How to adopt: What is the first step to start your domestic adoption journey?


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The adoption process can be very overwhelming. You want to know how to adopt but it’s hard to know where to start. 

Get your future startedBefore you begin your adoption journey, you must first understand how the process works and what your options are.

But don’t worry – if you are just starting to look into what adoption is all about and you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember this:

You are NOT alone. 

I have been in your shoes and I want to help break down the process to make it easier. So, to get started – you simply need to take the first step.

You see, back in 2006 my wife and I took our first step on our adoption journey. We had to answer some questions about how we wanted to build our family. Some of these were easy to answer, and others took some time and lots of discussion.

Here are the questions that helped us decide what kind of domestic adoption we wanted. 

1. Do we want to adopt a newborn?

This question was easy for us. We knew on both of our adoptions that we wanted to adopt a newborn – so this is the biggest reason why we chose domestic adoption.

2. What age or age range do we prefer?  

Adoption agencies and attorneys will ask your preferences for how old of a child you would like to adopt, so this question is one you have to tackle.

3. Do we want to adopt a boy or a girl (or does it matter to you)?

Choosing one or the other is OK if it is the right decision for your family – just understand that it may extend your wait time a bit. Also, there are always cases where the doctor thinks the baby will be a boy or a girl – and then we find out they are wrong once the baby is born.

4. Should we adopt from another state (which involves more money/time off of work/etc.)?

There are 2 points to this question:

1st point – If you open up your options to adopt from outside your home state, it increases your reach to more potential birthparents which can reduce the time is takes to match and have a baby placed with you.

2nd point – It can cost you more money to adopt from another state. You will have to have an attorney from the sending and receiving state, and you will have to travel and stay in the state where the birthparents are until ICPC guidelines are satisfied.

Answering this question also depends on the area that you live in – if you are in a highly populated city & state then there is a greater chance of matching with birthparents in your state.

My wife and I live in a less populated state, so we adopted from other states on our first two adoptions. It significantly shortened our waiting time because we were open to matching with birthparents from anywhere in the U.S.

5. Does race matter to us when we consider adopting a child into our family?

This is an important one to consider – and for your whole family to be on the same page. For help with this, check out the great articles and blogs that Adoptive Family magazine has about trans-racial adoption.

6. How open are you to having an ongoing relationship with birthparents?

In most newborn adoptions, the birthparents select the adoptive parents. Better than 50% of the time, they also meet in person. 

According to the Adoption Institute, it has also become increasingly common for birth and adoptive families to have some form of direct contact after placement. This is called “open adoption,” but the degree of openness can vary significantly.

Birth and adoptive parents may meet before the adoption is finalized and have no further contact, or the families may maintain some level of ongoing contact throughout the child’s life, such as exchanging photos or letters or having face-to-face meetings.

7. How much money do you have (or will you have) to adopt?

According to Adoptive Families magazine, domestic adoptions can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000. I have some resources on to help you with adoption costs.

It is a great idea to prepare an adoption budget. Be sure you are realistic on how much time you’ll need in order to save enough money so you are prepared to have a child placed with you.

8. Do we need someone to hold our hands through the process?

Some agencies do a lot more to help you get through every step along the way. Others are there for you but do not have the staff or the resources to hold your hand as much.

For example, agency A is “full service” because they provide you with everything from the home study to attorneys to birthmother search/screening. Agency B is not full service because you will have to do more of the leg work yourself, such as finding an attorney or getting your home study completed.

One is not necessarily better than the other – you need to find out what is best for you.

For some help with this one, check out my resource links at the end of this post. 

9. How do we handle potential adoption scams?

Sadly, there are women posing as birthmothers who will call and tell you their sad story and how they are willing to give you their baby – if you are willing to help her with money. Many times, it is difficult for adoptive parents to tell if it is a scam.

This is true especially when they are not asking for money because it is an emotional scam. While you may be able to save money by not paying someone to screen potential birthmothers, it is much more risky.

In my opinion, you should have a trusted and well-trained professional that is not emotionally involved in your adoption situation to handle birthmother screening. Most agencies will do the screening for you.

I think that because adoptive parents are obviously emotionally involved (aka – we want to be parents as soon as possible) we cannot objectively find out if the expectant mother is really pregnant and not trying to scam us – because it does happen.

Click here for some good articles about adoption fraud/scams. Click here for more articles. 

10. How long will we have to wait?

There are surveys which show that most adoptive families successfully adopt within two years of starting. This depends on how long it takes for you to match with a birthmother. A lot of factors go into it, such as how well you present yourself to expectant mothers.

But here is what it all boils down to – somewhere out there an expectant mother believes adoption is the best choice for her baby and now she is looking for the perfect family – which is you.

If you’ve made it through these questions – Congratulations! You’ve completed the first step and you are on your way to building your family through domestic adoption! Now you can go to the next step – finding the right adoption agency/professional.

Here are some resources:

QUESTION: Where are you on your adoption journey? Have you started? Click here to enter your comments below.

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