To demystify the adoption process, so you can adopt a baby, we broke it down step-by-step for parents considering adopting a child for the first time. In addition to the basics described below, other steps may be necessary (it depends on your particular needs and those of the child and the birth parents), but overall, here are the steps you will need to complete to adopt a child:
Step One: Do Your Research
Read voraciously, join a local support group, and start networking with other adoptive parents. Here are the biggest questions you will have to answer for your family off the bat:
- Do you want to adopt a newborn or an older child?
- Do you want to adopt domestically or internationally? (Most children adopted internationally are at least a year old)
- Are you willing to adopt a child of a different race?
Step Two: Decide Who You Want to Work With
Both agencies and attorneys help prospective parents to fulfill the legal requirements, such as preparing essential documents and conducting a home study, which is an evaluation of your home life and background by a social worker.
For domestic adoptions, agencies and attorneys each screen prospective birth parents and provide counseling to both sides. The most significant difference between agencies and attorneys is how they find birth parents.
tep Three: Select an Adoption Agency or Attorney
In general, an attorney should be a specialist who has handled hundreds of adoptions, says Mark McDermott, past president of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.
When evaluating an agency, make sure it’s state-licensed and ask lots of questions. Here are few important questions to include:
- How long has it been in business?
- What programs and support services does it offer?
- What are the various fees, and when are they due?
Step Four: Complete the Application and Home Study
When you contact an agency, you may be invited to attend an agency-sponsored orientation session. You and the other applicants will learn about the agency’s procedures and available children and receive the application forms. The agency will review your completed application to determine whether to accept you as a client. If they accept you, you’ll probably have to pay a registration fee at this point.
Step Five: Be Prepared to Wait
Adopting a child always requires a waiting period. But the time frame can depend on many factors, including prospective parents’ ages, family structure, and state legal requirements.
International adoption tends to be more predictable, partly because domestic adoptions can be stalled if a birthing parent changes their mind or take a long time to choose who the adoptive parents will be.
Step Six: Complete the Legal Procedures
After a child is placed with you, you must fulfill the legal requirements for adoption. You might need to hire an attorney if you’ve chosen to use an agency.
Usually, a child lives with the adoptive family for at least six months before the adoption is finalized legally, although this period varies according to state law. During this time, before the adoption is completed, the agency will provide supportive services.