Learn the steps for adopting an infant.
Adoption is an exciting journey especially when you’re dreaming of a tiny new baby. If you’re hoping to adopt a baby, you’ve come to the right place to discover more about the adoption process. We’ll tell you how to get started with adoption, the steps you’ll complete for your home study, what the costs are, and how the process works. By the end of this article, you’ll have a good grasp of what it takes to adopt an infant and begin your incredible adoption journey.
Before You Begin
The first step is knowing whether infant adoption is right for you. Domestic adoption is also known as private infant adoption. Because many families prefer to adopt a baby, the wait can be long for an infant and the cost is high. It’s important to ask yourself several questions as you prepare to begin. Are you willing to go through the complicated process of adoption which involves multiple steps and an investment of time? Can you accept waiting for months or years before a child is placed with you? Are you okay with revealing personal aspects of your life in the home study? If your answer to those questions is yes, then you’re ready to begin. If you have some concerns about any of these questions then talk with an adoption agency to address your questions. Although adoption is often a roller coaster ride, knowing what to expect will help you to find your way easier.
Why Do People Choose to Adopt a Baby?
One of the top reasons people adopt a baby is because they want to expand their family and are most comfortable adopting an infant. Even though infants will deal with the effects of adoption later in life, they may not have the same level of trauma that a foster child might have.
Many parents love the infant stage and want to be part of their child’s life from the very beginning. Infant adoption gives adoptive parents the chance to build strong attachment and bonding right from the start as they provide all the caregiving for their child. Through the first year, when attachment is crucial, the baby is being given the building blocks for a stronger emotional health. All these practices form the vital attachment bonds that help children to grow and develop into healthy adults.
Other reasons why a couple might want to adopt an infant include experiencing infertility or miscarriage. This may lead a couple to consider adoption, especially if they have not had a biological child and want the experience of caring for an infant.
How Do I Adopt a Baby?
If you have your heart set on adopting an infant, you may need to find an adoption professional to assist you through the domestic adoption process. To find a licensed adoption agency or attorney in your state, start by using the adoption directory on Adoption.com. Agencies and attorneys provide different services, so be sure to understand the difference before you commit.
In addition, talk to friends and family who can give recommendations of adoption agencies or attorneys and find out why they were satisfied or dissatisfied with their services. Many agencies will provide you with an information packet or invite you to attend an introductory meeting. This can be an important first step because you can get your questions answered and receive a breakdown of the fee schedule.
One word of advice before you begin: be wise before jumping into any program. If you do your homework ahead of time, you’ll have a good idea of how the adoption agency or attorney works, what the next steps are, and how many adoptions they’ve done in the last few years.
Adoption agencies typically track their adoptions in the last few years and can also tell you how many waiting families are in the program. This is important to know because if there’s a high number of waiting families, there may be a long wait for an infant adoption. You may also want to check whether they work with birth mothers and how many are in their program currently. Although these numbers can change at any moment, it’s helpful to see how active the program is and what the average wait time might be. Although no one can predict how long you’ll have to wait for a baby, the number of birth parents they work with versus the number of families in the program can be a good indicator of whether your wait will be long or not.
Diving into the Home Study
After attending an introductory meeting and finding out more about the process, you’ll begin your home study, which is a detailed written record about your family that includes your background history, employment, home, finances, references, a criminal background check, and your health history.
A caseworker from the agency will complete the home study for you, but it will require a commitment of time and energy on your part as you fill out paperwork and fulfill the required steps. You’ll complete paperwork and will need to meet with the caseworker for home visits. Although it’s common to be nervous about these visits, they are part of the process and caseworkers do not expect you to be a perfect family with a perfect home. Instead, they are looking to see that you have adequate space for a child and that you have the appropriate safety features in your home. They will also conduct interviews with you and each member of your family. These interviews will help them complete the home study process and are typically informal conversations about your personal history and family.
State law also requires you to get a criminal background check as part of the adoption process, which usually includes fingerprinting and background checks for child neglect, abuse, and other crimes. Each state has its own laws concerning these requirements, so be sure to check with your agency for the necessary steps.
After the home study is complete, your next step is to wait for a match with birth parents. If your agency works directly with birth parents, they may show your family profile to expectant mothers. If they don’t, then you will need to find ways to connect with potential birth mothers. This can be a challenge, but technology provides more access to advertising your adoption than ever before. Get the word out concerning your adoption with friends and family and use online resources to connect with birth parents on your own. One resource is our online profiles for parents. This allows you to share your family story and pictures with potential birth parents and find a match.
Most birth parents will want to talk with you to see if they feel like your family is a good fit. They may ask you questions about how you will raise a child and what opportunities you will provide. They will want to know what kind of adoption you are interested in—an open or a closed adoption—to see whether they can have contact with their biological child.
These days, many birth parents want an ongoing relationship through an open adoption. Open adoptions take many forms, including sending pictures or letters to the birth parents every year, or visits in a neutral location or home. Every open adoption arrangement is unique, depending on how comfortable you are, and whether the birth mother and father want contact after birth.
Decide how much contact you’re comfortable with so that you don’t make promises that you can’t keep down the road. An open adoption does provide some benefits for the adopted child in answering their questions about identity, biological family, and having some contact with their heritage. But the entire family needs to be committed to an open adoption relationship.
How Long Does It Take to Adopt a Baby?
The timing for an infant adoption varies considerably depending on whether you have already found a birth mother and what kind of child you are open to bringing into your family. If you desire a healthy Caucasian infant, the wait for adoption will likely be very long. But if you are open to adopting from another race or feel called to adopt a child with special needs, this may shorten your wait. However, it’s important to make these decisions based on what you feel comfortable with and can handle, and not because it will speed up your adoption. Adoption is a lifelong commitment and the wait is only a small part of your journey.
How Much Does Adopting an Infant Cost?
The cost for adoption varies widely depending on where you live and what your agency or attorney charges. On average, these fees typically range from $8,000-$40,000 or more and help provide staffing, administrative costs, and other services like birth parent counseling. Keep in mind that agency fees do not cover everything to adopt a baby. Legal fees are considered a separate fee, as well as birth parent expenses and the cost to travel.
It’s easy to be intimidated by the cost of adoption, but fundraising options are abundant for adoption. People love to support a family who is adopting a baby. Online fundraising platforms exist that will help you raise money, use social media to spread the word, and only take a small cut from your overall funds. Some families prefer to do a fundraiser selling a physical good, like food products, garage sale items, or crafts, in order to meet their adoption savings goals.
Adoption grants are also available and typically involve filling out paperwork and providing proof of your adoption journey. However, many of these grants are not provided until you have already paid your agency fees. In other words, they are offered as a reimbursement to the fees you pay your agency. This means you need to have the money to pay your agency before you receive a grant. Adoption loans are another option for families who prefer not to fundraise. They usually involve low-interest fees of 3 percent or less and may provide a stopgap between the time you pay for adoption fees and receive the adoption tax credit.
Adopting through foster care is another way to adopt a baby, although it is more uncommon. Most children adopted through foster care fall between the ages of 2 to 18. However, if you become a foster parent, you may have an infant placed in your home. If parental rights for that infant are relinquished, then you may have the first opportunity to adopt that child. In order to become a foster parent, you will need to go through your state foster parenting program to become licensed.
Foster adoption also involves getting a home study just like private infant adoption. You will be given a caseworker who will write a detailed report on your family. You will also be required to get background checks and complete pre-service training hours, according to your state’s guidelines.
Check with your state department of family services to find out what the requirements are for foster parent licensing. Often the pre-service hours include learning about the effects of trauma, abuse, and neglect on children. Foster children have typically experienced some form of trauma and parents need to have additional support as they work through these issues with their foster child. Waiting children are also available through foster care but are typically not infants.
Before a baby can be placed in your home, the biological parents will need to consent to the adoption. Birth mothers who choose adoption for their child will sign consent forms giving up their parental rights once the baby is born. States typically allow birth fathers to sign consent forms before the child is born, but there is usually a specified time of waiting after the birth of a baby before a birth mother can sign those papers. Check with your state laws to find out how soon a birth mother can consent to an adoption once a baby is born. Once rights have been relinquished, then the baby can be placed with you and you can finalize your adoption in a court of law.
As you pursue your adoption journey, it’s important to keep perspective along the way. The wait may be long but will be worth it when you hold your child in your arms. If you need additional support, then consider joining our parent forums to get your questions answered and to find others who are on a similar adoption path.
To find out more about adoption, read from one of our domestic adoption or foster to adopt guides. You can also access our Parent Profiles which help you tell your family’s story while finding birth parents.
Sara R. Ward is a writer, adoption advocate, and mom to three children through adoption. Her passion is helping adoptive parents and those who struggle with infertility and grief on her blog PoetsandSaints. Sara writes about parenting, marriage, and faith and has a book coming out in 2019. Follow Sara on Facebook or Instagram @SaraRWard.