Making the decision to adopt is a huge step. After deciding to grow your family through adoption, the next step is figuring out exactly how to adopt. This first step into the adoption world can be intimidating. It will slap you in the face with acronyms, words you don’t understand, and terms that only make sense to those “in the know” within the adoption community. Even as a lawyer, taking this step personally was a lot to understand and digest. So, let’s make it as simple as we can for you.
There are many different types of adoption you can choose from. Some of these routes may be pursued at the same time, while some are exclusive enough to lock you in. There is no right or wrong answer when deciding how to pursue an adoption. There are many factors to consider. The choice will be unique to you as a family.
Here are the different avenues you have for pursuing an adoption as a US citizen.
1. Newborn & Infant Adoption
This option is sometimes called Newborn Adoption, sometimes Infant Adoption, and sometimes just Domestic Adoption. What this means is that you are adopting a new baby within the United States. In most instances, you will work with an adoption agency to connect with a pregnant birth mother before the child is born. By the time the child is born, you will have completed most of the paperwork and legalities to adopt the child. The adoption will then be legally finalized after the child is born. In some cases, you may connect with the child immediately after birth while they are still in the hospital, without any interaction with the birth mother before that.
This path to adoption is common for those who want to adopt a newborn baby. The process includes lots of training, a home study (and subsequent updates), and some form of self-advertisement, such as a photo book, video, or other media that introduces your family to a prospective birth family.
2. Foster Care Adoption
Adopting from foster care means that you are adopting a child who has, for whatever reason, been separated from their birth family. Sometimes these are newborn babies and infants who are left in the hospital after birth. More often, these are older children who are removed from their birth families after allegations of abuse or neglect. They may range in age from babies to teenagers. In most cases, you have to spend months or even years fostering the child before you are able to legally adopt them.
Fostering to adopt a child is a hot-button issue within the field. What prospective adoptive parents should know is that the foster system is committed to reunifying children with their birth/legal families whenever possible. This means foster parents take on the burden of emotionally investing in a child who may eventually leave their care. Foster parents should take responsibility for a foster child only if they are actually committed to helping the family reunify before adoption even becomes an option.
It is worth mentioning that many people choose to adopt from foster care because they believe it is free. However, adopting from foster care is not by any means without cost. The state may cover your legal and professional fees for a home study, lawyer, etc., to complete the legal adoption process. However, there are several other fees involved with fostering, adopting, and raising a child which will rest on your shoulders. Make sure you know how your state works and what financial obligations fall to you before pursuing adoption through foster care.
3. Private Adoption
A private adoption is when you already know the birth mother and/or child you are going to adopt. The adoption is agreed upon by everyone involved in advance. To complete this kind of adoption, you simply need to locate lawyers you trust to help you complete the legal process. Because there is no search and no matching process, you can avoid many of the steps involved with an adoption where you are looking for the child to adopt.
Private adoptions are probably the most straightforward. They are also the rarest. This is common when children are being adopted within families or friend groups, especially when arrangements are made before the child is actually born.
4. International Adoption
Adopting from another country is probably the most complex route to adoption. It involves both domestic and international laws, including the rules of the Hague Convention and the laws of the country the child is coming from. International adoption always starts with locating an agency within the USA that is licensed to facilitate international adoptions with one of the countries that is allowed to adopt children to the United States. Your agency is then responsible for walking you through the process of completing a home study, doing all the paperwork, and matching with a child in the sending country. For most countries, you will eventually need to travel to that country for a period of time to finalize the adoption in a foreign court and bring your child home. Then, the adoption will be registered in an American court once you arrive at home.
My family chose the route of international adoption when we adopted our daughter from India. It was a long, tedious, expensive process with lots of paperwork. In the end, for us, it was worth it, because we could not imagine our family coming together any other way.
If you are interested in growing your family through adoption, the first step is to talk with an adoption lawyer in your state. Find out what your options are and discuss what legalities need to be covered for any of the above processes. Once you get that information, you will be in a better place to choose which route to adoption is best for you and your family.
Need to talk to a lawyer in Missouri about adoption? As an adoptive mom myself, I am happy to share my experiences and walk you through it, both personally and professionally. Click here to schedule a no-cost consult for us to talk.