Begin the Search
If you adopt through an agency, ask how the agency will conduct a search. What criteria do they use to match children with families? Are they willing to search outside your immediate area for a child or youth? If you become interested in a child or youth from another state, will the agency help you to move forward with adopting the child or youth?
Once you have a completed home study, your worker and you will likely both work to find children for whom your family may be a good fit. To keep the process moving, stay in close contact with your agency and offer to help in the search process by reviewing photolistings, attending matching parties, and updating your parent profile. Remember that adopting from foster care is not so much about finding a child for a family, but instead, finding the right family for each child who needs one.
Adoption exchanges publish photolistings and provide other information about children who are available for adoption:
- Adopt America Network
- AdoptUSKids en Español
- The Adoption Exchange
- Children Awaiting Parents, Inc.
- Jewish Children’s Adoption Network
- National Adoption Center
- Northwest Adoption Exchange
- State Photolists
- Adopt BC Kids
- AdoptOntario (English and Français)
- Alberta Profiles
- Canada’s Waiting Kids
- Heart Gallery of Canada
During this exploration phase of the process, you’ll be thinking mostly about the child’s age, strengths, interests, and talents and whether the child or siblings are a good fit for your family.
Learn More About the Child
Once you have been identified as a potential parent for a particular child, you’ll want to learn much more about the child’s needs and history. As you can consider whether your family is right for a child, you need to learn as much as you can about the child. Some parts of the child’s history that are important to understand are:
- Emotional, medical, dental, and educational needs
- Prenatal care and exposure to drugs or alcohol
- Birth parents’ background and medical histories
- Religious background and preferences
- Connections to birth family members, other relatives, or foster families
- Foster care placements
- Relationships with siblings
If you agree to accept placement of a child whose birth parents’ rights have not been voluntarily surrendered or involuntarily terminated (known as a legal-risk placement), you must accept the chance that the child could return to his or her birth parents. Until birth parents’ rights are terminated, the child cannot legally become a member of your family and must instead stay in your home as a foster placement.
Prepare for Your Child’s Arrival
Once a child or siblings have been chosen as a good fit for your family, you’ll need to try to anticipate how the addition of a new family member(s) will affect your life and begin to plan accordingly. Depending on your situation and the child you adopt, there are a number of things to do while your adoption is being finalized.
Learn About the Child
Continue to learn as much as you can about the child’s habits and personality. Talk to the child’s foster parents and worker so you can learn information that will help ease the child’s transition into your family. What are the child’s favorite foods and games? What is the best way to comfort the child?
Determine how you will get and keep items that tie to the child’s past. Encourage the child to bring possessions from previous homes. Ask foster parents and workers for pictures they have of the child, and ask for photos of their family, home, school, and other community places and landmarks.
Never throw away broken toys or worn out clothes. Familiar objects and smells are comforting, and the child needs you to respect that they have a past and prior attachments. If your child does not seem interested in the items, store them until a later date. When the child is older, they may be more ready to assess their interest in items from their past.
Think about additional training you might need based on the child’s history or background.
In Canada, health care is provide to all residents. In the US it’s more complicated. Group health insurance carriers must insure adoptees under the terms of their parents’ policy and cannot deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Any group health plan which provides coverage for dependent children must provide benefits to a child placed for adoption under the same terms and conditions as apply to a biological child of a plan participant.
Fortunately, many states have their own laws that prohibit discrimination against adopted children in connection with health insurance. If you are covered by an individual plan, you should check the laws of your own state to determine your rights.
In the US, if your child is eligible for adoption assistance, they may be covered through Medicaid.
The laws of the state in which the child was adopted determine who has access to the original birth certificate or other adoption records, and whether those records are sealed (unavailable). Obtain the original birth certificate that is certified and indicates the child’s birth information, including the birth mother’s name, birth father’s name if known, the date, place, and time of birth and the name given to the child at birth.
When a child is adopted, an amended birth certificate is issued. This is a birth certificate issued after a child has been adopted, similar to the original birth certificate, but names the adoptive parents as the parents. An adopted child will have both an adoption certificate and a birth certificate, although he or she may have access only to the amended one.
If you adopted internationally, obtaining a US birth certificate is one of the main reasons to readopt in your state—even if you have the foreign equivalent of a decree of adoption and a birth certificate from your child’s home country. State requirements vary, so it is important to learn about the laws were you are living.
Prepare to get a new Social Security card or number for your child that recognizes the child’s new last name and family situation. To claim your child as a dependent for tax purposes, the child must have a social security number.
It’s very important that you make sure your internationally adopted child becomes a citizen of your country.
In the United States, under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, children adopted abroad can automatically acquire US citizenship if:
- at least one parent of the child is a U.S. citizen
- the child is under the age of 18
- the child is admitted to the US as an immigrant for lawful permanent residence
- the adoption is final
Because of the Child Citizenship Act, many parents are no longer required to make a separate application for their children to be naturalized.
If your adoption doesn’t meet these requirements, however, acquiring citizenship for your child will require an additional process and additional fees. If you postpone or even forget to file for your child’s naturalization, your child may have difficulty getting college scholarships, working legally, voting, etc. In some cases, your child might actually be subject to possible deportation. Make plans right away to protect your child’s future.
In Canada, you need to apply for citizenship after your adoption is complete.
Insurance and Wills
You may need to change beneficiary designations on life insurance policies and update wills.
You need to think about how to prepare your home to welcome a new child. First and foremost, you need to learn from current caregivers what’s important to the child and what things he or she will bring with them that you can incorporate into your home and life.
If your child has a disability, you may need to modify, re-position, or remove household objects that could be dangerous to your new child.
Prepare the child’s room to make it welcoming and to signal that the area belongs to her, but also be prepared to make changes after your child moves in to be sure it’s really right for her.
Your Other Children
Inform your other children about likely changes. Suggest how their roles may change when the new child arrives. Prepare them to share, adjust schedules, and withhold judgment during the transition. Include everyone in visits and trial weekends before the child is placed, and establish clear ground rules for behavior, interaction, and discipline.
Negotiate an adoption assistance agreement. Parents who adopt a child from foster care who has been determined as special needs can receive federal or state benefits for their child. Ask your agency what steps you must take to obtain adoption assistance and negotiate an agreement.
Exploring available services for your child and yourself is more easily done before you finalize. Depending on you and your child’s needs, some services to consider are:
- After school programs
- Summer camps
- Dental care
- In-home personal care or nursing services
- Mental health crisis services
- Parent coaching or classes
- Post-adoption education
- Primary care doctor
- Respite care
- School and special education services
- Support groups