Friday, November 08, 2013

Adoption 101

If you are like I was four years ago, I hope this post will help you.

Nathan and I talked about adopting long before we knew it would be our only option.  We had many friends that had adopted or were adopted, and we knew it wasn't going to be easy.  We knew it would be expensive.  And we knew it was going to be an emotional roller coaster, which I wasn't excited for after many years of riding the infertility thrill ride.

So four years ago I was overwhelmed.

By the grace of God I had several friends that had walked the road ahead of me, and one particular friend that stepped into my life at just the right moment and held my hand and made me realize we could do it.

If you are just starting out {or maybe not even to the point of being certain you can do it}, I hope this little overview will help you take the leap with confidence.

First, my disclaimer:
  • I am not an expert on adoption.  I am just a mama that has been through it.  I am doing my best to bring you informative and accurate information, but please understand that for the most part what I am sharing is based on MY EXPERIENCE NOT MY EXPERTISE.  
  • Adoption is not a cookie cutter experience.  Every single one is different.  Laws are governed by the State, so standards vary from state to state.  Different agencies have different requirements, so those will vary based on what agency you use.  
  • International adoption is a whole different monster that I am not familiar with, so I will mostly be addressing domestic adoption.  
  • And finally, I am an adoptive parent, so I am speaking to adoptive and potentially adoptive parents.  Every part of the adoption triad is important and adoption couldn't exist without each of the three branches, so please don't confuse my focus on the adoptive parents as implying that they are the most important branch.  
Adoption.  It's a big, scary, monster of a word that can paralyze people.  The unknown is scary.  So I'm going to try to break it down into simple steps that seem doable.  Because they are.  {Remember my disclaimer... not all processes will be exactly the same, but this has been our experience and should give you a general idea.}

Where do we start?
First things first, you will need to select an agency.  If you have friends that have adopted, ask them whether they would recommend their agency.  If you don't know anyone that has adopted, get on Instagram and start connecting with my followers.  I'm serious.  There is an amazing adoption community on Instagram and there are always people willing to answer questions.

When you are researching agencies, here are a few things to consider:
  • What are the fees?  Do you have to pay any fees upfront?  If so, are they refundable if you change your mind or decide to go with another agency?
  • What is their typical placement time frame?  How long does their average family wait?
  • How many waiting families do they typically have on deck?
  • What is their process for birth family - adoptive family connection? 
  • What is their failure rate?
To be honest, we didn't know any of these things when we chose our agency.  Our agency was chosen for us by a friend {that's a long story, but a God-ordained one}, but we couldn't have hand-picked a better agency for ourselves.  Their answers to those questions I listed are exactly what we would have wanted them to be.

If this first step overwhelms you, can I just recommend our agency???  We love them so much.  I have often wondered why anyone would use any other agency.  Seriously.  I will be posting much more information on them next Friday, but in the meantime you can find them here: Heart & Soul Adoptions.

Okay, we picked our agency... now what?
Get a Home Study.  This is the first step and it has to be completed and approved before you can be considered a "waiting family". Since we used an agency that was not in our home state for our placements, we had to find a second agency in our home state that could do our Home Study.  You will have to pay a fee to begin this process.  Our agency's fee was $2000.  Unfortunately there are LOTS of other little fees that you will incur before you finish your Home Study, like the fee to have your finger prints processed, the fee for the TB test, the bill for your many trips to Home Depot to buy Carbon Monoxide Detectors and cabinet locks, etc., etc., etc.

When you get the checklist from your Home Study agency you might feel very overwhelmed.  It seems like years worth of to-dos.  But don't lose heart!  It goes much more quickly than you think it will.  I always recommend starting with the fingerprints, because these can take 6-8 weeks to clear and could delay your process if you put it off.  Also, the Home Inspection is not nearly as scary as you will expect.  If there is something wrong, they will not reject you!  They will just ask you to fix it before their next visit.

Okay, step one... done.

Once we have an approved Home Study, then what?   
Next you need to complete any paperwork and additional requirements that your ageny has. If you are using a different agency than you did for your home study, some of these things may be repetetive. When we were started our home study I printed out all the requirements for both agencies and worked on it all at the same time. That way, if there were duplicate requirements, I could work on them at the same time.

Some agencies require classes or first aid training/CPR courses, and all of these things will need to be complete before you are ready to be matched. 

You are finally a waiting family, so wait. 
Now for the hardest part of the adoption process... the waiting. We were blessed to wait less than two months with both of our adoptions. I don't think this is typical. 

Every agency works differently as far as their matching process goes. At our agency, when a birthmom is ready to be matched that they think your family might be a good fit for, you receive an email with a copy of their application and a little bit of information.  You then decide if you want to be presented to this birthmom as a potential family for her baby. If you say yes, your family profile along with a few other families' profiles are presented to the birthmom for her to choose from. If she chooses you, you are considered "matched". 

Once you're matched, you wait some more. 
When we were matched with Penelope, her induction was scheduled for one week later. We barely had time to prepare and get there, much less worry about waiting. This time around the wait has seemed unending. It's hard, there's nothing else to it. 

Then one day, your baby is born. 
Depending on the state that your baby is born in, there still could be some serious waiting in your future. The most serious kind. The waiting for your birthmom to sign the papers relinquishing her rights and making you the forever family. The waiting for that relinquishment to become final. The waiting for your child's adoption to be finalized and for your forever family to be forever sealed with the courts. 

So that's a very basic rundown of the process. Feel free to ask questions, make comments about your own experience, or offer information that is different than what I have presented here. 

Like I said, I am not an expert... just a mama that has been through it. 

1 comment:

  1. One of the main things that is always brought up when we start discussing possible adoption is the expenses. I looked at the agencies fees that you had in the post. Is that the normal starting cost or is that different from state to state and agency to agency as well? I am really just starting to research the process and it seems like everything I look at is different.