The process of adopting a child can be a long and complicated ride, with far more financial and legal roadblocks than most people assume. Generally, there are three main channels of adoption in the United States: with the help of a private attorney or a local adoption agency, internationally, and through the foster care system. The path you choose will ultimately depend on several financial, legal, and personal factors.
This guide will explore everything you need to know about adopting a child.
Know Your Reasons for Adopting
Before embarking on this deeply fulfilling journey, you should be clear about your reasons. Below are some of the common questions adoption experts recommend you explore to help you identify which channel is right for you:
- Do you want to parent a newborn, or are you also open to adopting an older child?
- How much contact are you willing to have with your adopted child and their birth family?
- Would your home be a perfect fit for a child with special needs or a child exposed prenatally to drugs?
There are many online resources to explore these questions and many other concerns related to adoption. Some of the well-regarded non-profit resources include:
- Creating a Family
- North American Council on Adoptable Children
- National Council for Adoption
Decide Which Adoption Process Is Right for You
Understanding which type of adoption is perfect for you will enable you to pursue a path that will help you to easily integrate your adopted child into your life. Your options include:
According to the United States Child’s Bureau, there are over 440,000 kids in the foster care system. About half of these children have been legally cleared for adoption. This makes the foster care system an ideal option for prospective adoptive parents.
Most of these kids have suffered some form of neglect or trauma. So, before you take this path, you need to educate yourself on how to raise a child who has experienced grief. The best training you’ll receive comes once you’ve started the certification process. Every foster-adopt parent must do a home study and complete 20 to 30 hours of training.
Domestic Infant Adoption
If you desire to parent an infant, there are two main channels to follow: through a private adoption lawyer (independent adoption) or an adoption agency. The path you choose will depend on how involved you wish to be in the process.
If you adopt independently, you’ll have to handle all the aspects of the adoption process, including hiring an agency to do your home study and finding a prospective birth parent. It’s worth noting that independent adoption isn’t allowed in all states. Consult an experienced adoption attorney for help navigating the laws in Duluth.
International adoption has been steadily decreasing due to the closure of many countries’ international adoption programs. However, most parents still successfully adopt kids from abroad each year. This process varies considerably by country.
For instance, some countries restrict who can adopt based on sexual orientation, age, or marital status. You can visit the U.S. Department of State’s website on intercountry adoption to help familiarize yourself with adoption in individual countries. Make sure you keep checking back since laws and regulations can change rapidly.
Find the Best Adoption Agency
Finding an adoption professional can be a daunting prospect. While researching various adoption agencies, you need to understand that not all entities offer the same services in the same way.
Some will handle the entire process, helping you through every necessary step, while other entities may only handle specific parts of it. You must ask each agency you’re vetting to provide an accurate layout of the costs you’ll incur while working with them and whether those charges are a part of their adoption services.
As you do your research, make sure you know what you want and expect out of your adoption journey, and keep an eye out for red flags during the vetting process. Some vital questions you’ll want to ask your adoption agency include:
- What kind of children does the entity place (backgrounds, age, etc.)?
- How does the agency find birth parents?
- How many children has the agency placed in the past few years?
- How much does the entire adoption process cost – in total and in each part?
- How long is the wait time, on average?
- What’s the home study, and what does it require?
- What if the process doesn’t work out? Does the agency provide any financial protection?
Prepare for the Home Study
No matter which adoption process you choose, you’ll have to complete a home study, a process that allows you to adopt a child legally. A good home study will feature two parts: education and evaluation.
Aside from assessing your fitness to raise an adopted child, your caseworker should also educate you and provide you with the necessary resources. While it varies by agency and state, home studies can take about three to six months to complete.
They include a criminal background check, several visits to your home by caseworkers, proof of health coverage and income, health exams, and the names of people close to you who can act as references. For more information on preparing for home studies and what to expect from them, explore resources made available online by the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Know the Costs
Adopting through a foster care system is free and usually comes with subsidies. On the other hand, an independent adoption generally ranges from $15,000 to $40,000, an international adoption process from $20,000 to $50,000, and an agency adoption from $20,000 to $45,000.
With so many kids needing good homes and care, cost should never be the reason you don’t adopt. Ensure you check with your employer, as many provide adoption benefits and assistance programs. Also, check to see whether you qualify for an adoption tax credit.
Post Finalization Support
It’s always wise to talk with your adoption agency about their policy for post-finalization services to help you know what to expect during this time. There are myriad nuances that the adoption process can entail throughout the post-placement and finalization period for all parties involved, including the adoptive parents, birth parents, and the adoptee.
Engaging in ongoing support is a fundamental approach to creating a solid family base. As you adjust to your new family dynamic, embrace regularly using your support network, reaching out for additional professional assistance when needed, and engaging in continuing education on various aspects of the adoption journey.
If you’re ready to adopt a child in the Duluth area, it’s imperative that you work with a professional and experienced attorney who clearly understands the intricacies of adoption laws. Working in Northern Wisconsin and Northern Minnesota, Duluth Family Lawyer is here to assist you in navigating the complexities of adoption and give you peace of mind. Contact us today for a consultation, and we’ll be glad to answer all your adoption-related questions and help you get started on your adoption journey.