This is your all-inclusive West Virginia adoption guide to help you on your journey, whether you are hoping to adopt or are considering placing your child for adoption. Whatever part you play in the adoption process, you might be overwhelmed. If you are an expectant parent, you probably have a lot of things on your mind and don’t know where to start. If you are a hopeful adoptive parent, you might be aware there are a lot of preparations for adoption, but it’s hard to know what to do first.

Adoption is both a difficult and beautiful thing. It merges two families, that likely wouldn’t be connected otherwise, in the beauty of mutual love. Adoption increases the number of people to love and care for a child. It can bless families that are unable to have biological children, and provide support for expecting parents overwhelmed and scared for the future. We want to talk to both groups: expectant parents and hopeful adoptive parents in West Virginia. Both are important and both have a lot to process as they move forward with adoption.

Expectant Parent‘s in West Virginia

Expecting a child is very exciting. Growing a human inside of you is truly a miracle! While children are a miracle, beautiful, and so special – they are still a lot of work. The idea of raising a little one might be very intimidating. You have options, though. You can choose to keep your child and parent him/her, you can decide to place your child for adoption, or you can decide to terminate your pregnancy. We are going to dive a little deeper into what life might look like caring for a newborn and growing child, as well as what the process is for placing your child for adoption.

Caring for a little baby is a lot of work. They eat constantly, wake up every two to three hours in the night, and require your full attention. As a parent, you are responsible to provide for the physical and emotional needs of your child. To provide for your child, you will need a secure and reliable job. Look for a job that works with parents and understands the demands of parenthood. While you are at work, your child will probably need to attend a childcare facility of some kind. Whether it’s a daycare, friend, or family member that is watching your baby, it is important to have reliable resources for childcare, so that you don’t miss work. 

Your housing should be clean and reliable with the necessary supplies for you and your baby. It’s important to have on hand plenty of food, formula, diapers, and clothes. It’s recommended to establish a good rapport with a pediatrician before your baby is born. I also recommend surrounding yourself with supportive family and friends, as you adjust to a new baby and a new lifestyle. If you need help with any of these things, reach out to your local government assistance programs to get help with food, shelter, and a job. Here is a link with a lot of great options. 

If you decide to place your child for adoption, there are also a lot of things to consider. When you place your child for adoption, your parental rights will be turned over to another family. The adoptive parents will make all legal and medical decisions for your child and will be able to change how open your adoption is. It can be a very scary and heartbreaking experience to say goodbye to your child. Contact an adoption agency nearby. They will likely have counselors and caseworkers on staff that can help you work through making the decision to place your child for adoption.

You’ve made the decision to move forward with adoption, now what? Finding a great adoption agency is the first step. Look for an agency that has positive reviews and testimonials from birth moms, that show they put expectant and birth mothers as a top priority. Ask friends and acquaintances that have pursued adoption which agencies they used. Once you choose an adoption agency, you will want to think carefully about what type of family you will want for your child. You will be the one to choose your child’s adoptive family unless you turn that decision over to the adoption agency. How important is it to you that the family is made up of two parents? A man and a woman? Do you want them to be religious, or of a certain religion? Do you want your child to be raised with siblings? Do you want them to be adopted siblings? You will be able to look through many family profiles and choose a few of your favorite families. You might even get the chance to talk to them on the phone, and/or over FaceTime, or Zoom. You can ask to meet them before your baby is born to get to know them a little bit and form a relationship with them.

You will also influence how open the adoption will be. Some birth mothers choose to have a closed adoption, where they don’t have any interaction, or contact, with the child after the child is placed for adoption. Others want varying levels of openness. From once a year email updates to regular phone calls, visits, and pictures, exchanged. Be sure to voice your specific desires to your caseworker and hopeful adoptive families, so that there is no confusion on what you would like to have happen moving forward. You will also decide whether or not the adoptive family will join you in the delivery room, at the hospital, or if you will have your caseworker meet with them. 

Remember that you are not alone. There are a lot of resources available to guide and assist you through the process.

Hopeful Adoptive Parent

This wouldn’t be much of a West Virginia adoption guide if we didn’t also walk hopeful adoptive parents through the adoption process. When you are deciding to adopt, there are three main options to choose from: domestic adoption, adoption through foster care, or international adoption. They are very similar overall, but different in specific aspects, including finances, wait time, and the age of the child that you can adopt.

Domestic Adoption

Domestic adoption is a common route that interested individuals pursue. When you adopt domestically, you adopt a child, generally an infant, that is a citizen of the United States. You can either work through an adoption agency or adopt independently. When you work with an adoption agency, they should support you throughout the whole process. They should help you to navigate your home study, create your profile book, organize your paperwork, and connect you with an expectant mother. You can also work with an adoption consultant. An adoption consultant is usually a licensed caseworker that knows various adoption agencies, caseworkers, attorneys, and other adoption professionals. Working with an adoption consultant opens up the door to more possibilities, and generally, matches families quicker than working with one, isolated agency.

If you decide to adopt independently, you are responsible for finding a licensed caseworker to complete your home study, connect with expectant mothers, and hire an adoption attorney to finalize everything. You can connect with expectant moms through by creating a profile for your family. Your profile can include pictures, videos, and other information about your family. Expectant mothers can look through the various profiles and reach out to families that they think might be a good fit. Independent adoption is much less expensive than working with an adoption agency. It is a bit challenging but can be worth it in the end.

Regardless of the option you choose for your domestic West Virginia adoption, you will need a home study. The idea of a home study can intimidate people that have never been through the process. It’s not anything to be worried about. A caseworker works closely with your family to get a full overview of the atmosphere of the household and writes discoveries and observations into an official report. They likely will want to know about each member of your family – especially the parents in the home. They might want to know how you met, your educational and career history, what you value, how you parent, your relationships with extended family and friends, and just about anything else you can think of. The caseworker will also visit your home to ensure that it is clean, safe, and has sufficient space for a child. 

Foster to Adopt

There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to “foster to adopt.” We want to help clear up those misconceptions for you. Children are placed into the foster care system when they are victims of abuse, neglect, and/or drug use. They are placed into temporary care while their parents work towards improving their lives. A judge will decide what the parent, or parents, need to do to improve their circumstances. If the parents complete their services in a timely manner, they will be able to get their kids back.

Children that are in foster care range greatly in ages. Oftentimes, children stay in the system until they are 21 to receive additional support and assistance from the state. When deciding whether or not to be a foster parent, you will need to think carefully about the type of child that you are comfortable with having in your home. Children in foster care often come from trauma, so they might come to your home with a wide range of emotional baggage. Generally, kids are part of a sibling group and desire to stay with their siblings. You will want to know beforehand what you are comfortable with, as far as age range, gender, and race, how many children you’re comfortable having within your home, and their level of disability. 

You can decide to become a licensed foster parent through a private foster agency or through the West Virginia Department of Child Services. Training to prepare you for caring for a child with trauma and make sure that you are ready for everything that goes along with being a foster parent is available. It costs nothing to become a foster parent, and if you are able to adopt a child from foster care, the cost of adoption is also free. 

If you want to adopt directly from foster care, you can look into West Virginia’s Waiting Children. These are children whose parental rights have already been terminated and they are looking for their forever homes. These children are generally older, are part of a sibling group, and/or have some level of disability. To adopt a waiting child, you will still need to be a licensed foster parent. You can visit West Virginia’s Health and Human Resources website for more information about becoming a foster parent.

International Adoption

Finally, if you are looking to adopt a child internationally, you will go through a very similar process as you would for other forms of adoption. You will sign on with an agency, complete a home study, be matched with a child, and wait for the adoption to be finalized. Depending on the country that you adopt from, there are different requirements and legal hoops to jump through. It is required that you work with a Hague-accredited international adoption agency, to ensure that the adoption is legal and ethical. Children that are adopted internationally generally come from an orphanage in their country of origin. While you may be matched with a child younger than 6 months, it often takes a while for all of the paperwork to go through, and for the courts in other countries to approve the adoption. This is another reason why it is so important to work with an international adoption agency.

Michelle Donner 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.