Deciding to grow your family through adoption is a big decision and not one that should be taken lightly. It’s important to gather all of the facts about the adoption process before moving forward. In this Mississippi adoption guide, we are going to go over various options for adoption in Mississippi and provide resources that can help you make your decision. We also hope to guide expectant mothers that are interested in placing their child for adoption and provide them with helpful resources that could aid them in making their decision.
Private Adoption in Mississippi
Adoption can be both exciting and overwhelming at the same time. There are a lot of different avenues that you can explore before committing to an adoption plan. If you are hoping to adopt privately, you can choose to adopt using an adoption agency or pursuing independent adoption.
Adoption agencies can be beneficial because they provide a lot of support for hopeful adoptive families as well as expectant mothers. Agencies are with you every step of the way:they walk you through your home study process, background checks, paperwork, and additional adoption resources in your area. When researching which agency to use, it is very helpful to get reviews and opinions from other families in the adoption community. There are domestic adoption groups on Facebook that you can join and ask questions in. This is a great resource to help in your decision-making.
Independent adoptions are a lesser known option in the adoption world but can still bring great joy to your family. An independent adoption is when a hopeful adoptive family and an expectant mother make a connection on their own, separate from an adoption agency. Sometimes these connections are made through friends, attorneys, doctors, or other professionals. Adoption.com offers Parent Profiles, which is a way to share your family with expectant moms. You create a profile that includes pictures, biographies of each member of your family, and can upload videos. Expectant parents can message you directly to build connections and form relationships.
When adopting independently, you will need to connect with an adoption attorney. A simple Google search can lead you to a long list of Mississippi attorneys that can help with adoption. As usual, it is important to read reviews, call the attorneys directly to ask questions, and ask for references from other families in the adoption community. You will also need to find a licensed caseworker to complete your home study for you.
Adoption Through Foster Care in Mississippi
A Mississippi adoption guide wouldn’t be complete without a rundown of adopting through foster care. Many people pursue adoption through foster care because there are little to no costs involved. It is also very rewarding to provide care, love, and possibly a forever home for a child or children with traumatic backgrounds. There are a lot of challenges that come with foster care, too. Foster care agencies work closely with foster parents to make sure they are well-trained and prepared for situations.
In Mississippi, the basic requirements to become a foster parent include the following:
- Must be age 21 at the time of the application
- Must be a Mississippi resident for at least 12 months
- Must have self-supporting income
- Must have approved references and background checks
- Must complete at least 12 hours of preservice training and 12 hours of in-service training every two years to maintain a license
- Must have smoke alarm, fire extinguisher, telephone, and transportation
- Must have approved water/sanitation system
- Must have adequate space and beds to provide each foster child his or her own bed
- Can be single, married, or divorced (Source)
As part of the licensing process to become foster parents, you are required to attend 12 hours of preservice training and 12 hours of in-service training every two years. These trainings include guidance on working with kids that have traumatic backgrounds, conflict resolution skills, and other informative trainings to get you prepared for foster care. Karyn Purvis is the author of The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family. She was one of the leading researchers in helping children from difficult situations. She talks of helping children in foster care saying, “Parents who are seriously committed to helping a troubled and challenged child thrive will vastly increase their odds of success by making a fundamental policy decision: to slow down their lives and put their child’s needs first” (Source).
After your trainings, home study, and paperwork are complete, you will be a licensed foster parent. Think carefully about what you and your family are comfortable with when it comes to a child in your home. Children in foster care range in ages and severity of trauma experiences. Most kids that have experienced trauma show their emotions through behaviors that are harmful to themselves or others. Before a child is placed in your home, your foster agency should do the best they can to update you on the child’s situation and behaviors.
If you are looking to adopt a child from foster care in Mississippi, you should explore the Mississippi Heart Gallery. The Heart Gallery is a listing of children whose parents’ parental rights have been terminated and are available for adoption. Most of the children that are on the Heart Gallery are generally older and/or part of a sibling group. If your goal is to adopt an infant from foster care, it is more likely that you foster the infant first, and, if parental rights are eventually terminated, then you’d be able to adopt the infant.
Home Study Process
The home study process can be a little overwhelming, but it isn’t anything to be intimidated by. When you work with a good caseworker, you can take each step at a time, and they will take care of the rest. A home study is a written report of your family and/or everyone that lives in your home. It’s all-encompassing and covers just about everything you can think of. To prepare for a home study, you should first gather your necessary documents (consult with your adoption professional on the specifics). Some of the documents used in a home study include but aren’t limited to the following:
- Social security card
- ID (driver’s license)
- Immigration documentation (if applicable)
- Birth certificates
- Marriage license (if applicable)
- Divorce documentation (if applicable)
- Background check
- Medical insurance
- CPR certification
- Pet vaccinations
- Proof of income (pay stubs, tax forms, letters from employers)
As a part of the home study, each member of your household, above the age of 18, will need to complete fingerprinting as a preliminary background check. Your caseworker can provide you with approved locations of where this procedure can be completed and authorized. You will also be encouraged to complete an application of sorts with questions to prepare you and your caseworker for your home study interview. You will most likely be asked about your educational history, your childhood, your relationship history (marriages, divorces, etc.), views on parenting, and the type of child you are hoping to adopt. The type of child includes things such as age, gender, race, and level of disability you are comfortable with, and you feel is most compatible with your family and parenting abilities. You will also discuss how involved and supportive your extended family and community are with your family’s decision to adopt.
After you’ve completed the preliminary paperwork, you will schedule a visit with your caseworker. The caseworker will often come to your home, look around your house, and sit down with each member of the family, individually, and as a group to talk about everything. Some people find this part especially intimidating, but caseworkers/social workers are really just trying to get to know as much as they can about you to put in your official home study document, which is a write-up of everything you discuss. After the home visit, your caseworker will take a few weeks to write everything up. Your caseworker will then let you look over your report before she or he finalizes it and will have it notarized.
A hopeful adoptive mother that has completed the home study process shares her experience saying, “We were foster parents for a while, so we have gone through the home study process twice already. When our caseworker for our private adoption home study came to visit, we weren’t nervous, but we did want to make a good impression. Right before our home study, we were taking family pictures for our adoption profile. We baked cookies as a family and immediately left to a park for some outdoor shots. We forgot to turn the oven off when we left. We came home to black cookies in the oven and a house that smelt terrible. The caseworker was expected to come in 15 minutes. We were laughing at our misfortune, opened the windows, and sprayed air freshener like our lives depended on it. It’s definitely a memory we won’t forget!”
The home study processes for private adoption and for adoption through foster care are a little different. A foster care home study focuses a lot more on parenting and your training for working with kids from traumatic backgrounds. Also, the turnaround time to have your home study completed can vary greatly on the caseworker and the agency that you use. Caseworkers that work in the world of foster care are often overworked and overwhelmed, leading to longer wait times.
Mississippi Adoption Laws
Single adults or married couples can adopt together in Mississippi. Same-sex couple restrictions are a bit more common in Mississippi. LGBT couples cannot adopt together but can adopt individually. This is something you should review with your attorney before pursuing adoption. In regard to facilitators, only an agency or licensed MI attorney can act as an adoption facilitator.
This would be an incomplete Mississippi adoption guide without some insight into affording and financing adoption. A big concern for families that are hoping to adopt is the cost of adoption and how they are going to afford it. When working with an adoption agency, you likely qualify for adoption grants, which can be a big help! There are many adoption grants that you can apply to. Depending on a grant, there are requirements you must meet to be initially approved. Grants require that you complete an application that references your income, financial situation, debt, and adoption expenses. Most grants require that you work with an agency or other adoption professional, like an attorney, so they can send the funds directly to them.
Another option for financing adoption is to host fundraisers. Your friends and family probably want to find ways to support you, but sometimes, they just need to have an organized event to show that support! You can research adoption fundraisers online, but a lot of the common fundraisers are auctions, puzzle piece fundraisers, large garage sales, and t-shirt sales.
There are also adoption loans that you can apply for. These are low to zero-interest loans that go directly towards funding your adoption. A lot of these loans are offered by the same organizations that offer grants. You will apply for the loan just as you would a grant. Adoption loans are usually paid off monthly and then can be completely paid off using the adoption tax credit.
The adoption tax credit is a program created by the federal government that reimburses families for adoption expenses. These expenses include agency fees, legal fees, and expenses related to travel. There are a few limitations to who qualifies for the tax credit so be sure to check with your adoption agency or adoption professional for more specifics.
For Expectant Mothers
If you have found yourself in an unplanned pregnancy or already have a child that you are considering placing for adoption, you are not alone! There have been many women in the same situation. It is normal to feel anxious, confused, and scared. The first thing to do is gather as much information as possible about placing your child for adoption. Reach out to local adoption agencies and learn more about them. Find out the kind of support they provide for expectant mothers, what their adoption plan process looks like, and more. A good adoption agency or adoption professional should allow you, as the expectant parent, to choose what you feel is best for you and your child. The choice should always be yours to make. The agency or professional should give you the resources you need to make a decision that you feel is best for you and your baby.
It is important to find an ethical agency that will hear your concerns and honor your desires. Join a support group for expectant mothers and get their opinions. Agencies that put the needs of the birth mothers at the forefront of their mission will support you throughout your whole adoption journey. They should offer and provide resources for counseling, resources for financial assistance and possible living expenses, direction on choosing medical and legal professionals, and post-placement counseling. A good agency will work with you to find the best family for your child.
Remember that you are this child’s mother—his or her first parent. You know what is best for your child. Your decision to place your child for adoption is brave and selfless. Don’t settle for anything less than a supportive agency that will connect you with a supportive family that will work with you and loves your child unconditionally.
Michelle is the mother to two beautiful children and a hopeful adoptive mama of one more! When she isn’t chasing her kids around, she is working as an adjunct professor teaching college writing and working as a freelance writer. She loves to be creative and runs her own floral design business for weddings and events. Her titles of wife and mother bring her the most joy, fulfillment, and challenge in her life.