Maybe it’s been a lifelong dream. Maybe you know someone who adopted and seeing it up close made it seem like a real option you can actually choose. All you know is that you’d very much like to adopt. So, how do you start? That’s a great question. Before I answer it though, I have a question for you: What kind of adoption are you hoping for?
There are different types of adoption, and every adoption agency works a little bit differently.
Are you interested in adopting a teen? Are you interested in adopting a group of siblings? Do you want to adopt internationally or locally? These are all questions you’ll be asked, so it’s a good idea to know what your family goals are before you choose.
Should You Choose to Adopt a Teen
If you want to adopt a teen, you will need to find an agency that provides that service. These are usually agencies that do foster-to-adopt, meaning you would end up becoming certified to foster in the state, and as soon as the child has lived in your care for 6 months, you can proceed with the adoption.
Teen adoption is a little different for a few reasons. Often, the teen will have a say in who adopts him or her. They may also be working through some trauma from past experiences. You can also adopt teens internationally, but be aware of the need for international travel, lawyers, and paperwork; this can be an expensive option–worth it, of course, but expensive. Adoption.com’s photolisting page is a great place to start. Depending on the state you adopt in, you can expect to submit a home study, complete interviews, and participate in different courses before finalization.
Adopting a Group of Siblings
If you choose to adopt a group of siblings, there are a few ways for that to happen. One option is private domestic adoption. You contact an agency and find out what their requirements are and proceed from there. Another way to adopt a sibling group is by fostering to adopt. There may be a sibling group listed as legal risk, and you can foster them until they can be legally adopted. That’s how my husband and I adopted all of our kids. We fostered a sibling group of three, adopted them, and a year later adopted a group of two more siblings.
The foster-to-adopt process created more anxiety for me than I care to admit. The kids had just entered foster care and it looked for a while like they might end up going back to an abusive situation. But, we stuck with them knowing that no matter what, they needed us right then. And now, they share both our home and last name.
Adopting an Infant
Adopting an infant can go one of three ways: foster-to-adopt (where you may or may not end up getting to adopt), domestic infant adoption, or international adoption.
Domestic infant adoption is one route toward a forever family. A birth mother picks you based on a profile–either digital or physical, depending on the agency–that you submit. A birth mother will select a family she’d like to meet. If she likes you, she will enter into a contract of sorts. Be aware that she can back out at any time; that is her right. Someone’s heart will probably break in this process. Proceed with caution.
The thing to know about international adoption is that the Hague convention makes the process complicated, but ultimately safer for the children involved. For instance, you can’t choose the baby you’re going to adopt. You can set parameters for what you want. The narrower the parameters, the more difficult it may be for a caseworker to find a match.
If you only want to adopt a healthy, blond-haired, blue-eyed infant boy, you may be waiting indefinitely. If you are willing to adopt any child under the age of two with no physical or genetic issues, the pool to choose from may be wider. If you want to adopt literally any baby of any nationality under the age of 4, the pool is wide and deep. You will probably get matched sooner, but be aware that disability, emotional, and physical issues can often manifest after the adoption is complete.
It is important to note that sometimes, the age on the paperwork may not be accurate. My oldest son was wearing a 4T shirt the first time we met, and he was 9 years old. Imagine a child who was raised in an orphanage with rotating staff and no one knows exactly what his birthday is. There is a chance that if the child is malnourished or has a growth problem, they could be years older than the paperwork states. It is a rare occurrence, but it does happen. Sometimes, that is the fault of the agency, but more likely, they just took a shot in the dark and they were way off.
Whichever direction you choose, I hope you end up getting to adopt. All adoptions are prone to complications, but they are worth the process in my opinion.
Christina Gochnauer is a foster and adoptive mom of 5. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Letourneau University. She currently resides in Texas with her husband of 16 years, her children ages 3, 3.5, 4.5, 11, and 12, and her three dogs. She is passionate about using her voice to speak out for children from “hard places” in her church and community.