There is no easy way to know exactly how long the adoption process will take. Each adoption situation is unique and comes with many variables that will determine the length of time it will take to physically bring a baby or child home. Up until now, you have been focusing on completing your home study. That process in itself is grueling and can take 2-6 months. Now that you have had a lot of “hurry up,” it is time to wait.
Once all paperwork signed by the prospective adoptive parents (you) and the agency certifies that you have met all requirements, you are officially waiting for a match. Essentially, prospective adoptive parents are waiting to be picked by an expectant parent who may or may not have already given birth to her child. It can take days or years for this match to occur. The National Adoption Center reports here that for domestic adoptions in general, “the time frame, like the cost, varies with the type of child being adopted. With a completed home study in hand, the process to adopt a child with special needs can often proceed quickly and be completed within a few months. The wait is typically between two and seven years for a healthy infant.”
For the domestic infant adoption process, the most indefinite period is waiting to be selected by an expectant parent so a match can be made. Sometimes this happens fast, and sometimes it takes months or years. In a poll of about ten adoptive families, the consensus was 18-24 months as the general wait time. There are several things that can affect your wait time. One is your list of adoption preferences. The more flexible you are, the higher the likelihood that your information profile will be shown to expectant parents. Another factor hinges on the networking of your adoption agency or lawyer. The more contact they make with expectant parents, the sooner a match can be made. Yet another time factor to consider is if the expectant parent is still several months from delivery or about to give birth or has already given birth.
Once the birth mother places the child with the adoptive family, there is usually a period of time called the revocation period in which she (or the father) can revoke the adoption plan, have her parental rights reinstated, and decide to parent the child. Should this happen, it is called a disrupted adoption, and the prospective adoptive family must return to waiting. The revocation time frame varies from state to state and is not necessarily a part of every adoption. (You can check each state’s regulations here.)
At the completion of the revocation period, there are several post-adoption home visits to verify the well-being of the adopted child. These will take place over several months. Once this is done, “paperwork ping-pong” begins. The adoption paperwork is sent back and forth between a judge and the adoption agency or adoption lawyer. In some states, the adoptive family and the adopted child must appear before the judge to make the adoption final. Some states allow the lawyer to stand in for the adoptive family, and some states don’t require a physical courtroom presence at all. Whatever the requirements are, at the end of this “legalese” portion, a final order of adoption is issued.
Adopting from foster care is quite similar to domestic infant adoption, with a few added steps. First, you have to become a foster parent. It can take about 6 months to become an approved foster parent, and each agency may have different training requirements. A home study is required for the fostering and fostering-to-adopt programs. Once you are officially an approved foster parent, you could receive a child placement at any time. The child could be with you for only a day or a prolonged period of time, depending on the child’s family situation. One difference with the foster program is the goal of reunification with the family. The child you are caring for may not become available for adoption. In the event that he or she cannot safely return to the family, and no relatives step forward, the parents’ rights are terminated, and the child becomes available for adoption by the foster family.
International adoption has its own set of requirements. Adoptionwork.com says here that “if you decide to adopt from outside of the country, you will have to follow not only your home country’s adoption rules, but also the rules of adoption in your child’s home country. With the combination or requirements, rules, and stipulations, waiting for your child can become a long process.” On their blog here, MLJ Adoptions give great insight into the international adoption process. The first step is the standard home study. Next is the compilation of your dossier, documents necessary to adopt from another country, which can take up to two months. The website also says that most of your time spent in step 2 is waiting on your Advanced Processing of the Orphan Visa approval after submission of your I-600A/I-800A application and that steps 1 and 2 should take 5 months or less to complete, but are contingent on the efficiency of your adoption service provider and USCIS. The dossier must usually be authenticated/apostilled and translated, something that can take approximately twenty to forty-five days. “Once your dossier is properly submitted in the country, you have started the country-specific process and …every country’s processing time varies. Once the foreign process is complete, you must complete the USCIS orphan visa process, which can take five days – four months. The U.S. Embassy in the country will provide information on time for processing the Orphan Visa.” (For a list of country specific wait times, go here.)
As you can see, the length of waiting after completing your home study will depend on a variety of factors. Your adoption professional can help guide you through the process and help you determine which form of adoption is right for your family. However long it takes, I can promise that the best things come to those who wait. Hang in there!
Virginia Spence and her husband Eric are parents to two awesome little boys who joined their family via domestic infant adoption. When she is not playing referee or engaged in tickle wars, Virginia can be found cleaning, reading, or drinking giant mugs of coffee. Virginia is passionate about advocating for life at all ages/stages and educating about adoption.