With a little time, a lot of patience, and some determination, you can get through the lengthy process of adoption. We can wonder how long adoption takes. Deciding to adopt can originate from countless reasons. Infertility, growing a family, or just wanting to give another child a good home name just a few. Whatever the reason, you need to be prepared to invest lots of time and energy in bringing that child home. Never in my life has my patience been tested more than during our adoption process. When I would finally feel like things were getting closer to the end, something would come up, and, yet again, my patience was stretched. Many factors can affect how long the entire process takes. Sometimes, it can be done in less than a year, but more likely than not, it takes a few years. It all depends on a few different factors as well as how willing you are to push through obstacles.
Once you choose which adoption agency works for you, you can begin the process. Some agencies may require an upfront fee, but others allow payments to be made throughout the process. The average cost for a private domestic adoption ranges from $40,000 to $50,000. Usually, all fees must be collected before a child is placed with you. There are many different types of agencies; some work with a religious background, some focus on special needs children, and some work specifically with international adoptions. Do your research and find the agency that works best for you. Each of them is slightly different, but all of them have the same basic pre-placement requirements.
Before a child is allowed to be placed in your home, there is a list of pre-placement requirements that must be met. This process can take anywhere from six months to over a year to complete. This stage depends on a lot of how much time and energy you are willing to invest. It also requires a few different meetings with your social worker to go over all your documents and to help prepare you to parent an adopted child.
Basic qualifications include:
*Basic parenting courses
*Education hours (which include courses or reading list)
Most of these requirements depend on how quickly you get them done. Some families, (like myself) pushed to have these requirements done as quickly as possible. This process is the only time you have full control over what you can do to speed things up.
Once you have been cleared, you can then begin working on your adoption profile book. This is where you can tell the biological parents all about you and your family. Many include the story of how you met, pictures throughout your childhood, hobbies, pets, and what dreams you have for your future child. It can be as detailed as you like, but keep in mind, the more information the adoptee parent has, the better ability they have to make the right choice. Your agency will work with you to make sure it meets all the requirements and suggestions.
Private agencies focus the majority on finding infant adoptions. Due to this, the time does vary depending on a lot of factors. They may include the race of the child, background, location, physical preferences, location, etc. The more restrictions and specifics you have on the type of child you are willing to adopt, the longer it might be to find a child that qualifies. Remember, it is also not about finding the child for you that takes time, the biological parents need to pick you as well. Many families are presented to adoptee parents multiple times before they are chosen.
Keep in mind, if you are open to children of different races, physical or mental handicaps, family backgrounds and location, you might be placed with a child sooner.
Once a child is placed with you, there is still some more waiting for the adoption to be finalized. Your social worker will have monthly (sometimes weekly pending on the agency’s specifications) meetups with you and the child. They will go over any health concerns, make sure the child is being well taken care of, and that your family is adjusting properly. These meetings are for the child’s benefit as well as yours. This is your opportunity to ask any questions about the family history, the legal process that is still involved, and plan on a court date.
The placement period must last for a specific legally-mandated set of time. Usually, it is no less than six months depending on your state and county regulations. This time allows your social worker and agency to prepare the needed legal paperwork. During this time as well, the birth family usually has 30 days to change their mind about the adoption. The amount of time allowed varies from state to state. Working with a well-established agency helps to ensure these don’t happen, but it does occur. After the 30 days, the judge will terminate parental rights and the adoption process will officially begin.
You may also be assigned a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA worker) to come alongside you through this process. This volunteer worker will act as an advocate for the child and submit a report to the judge before the adoption finalization.
Depending on your county, this waiting period can last anywhere from six months to a year. Once a court date is set, you will present before the judge and sign the official adoption papers. This is a joyous event because this means your child is officially legally yours. A new birth certificate and social security card will be created and mailed to you listed you as your child’s legal parents. Depending on what you have agreed to with your adoption agency, you no longer need to check in with them or have monthly meetings.
It is important to understand all your legal rights as well as be familiar with the legal paperwork you must be responsible for. Reading up on adoption laws will help you be better prepared and comfortable with the process.
Many families also look into international adoption. One reason may be to provide a child with a better life. It is also a lower risk of the parent changing their minds or contacting your child later on in life. It is also slightly cheaper to adopt internationally depending on what country you are working with. The average cost ranges from just $20,000 to $40,000.
Deciding to do an international adoption can feel overwhelming at first. However, using guides and connecting to other families who have gone through the process can really help calm your fears and help get you on the right track.
To begin your international adoption, you first need to make sure you are working with a local private agency that is authorized by your chosen country. Not all countries are open to international adoptions, so this process will take some research on your part. Once you are connected with an authorized agency, you will complete all the basic adoption requirements.
Once again, basic qualifications include:
*Basic parenting courses
*Education hours (which include courses or reading list)
Depending on the country’s regulations, they might add different requirements as well, such as necessary visits to the area, a basic understanding of the culture, and specific family and age requirements. Each country is different, so this is important to cover with your agency before starting the process.
You will also be required to submit a dossier (pronounced “doss-e-A”). A dossier is just a collection of paperwork that contains very detailed information about you. The majority of countries that allow international adoptions require this from prospective adoptive parents. These documents must be notarized as well as certified and authenticated. This process can take some time depending on how difficult it is for you to gather all your information.
In all, the average wait time for international adoptions is twelve to eighteen months. Keep in mind, you will not be adopting an infant. Even if you pick an infant right away, the child will usually be two to three years old by the time you get to bring them home. Many countries provide health information, photos and updates on your child throughout the waiting process; however, some countries have no limitations on when they can back out on the adoption. Many families have reached the final stages and were told the child was no longer available.
After placement, some countries require you to stay a short period in their area. Some require six months and yearly follow-ups. Your agency will continue to act as a mediator during the whole process.
International adoption is risky; however, it has many wonderful opportunities for both yourself and the child.
One Last Adoption Option: Foster to Adopt
Many families who cannot afford the thousands of dollars that private adoptions cost work with their local county agencies and adopt through foster care. Because the children in foster care are considered wards of the state, the legal fees are covered by the local government. Obviously, this is more financially beneficial to many families.
The length of time it takes to adopt through foster care varies greatly. Many factors must be met before a child is considered adoptable. You do need to complete all the requirements that are needed for private adoption before a child can be placed in your home. Depending on your county, this can take a year or two to process. Children in foster care are often older, have mixed backgrounds, and have experienced traumas in their lives. Just like with private adoption, you do have the right to request specifics on the child you would like to adopt. Doing so slows down the process of a child being placed with you.
It takes a lot of love and patience to be a foster parent but the most important aspect of fostering is reunification. Just because a child is placed with you, it does not mean they are eligible for adoption. Often children are returned to their birth parents many times before termination of rights occurs.
The benefit of working with your local county agency is you are allowed to look out of county for perspective children. Going through the adoption photo listings will help you find the child that is right for you. You can also continue researching about fostering in general through reliable sources.
Once a child is eligible for adoption through foster care, you will continue to proceed with the six months legally mandated waiting period, just like you would need to do during private adoptions. Depending on the age of the child, the judge might also meet personally with the child to make sure they understand the process. On average, it takes six to eighteen months to adopt through foster care. Many counties rush these adoptions for the benefit of the children.
After your adoption is completed, you are no longer required to submit updates or meet with your social worker. However, children adopted through foster care are often eligible for financial assistance until they turn eighteen as well as scholarships for college. You can work with your local social worker to make sure your child receives the benefits that are set in place for him or her.
From start to finish, it took us almost three years to finalize our daughter’s adoption. That included beginning with our certification process as well as waiting for the six-month legal period. There were many times that I felt frustrated with the process and the speed that it was taking. However, once it was completed, I was able to look back and understand that all we went through was to ensure we were the best possible option for our daughter. You will feel overwhelmed and agitated throughout the process, however, keeping your focus on your future child will help the process seem much more bearable.
Jen and her husband Juan live in a small southern California town with their four amazing kids, two dogs, a cat, a rabbit, a bearded dragon and some fish. Their youngest was adopted almost 5 years ago and turned their lives upside down in the most amazing way. Their daughter has Down syndrome and Autism and through this journey, Jen has found her voice as an advocate, blogger and author. Jen is a proud stay-at-home mom, youth pastor’s wife, writer, crafter and kitten raiser. When she isn’t spending time with her family she is online interacting with families from all around the world.