption grants, or savings that can be reimbursed through adoption tax credits is an important part of the waiting process for many families. Other important tasks include:
Matching looks different in different contexts; sometimes matching involves an in-person meeting with an expecting birth mom, while other matches involve meetings with a social worker and a child. Your agency or social worker will clarify what a match looks like and how it will proceed. Once you’ve matched, the next step is a “placement,” when you and the child go home together.
Not every match results in a placement; circumstances and minds can change after your meetings with children or birth parents. Dawn Davenport, Executive Director of Creating a Family, a national infertility and adoption education and support organization, wants people to know some of the facts that people often don’t get straight before they adopt. She points out that many people don’t know “how long adoptions take and how often adoption matches fail.” It’s important to know that one failed match doesn’t have to be the end of an adoption journey, but understanding the way the situation can play out will make you much more resilient if you encounter this setback.
Like any parent, you are likely to be a bit overwhelmed during placement and the weeks after a new child enters your home, but try to make the same smart choices other parents do to keep themselves sane: take help whenever it is offered, give your partner time to sleep, and take the sleep you can get. While feeling secure in a new place can take a long time, do everything you can to assure your new child that they are home and comfortable. Adoption is a long-term process, not something that happens instantly.
Clearly, there are many ways that adoption can proceed differently from this path, but these are some general thoughts to consider as you begin the exciting and important journey toward adoption.
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