Some families are grown through biologically having a child, others are grown through the gift of adoption. But what is domestic infant adoption? I am so glad you asked. Because that is exactly what I want to explain to you today. And it is near and dear to my heart, as our son was adopted through a domestic infant adoption. I can’t wait to share in our journey with you, help you along the way and hopefully answer your question: what is domestic infant adoption? Before I get too deep into answering your question, I want to point out this article should not be considered legal advice, rather it is written from my own experiences and research. Please reach out to a local adoption agency or adoption attorney for legal advice in your area. For now, let’s explore what is domestic infant adoption.
Let’s start from the very beginning, what is adoption? Adoption is the process of a child legally becoming part of a family other than that which they were born through the adoption process. There are several different types of adoption: domestic infant, foster care adoption, international adoption, special needs adoption, etc. For the sake of this article, we are going to explore domestic infant adoption.
Is adoption right for you?
First and foremost, I encourage families to discuss if adoption is right for them. You are going to know your family better than anyone else and making sure you are capable and open to adding to your family through the gift of adoption is essential. I can tell you our decision to adopt wasn’t fully based on our infertility struggle, however, it did play a part in it. We knew, even before we tried to have children, that there was a possibility of not being able to conceive naturally. As hard as that was to accept, we knew we wanted to adopt regardless. We have approximately 12 children who are adopted in our extended family. It was something we were extremely familiar with. The only decision we had to make was on the type of adoption we wanted to pursue. We were young at the time, so most international adoptions were out for us because of our age and the length we had been married (only one year at the time). We also knew our hearts and minds were not ready for foster care. The main purpose of foster care is parent reunification, meaning the child could be placed with you for an undetermined amount of time and then placed back with their biological family. Our hearts weren’t ready for that, at that point in time. So we decided to go the route of a domestic infant adoption. The agency we went through (also the same everyone else in our family had gone through) only practiced open adoptions. At first, I was not too sure about that. I was skeptical that the birth mother and/or father would want too much involvement in our child’s life. Of course, through time and education, I know now that open adoption really is what is best for the child. More about that later. For now, what is the domestic infant adoption process?
Attorney vs. Agency:
First things first, what route do you want to go—attorney or agency? An agency adoption is basically an adoption that is completely coordinated through an adoption agency. This is what we did. As mentioned above, we simply chose the agency every one else had used in our family. While it worked out in the end, I wish I had done more research regarding adoption agencies. And this is why: Your adoption agency essentially becomes one of your closest friends during the adoption process. And for us, we waited almost six years before we were matched with our son’s birth mom. Now, don’t panic about how long we waited. Every situation is different and every adoption is unique. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I now know that we were waiting for the child created just for us. It was hard to accept while going through the process but I know our son was meant to be ours and made the wait well worth it. The other option is using an adoption attorney. An adoption attorney is used in an independent or private adoption. This usually occurs when you already know an expecting birth mom and do not need to utilize an adoption agency for a match. Neither option is right or wrong. They are both great options and will depend on your family’s needs. The processes are similar between the two but in a private or independent adoption, you will not need to prepare for a match with a birth mom. Below are the basic steps you will need to go through for a domestic infant adoption.
1. Find your agency or attorney. I know I mentioned this above but I truly believe this is a crucial step in the adoption process. The adoption process can be a very emotional process and having an agency, specifically a worker, you feel comfortable with is essential. You will be required to discuss how you chose the adoption process, what it means to you, what having a baby means to you, your infertility struggles (if applicable), your relationships, and much more. These are personal discussions and having a worker you feel comfortable with is a must. Most adoption agencies have informational meetings you can attend before deciding to work with them. Go to as many as you feel comfortable going to or that you have available to you. You usually get a good feeling about one of them, this is the one you should go with. Go with your gut feeling, this is the first instinct you should become familiar with in regards to parenting. It will come in handy, many, many times. They usually have an application process after that. You will learn more about how the agency processes adoptions at the information meeting. It is good to ask any questions you may have at that initial informational meeting. Having the most information available to you is always essential that way there won’t be any “surprises” down the road.
2. Every adoption must have a completed home study. Even if you are choosing to work with an adoption attorney, you must find an agency to complete your home study. The home study is made up of two parts. One, supplying the required paperwork to your agency and two, the physical home inspection. In addition, you will also be required to be interviewed by your agency worker. This can be done at the home inspection or at a separate time depending on your agency.
The first stage is usually collecting and submitting the required documents to your agency. The specific documents will change depending on your agency, however, the list usually includes the following:
– Birth Certificates
– Marriage Certificate
– Financial information, including paystubs, tax returns, employment verification, etc.
– Health records, including a signed form from your physician
– Insurance verification, including health, dental, life, etc.
3. Upon submitting all the required documents to your agency, the next step is to schedule your home visit. Some agencies will include your interview at the home visit, if not, your interview will be scheduled at a different time than your home visit. If I have said it once, I have said it a million times, the home visit is not a judgment visit. Your worker is not there to see how clean your house is or if it is decorated a certain way. Your worker is there to make sure your home is a safe place to welcome a child into. They are also there to help educate you on bringing a child into your home and making sure you understand the safety concerns. Agencies usually provide you with a list of certain safety requirements your home must meet. Some of those requirements include smoke detectors outside every bedroom, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, outlet covers, safety evacuation plan, gated stairways, and more.
4. Lastly, is your interview. As I indicated above, most agencies include this interview in the home visit. That way they are able to interview everyone in the house at one time. However, some agencies conduct the interview before completed the home visit. Just be sure to know what your agency does ahead of time so you are prepared. The interview is where your worker may ask personal and emotional questions regarding your journey to adoption. This is why I also encourage working with an agency you feel comfortable with. Your worker will also want to interview any children currently residing in your home if age-appropriate. Make sure you are honest in your interview and again, they are not there to judge you, they are there to get to know you so that they place the right child for you in your home.
5. Upon completing all the requirements of your agency, you will become a waiting family. Some agencies also utilize the use of a portfolio in order to match you with a birth mother. This is what we did for our agency. A lot of agencies are now creating them online, but they are essentially a scrapbook of your life. You should include pictures of your family, pets, any children you have, hobbies, etc., to show the birth mother what it would be like to be a child in your home. I also know some agencies will help you create this. I will also tell you we re-did ours three times before settling on the portfolio that our son’s birth mother saw.
Once you become a waiting family, this may be the hardest part of the process. As I mentioned above, the wait time is different for every family and every adoption. I know people who waited for two months and I know people who waited two years. There is no set schedule on when it will happen. Other than, it will happen when it is meant to happen for your family. This is also a time when having a good relationship with your agency worker will come in handy. You can call upon them when you are waiting and struggling with the wait time. They are there to listen, and they are there to help you along the way. Our social worker was amazing and during our long wait, she was always there when I called, texted, or emailed. She even suggested that I meet with other waiting moms and moms that had adopted already. It was a great opportunity to be around those who are in the same boat as you. It is hard for our family to understand what we are going through unless they have been through it too. Find a support system—you will need it.
6. Once you are matched, the sequence of events will be determined by how far along the birth mother is. We met our son’s birth mother when she was 19 weeks pregnant. This is really soon in a pregnancy to be matched with a birth mother. Usually, matches occur closer to the seven or eight months mark. However, meeting her this early in her pregnancy gave us the opportunity to get to know her better and to walk alongside her during the rest of her pregnancy.
One thing you will determine—the hospital plan. What will happen when the time finally comes? Will you be there? Does she want you there? Will your family be there? Does she want to hold the baby? Will you take the baby home from the hospital? Who will name the baby? There are a lot of things to be determined during this time. The conversations will be led by your agency worker if you need it. Otherwise, this is a plan established by the birth mom. Depending on what state you reside in, this will determine what the process looks like for terminating her parental rights. Usually, you will be able to leave the hospital with the baby unless there is a need for in-home care until the birth mother’s rights are terminated. Again, this is something that will be known before the baby comes. Again, depending on your state’s requirements, a termination of parental rights hearing will need to take place. After that, there is usually a waiting period before the adoption can be finalized. I know in the state of Wisconsin that waiting time is six months. During that time, your agency worker will make visits to your home to ensure everyone is transitioning well. I know our agency worker came to our house three times, and we met at her office a few times with other families that had recently had a baby placed with them as well. This was a great opportunity to meet other adoptive families. In fact, we are still in touch with one of these families today, five years later.
7. After all the waiting periods have been met and all the legal documentation has been prepared, the day of finalization will come! This is a great day. You will need to attend a hearing usually before a judge or court commissioner. They will make sure all the documentation is properly taken care of and will ask you a few questions about your desire to proceed with the adoption. Then, you will legally become your child’s parents. Their birth certificate will be changed to read their new legal name (if you are changing it) and list you as their parents. Some people celebrate this day known as Gotcha Day.
I hope this article helped answer your question: what is domestic infant adoption? I also wish you well during your adoption process. There will be days when it will be easy and there will be days when it is more challenging, just know it is all worth it in the end!
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Jessica Heesch is an avid runner and fitness guru by choice, occasional writer by coincidence, loved by an amazing husband, and mother to an incredible boy, Jackson, by the gift of adoption.