Preparing for an adoption may very well be one of the most important things you will do as part of your adoption journey—with the obviously more enjoyable end goal of finalizing said adoption to be united with your child and live “happily forever family after.” No matter what type of adoption you choose, taking the time to prepare is critical to ensuring that your experience is a positive one—and not just for presentation day, but for the well-being of your family and, most importantly, your adopted child.

Learn About Adoption

So you say you’re interested in adoption? Similar to looking before leaping, learning before adopting is highly recommended. You should plan to research and learn as much as possible about the adoption process and what comes next to ensure that you are fully aware of what adoption means not just from the logistical paper mountain point of view, but from the, “We’re about to make a lifelong commitment to a child,” point of view. Adoption, after all, is not just about you.

What Does Adoption Mean? Before you decide that adoption is for you, you should take the time to investigate what adoption means. According to Adoption.org, “Adoption is the establishment of a legally recognized, lifelong relationship between adoptive parents and the adoptee(s) in question. Adoption is a permanent choice for birth parents.” 

Adoption.com offers an entire page devoted to families interested in adopting with links to everything you will need to know to get started on your unique journey. Adoption.com’s “How to Adopt a Child Guide” offers helpful and important insight, highlighting questions and scenarios that you should consider before deciding whether or not adoption is the right choice for you

Are You Ready? You may want to ask yourself if you are ready for adoption. No matter how well-intentioned you may be, adoption is going to change your family’s life. The article “How Will I Know If I’m Ready To Adopt? Poses the question of, “Are you ready to put a child’s needs before your own?” This is truly the quintessential question of becoming a parent and with adoption, the stakes are a bit higher as you are bringing a child into your home—offering to become a family for a waiting child. Are you up for that challenge? Are you ready to learn what you don’t know to become what an adoptive child needs?

If you’re in a relationship, make sure to talk about adoption with your spouse to ensure that you’re on the same page. Although it may be your desire to adopt, if that sentiment is not shared by your partner, you’re not doing yourselves or a waiting child any favors.

What Type of Adoption? It’s important to understand that not all adoptions are alike or approached in the same manner. A person can adopt their stepchild or relative. With international adoption, a couple can adopt a child from another country. Prospective families may also wish to adopt from foster care. This is where a child’s parents have voluntarily or involuntarily relinquished parental rights and the child is in need of a permanent home. Another type of adoption is domestic infant adoption, where a person or couple adopts a baby in the United States.

Know the Requirements

For the most part, the requirements to adopt a child domestically, foster to adopt, and internationally are similar; however, there are differences that you should be familiar with before you start the process.

“Determining eligibility to adopt is based on a process of mutual assessment and preparation by the prospective parents and social worker or agency,” according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. “Most people are eligible to adopt, regardless of whether they are married or single, their age, income, or sexual orientation. Having a disability does not automatically disqualify a prospective adoptive parent. Some countries have specific requirements and restrictions for families who want to adopt from those countries. Faith-based agencies may also have specific requirements for families adopting through their agencies.”

Research by State. Adoption laws vary by state. You can learn more about various state adoption laws here and you can find out specific requirements here.

Research by Country. According to Travel.state.gov, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is the federal agency that determines a person’s eligibility to adopt overseas. According to their website, “you may not bring an adopted child (or a child for whom you have gained legal custody for the purpose of immigration and adoption) into the United States until USCIS has determined that you are eligible to adopt from another country. Adoptive parents also must meet certain requirements to bring a foreign-born child whom you’ve adopted to the United States.” You can find country-specific information by clicking here.

Finding Support

You’ve heard the expression, “It takes a village…” and in the case of adoption, this is very much true. Whether or not you ever experience an “issue” with adoption, adoption itself is an issue worth reaching out to family, friends, and professionals to ensure that you start out on the right track and stay on track long after the last of the i’s are dotted and the t’s have been crossed. A wise woman once advised an anxious and adoption paperwork-weary mom-to-be that if I thought this was hard, wait until the parenting begins. 

Talk to Your Tribe. It’s a good idea to share your adoption plans with those closest to you ahead of time. The adoption process is uncertain for sure and you may find yourself looking for a listening ear from time to time for the duration. Not to mention preparing for post-adoption. 

Share what you know as you learn it—although it’s 2019 and you’d think everyone would be up-to-speed on the latest in all things adoption, guess what? The people in your neighborhood have their own things going on and have no idea what adoption is any more than you did when you first took the time to research and learn about it. So don’t hold that against them. Take the time to educate those closest to you as they will most likely play a major role in the life of your adoptive family.

Siblings. If your bumper sticker already declares that you have a child or two on board, make sure to take the time to explain adoption to your children. Just as adoption is going to be a big transition for you, it’s also going to be a life-changer for them. There are many books and movies available to help.

Support Groups. There are adoption support groups all over the place. And if there aren’t any in your immediate vicinity, consider building a community with other adoptive families in your area. Although it may feel like you are the only one going through the adoption process, there are many other families just like yours with the same questions and uncertainties. 

It will be important for both you and your family to seek out support and resources to help you not just through the beginning stages and paperwork, but to be there through all of the changes that adoption will bring into your new life together as an adoptive family! 

Financing Adoption

It’s no secret that adoption can be costly and it’s important to be prepared for these expenses before proceeding so that you know what to expect and are ready financially. Make sure to speak with your financial advisor and adoption specialists to make sure you know what you are getting yourself into before you get into it.

So just how much does adoption cost? Well, this varies depending on the type of adoption you choose and can be impacted by a variety of other reasons. Make sure to do your research and create a budget that works for you and your family.

While private adoption can be relatively expensive, foster to adopt can be extremely reasonable, and in many cases, more manageable than other routes—oftentimes, foster to adopt comes at little to no cost after subsidies and reimbursements. The “Affording Adoption Guide provides advice on everything from what costs to consider to how best to budget for your adoption. Aside from saving every penny, garage sales, and fundraisers, it’s important to familiarize yourself with available loans, grants, and even aid through various employers that offer adoption benefits in order to supplement costs

The adoption tax credit is another avenue available to adoptive families. You should consult with your financial advisor for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Find an Agency

One of the most important things you’ll do to prepare for an adoption is selecting an adoption agency that is right for you. Most people new to adoption know very little or next to nothing when it comes to the topic of adoption. Why is an adoption agency necessary? What services do they provide? How are they different? What will they do for me? What can I expect? Bottom line: The agency you choose can make all of the difference for both you and an adopted child.

Adoption.com’s offers adoption agency information here

When selecting an adoption agency, make sure to ask a lot of questions, talk to other adoptive families to hear about their experiences, and be on the lookout for red flags. A good adoption agency will be willing to provide you with the resources and information you will want and need to make important choices. Do not settle for anything less.

Home Study

Once you have decided what sort of adoption you hope to pursue and have selected an adoption agency, the next step will be completing an adoption home study.

According to an Adoption.com article, home studies are not meant to make you ill at ease; rather, a home study is an exploration of the sort of home that you can offer to a child. It is a gathering of required information to connect you to a waiting child. And it is an exchange of knowledge to ensure that you fully understand and are prepared for adoption and whatever goes with becoming a parent to an adopted child. 

“Your home study will consist of a series of documents which may include a health evaluation, background checks, and vital legal documents (like your marriage license and birth certificates). Additionally, there will be an interview and a home visit. The social worker then will gather all of the information into a written report which will be given to your state’s department of family services.

In the case of international adoption, your social worker will submit your paperwork to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. 

Click here to find a home study professional in your area, links to home study requirements by state, and information on home studies specific to international adoption.  

Make Your House a Home

Whether or not you are first time parents or first-time adoptive parents, making sure to make sure you are prepared on the homefront is a good idea.

Whether you are adopting an infant or an older child, you should prepare for your child’s home coming in advance. Keep in mind that coming into a new home is a huge adjustment for all members of your family, but especially for an adopted child. Be ready. Be flexible. Be open to change. 

The article “10 Things Adoptive Parents Should Do When Bringing Their Child Home For The First Time suggests things adoptive parents can do when bringing their child home for the first time.

Post-Adoption Preparedness

It’s okay and frankly, it’s imminent that no matter how prepared you are, you’re going to have questions post-adoption. And that’s okay! In fact, the only scary part would be if you don’t have any questions. Adoption is an ongoing and ever-changing reality for adoptees and adopters. One of the most precious gifts that you can give to your adopted child is being flexible and open to learning and growing together along your adoption journey. Understand that with each passing year comes changes and questions that you may or may not be prepared for—and that’s okay! 

 

Sue Kuligowski is a staff storyteller at Adoption.com. The mother of two girls through adoption, she is a proposal coordinator, freelance writer/editor, and an adoption advocate. When she’s not writing or editing, she can be found supervising sometimes successful glow-in-the-dark experiments, chasing down snails in the backyard, and attempting to make sure her girls are eating more vegetables than candy.