Decide the Type of Adoption to Pursue
Even if you have already decided to adopt a child from foster care, you must still make a number of choices about your adoption. Most importantly, you need to decide what type of child you are able to parent:
- What disabilities and challenges (physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral) can you comfortably handle?
- What age range, background, and ethnicity would fit best within your household and community?
- Are you open to helping your adopted child maintain contact with some of his or her birth relatives?
- Can you welcome a group of two or more brothers or sisters into your home?
Next, you should consider whether you would rather work through a public or a private adoption agency. Depending on your state, county, or province, both public and private agencies can help you locate a child or sibling group to adopt.
- Charge nothing or very little for adoptions
- May respond more slowly to inquiries
- Place mostly children who are in foster care
- Typically have flexible eligibility requirements for adoptive parents
- May charge more than public agencies unless they have a specific contract with the public agency to place children for adoption
- May respond more quickly to inquiries
- Have access to diverse populations of available children
- May target specific groups of parents for adoption (based on factors such as age, race, religion, etc.)
Research Adoption Agencies
Learn about as many adoption agencies as possible. Some resources to help you with your search are:
- Child Welfare Information Gateway has a searchable database for a directory of public and private agencies in the US.
- AdoptUSKids has a state adoption and foster care information page to help you learn about local rules and resources and find agencies in your area.
- The Adoption Council of Canada has a list of public and private agencies that do adoptions in the Canadian provinces.
- You can find your state’s foster care and adoption officials using the Child Welfare Information Gateway directory. They may be able to direct you to other agencies or resources in your community.
- Reach out to adoptive parent support groups or adoptive parents for suggestions. Both are a great source of information about agencies and are usually eager to share what they know with prospective adopters. For lists of parent support groups in your state, search NACAC’s parent group directory, ask your post-adoption service provider, or search the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
To find a public or private agency that is a good fit for you, your values, and your unique situation, compare information from several agencies. Before selecting an agency, interviewing agency representatives by phone or in person.
Questions to Ask
- Who can adopt from your agency?
- What children do you place (ages, backgrounds, etc.)?
- Where do the children come from and how many are legally free for adoption?
- How long, on average, does it take to adopt?
- What is the time lapse between application and placement?
- What are your requirements concerning forms, classes, fees, and visits?
- How much does a completed adoption cost (breakdown and total)?
- Can you help applicants locate sources of financial aid, including subsidies?
- What are the home study requirements?
- How many children have you placed in each of the past few years?
- Have any of your adoptions fallen through or disrupted in the past five years?
- What is your policy toward applicants who do not accept the first child presented?
- What services do you provide before placement and after placement (classes, support group, therapy and counseling, respite care, etc.)?
- Can you provide references from parents who recently adopted from the agency?
Choose an Agency
When you call an agency to let staff there know you are interested in adopting, the person you talk to may ask a series of screening questions or ask to send literature about the agency. If you want to adopt relatively soon, find out how you can get the process started more quickly.
One common first step is an orientation meeting or training session for prospective adoptive parents. At the meeting or training you will likely:
- Meet social workers and learn about policies and practices regarding adoption
- Learn about the children available for adoption through the agency
- Learn about foster care
- Be asked to examine your feelings about adoption and judge if adoption is right for you
- Gain insight into the challenges and rewards of adoptive parenting
- Obtain information about the next steps and application materials
Complete an Adoption Application
Learn as much as possible about the agency before filling out application paperwork. You want to be confident in the agency’s ability to meet your needs. Application fees are often non-refundable, even if you decide to work through a different agency or change your mind about adopting.
If you find that the application process is hard to understand, ask the agency or another adoptive parent for help. Don’t let the challenges of completing forms keep you from pursuing adoption.
Find out how long it will take for the agency to process your application once you have completed the forms and paid the fee. Ask when you should expect to hear from the agency, and how you can schedule and prepare for a home study.
Most agencies require pre-placement training to acquaint prospective parents with issues that can arise after a child or sibling group is placed with them. School-aged adoptees bring a history of life experiences that will affect their interactions with adoptive parents, new siblings, schoolmates, and others. Issues related to disability, culture, early abuse, and a child’s birth family should all be discussed before a child is placed in your home.
Even if your agency does not require training, learn all you can about adoption issues. If you cannot find training and workshops locally, there are many webinars available to prospective parents, including on NACAC’s website. The more you know, the better.
Begin the Home Study Process
A home study can loosely be defined as an educational process designed to:
- Help your social worker learn more about your ability to parent and provide a stable home
- Teach you about adoption and its affect on children and families
- Prepare you to parent a child whose experiences and history are very different from your own
Everyone who hopes to adopt must have a completed home study. Depending on the agency, the worker, and your ability to respond in a timely manner, the process can take from two months to a year.
Specific requirements for home studies vary by state and agency, so be sure to ask for a list of the items and information your agency needs.
- Autobiographical statement you create about your life history
- Certified copies of birth certificates for you, your partner, and any children
- Certified copy of your marriage license
- Certified copies of divorce decrees
- Death certificate of a former spouse
- Certified copies of the finalization or adoption decrees for any adopted children
- Child abuse and criminal record clearances, or a notarized statement from the police declaring that you and other adults in your home have faced no felony convictions
- Income verification which may include tax returns, W-2 forms, and paycheck stubs
- Statement of health provided by a physician, which might include lab test results
- Written references from friends, employers, neighbors, etc.
At some point in the process, you may also need to pay for the home study. The cost through a public agency may be quite low or even free. Other agencies typically charge between $1,000 and $4,000 for a completed study.
Questions You May be Asked
During home study meetings with your worker, you can expect to answer questions about your background, your education, your job history, your marriage, your leisure activities, your religion, and your experiences with children. The worker may ask:
- What is your family like?
- How will you integrate a new child into your family?
- How will your extended family treat an adopted child?
- How is your marriage? How do you make decisions, resolve conflicts, and share your feelings?
- Why do you want to adopt?
- What is your home like? Are there places for your child to play or spend time alone?
- What is your neighborhood like?
- How do you plan to address discipline issues with your new child?
- What was your family like when you were growing up? How were you raised? Are you close to your parents?
- Where do you work? Is your schedule flexible enough to accommodate the responsibilities that come with parenting?
- What sort of childcare arrangements will you make for your child?
The goal of the home study is to help agencies find the best family for each child it places, and make good matches between parents and children. If you have questions about your study, ask your social worker or agency.