There are a few different types of adoption. How do you know which is right for you?
If finances are an issue, then you may want to choose foster care adoption as it is usually the least expensive way to adopt a child. When adopting from foster care, it is often harder to be placed with an infant. Most children in foster care are slightly older and are school-aged children. That doesn’t mean that it is impossible to adopt an infant if you choose foster care adoption, but it could mean waiting much longer if you are hoping for an infant placement.
If you are a foster parent and you wish to adopt, you will want to let your agency know that you want to be considered for pre-adoptive placements. You will also want to be proactive in completing your home study and educational requirements, and other adoption paperwork in order to be able to accept legal risk and pre-adoptive children and be ready for adoption.
When pursuing foster adoption, it is also important to know that not every child that you foster will become available for adoption. The goal of fostering is to reunify the child with their family when it is possible. When a case heads toward adoption it has likely been a case that has been ongoing for more than a year. This means if you received the child as an infant, it may be after their first birthday before proceedings begin that would allow adoption. At any time during the time prior to termination of parental rights, the child may be returned to their family, or placed in a relative home or kinship care. After the termination of parental rights is when the adoption process can begin.
This wait and uncertainty in fostering can be hard for a hopeful parent to accept. Even harder, is when you foster a child for a long period of time and that child is reunified with their family. When you think the case has gone on a long time, and must surely be headed toward adoption, but then the parents start working the case plan and are able to regain custody of the children, it is a double-edged sword. While it is wonderful that a family is reunited and able to be together, it is also traumatic for the foster family who has loved this child as their own for a long period of time and now will mourn their loss.
There can be cases that lead to adoption that happen more quickly. In the cases of babies who are abandoned at hospitals (Safe Haven babies), the cases are considerably shorter if the parents are not found. Although many states typically require that the child stays in a home for at least six months before proceeding with the adoption, in these cases, the adoption typically occurs at that time. Parental rights for these babies, if parents are not found, can be terminated when the length of time reaches the definition of abandonment by the state.
When adopting through foster care, you may also want to be sure you are prepared for any trauma that the child may have faced in their lives and any behavior issues that may result. Has the child been neglected or abused? Does this child have special needs or need special care due to their early childhood trauma?
When adopting a child from the foster care system, the state often will continue giving the parents who are adopting a monthly stipend to help with the care of the child. Since many children from the foster care system have special needs, whether mental health or physical needs, there is an adoption subsidy that is often paid monthly to help with some of the costs of care. Not all children qualify for an adoption subsidy each month though, as it is a needs-based subsidy. When adopting an infant from foster care, you are less likely to qualify for a subsidy than if you are adopting an older child.
In most places, a child who is adopted from foster care is also eligible to receive state health insurance until they have reached adulthood.
When adopting through foster care, you do get time to adjust and decide if this child is a good addition to your household before committing to parenting them permanently.
When looking to adopt, once your home study is complete, you can request profiles on children who are already legally free to adopt, even from other states if you wish. You can access each state’s waiting children by searching online, and if a child or sibling group seems right for you, you can submit your home study and get more information. Adopting from the foster care system allows you to be more proactive in your search, rather than waiting and wondering if a birth parent is going to pick your profile.
As stated previously, foster care adoption is the least expensive way to pursue adoption. Some areas even offer reimbursement of some of the costs, making the adoption virtually free. Most foster care adoptions cost under $5,000 to complete.
As a former foster parent, I can say that I have had placements that I wish I had been able to adopt, but it wasn’t an option. I have also had placements that I would not have adopted had the option presented itself. Not every placement is one that is a good long-term fit. If you are hoping to adopt, you can assess whether the placement is one that is right for you and your family during the fostering process.
When adopting a child through domestic infant adoption, the cost can be a financial burden. Whether you choose to adopt independently or through an agency, the cost will be higher than a foster care adoption. Agency fees can be financially draining, as well as lawyer fees if you choose to try to adopt independently.
By choosing to adopt through domestic infant adoption, you are able to take placement of and adopt a newborn baby. Waiting periods between placement and finalization are shorter. The birth parents voluntarily terminate their rights to the baby, and you are then able to adopt the child. This process is much quicker than the foster care process, and because the birth parents have chosen an adoption plan, often less risky.
There are cases of birth parents changing their minds and choosing to parent their babies. This is why most states have a waiting period, so that parents can be sure they are making the right choice. Birth parents are the legal parents of the child (even if they haven’t taken placement of the child) until they sign legal documents to terminate their rights. Until they have terminated their rights, they can change their mind at any time. In some states, termination can take place as soon as 48 hours after birth. Other states have a wait time of 30 days after the birth before termination can occur. The statistics for birth mothers changing their minds is rather low compared to those in which adoption takes place.
Because domestic infant adoption is much more expensive than foster care adoption, it may not always be an option financially. When pursuing domestic infant adoption, be aware of the costs involved, and don’t be afraid to research agencies and gather information before committing yourself to work together. Be sure to check and see what costs are covered in the fee you are paying your agency, and be sure you are knowledgeable of the expenses that you will need to pay beyond that fee.
When adopting with an agency, the hopeful parents typically make an adoption profile that is available for birth parents to review. This profile usually consists of photos and information on the hopeful parents’ lifestyle and other family information. This helps birth parents to be able to choose a family to raise their child that they feel comfortable with.
There is also a question on what type of adoption you wish to pursue as far as contact afterward. Are you interested in an open adoption, semi-open adoption, or closed adoption? This is something you should discuss with your agency, and that should be part of the adoption profile. The type of adoption you are willing to pursue will make a difference when selecting a match. Both sides must be willing to work toward the same common goals regarding contact and the sharing of information.
While some states do not recognize or enforce open adoption agreements, if you choose to enter into this type of adoption you should do so in good faith with the intention of following the agreement that you make.
When you are working with an agency, they will do so much of the work for you in finding expectant mothers who are making adoption plans and submitting your profile for selection. This means that once you have completed the profile, you wait until there is interest in it from an expectant family. The agency then helps you to proceed based on the preferences you have given them, and the comfort level of everyone involved.
Often, agencies also have support systems in place to help with questions and with the emotional journey that is adoption. Agencies often provide support to both the adoptive and the birth families. This is one of the benefits of using an agency to adopt.
In some cases, hopeful parents are able to be present during the birth of their baby. This is different than the foster care process, in that most often the child is not matched with a prospective family immediately. The child is often placed in a temporary foster home until an adoptive resource is found.
If the financial burden of domestic adoption is too great, there are ways to help with the costs. Many people choose to do fundraising and ask their community to help with the costs of adoption. There are plenty of ways to help offset adoption costs with the help of social media and your community.
There is also the possibility of adopting a child privately without the use of an agency. This is called independent domestic adoption. In this type of adoption, the typical financial cost is that of the attorneys for each party to facilitate the adoption and paperwork.
When adopting independently, the adoption is typically one between friends and family, or acquaintances. For instance, a friend may find out that you are hoping to adopt and connect you to a relative of theirs who is looking to make an adoption plan.
How do you know which type of adoption is right for you?
I would encourage you to talk to others who have expanded their family with adopting, and listen to what they have to say about the process. Speak with those who have adopted through foster care as well as domestic infant adoption. You may even want to join support groups to help find information and share experiences.
If you are open to adopting an older child or a sibling group, foster care adoption would be a great fit for you.
Once you have determined if you want to pursue foster care or domestic infant adoption, you will want to begin getting the paperwork and home study completed. These things can take some time to complete, so you will want to get them done as soon as you can to help shorten your wait time.
Both types of adoption will require a home study, a background check, and other paperwork in order to begin the process. Some of the paperwork will feel very personal and you may wonder what you are getting yourself into. Adoption is a lifelong commitment, and the gathering of information is important to make the best match possible. While the paperwork may feel overwhelming, it is needed to help make the best possible decisions and to allow for a successful process.
Adoption is a lifelong journey that doesn’t end with the finalization court hearing. If you become a part of the adoption community, as an adoptive family or as a birth family, find a way to connect to others in your area who are also part of this unique family structure. Having others who understand your journey and who can provide support is essential in the journey.
Visit Adoption.com’s photolisting page for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families. For adoptive parents, please visit our Parent Profiles page where you can create an incredible adoption profile and connect directly with potential birth parents.
Jennifer is a mother to 3 children (one biological, two adopted). She is also a mom to numerous pets. She enjoys volunteering in her children’s classroom, reading, and crafting in her spare time. She has been married for almost 15 years.