Five Things You Need to Know When Preparing to Adopt

I have to admit. I was a little hesitant to write about adoption. I don’t have any experience with it, nor do I really want to pursue it. However,  it’s so important the GLBTQ community, especially younger families, that I want to provide help where I can. Luckily I have some amazing friends that have gone through or are going through the process, so I got to steal from their experiences.

I also found a ton of helpful information, which is great but can also be overwhelming.  I wanted to provide a cheat sheet with five essential things to know about the process and some resources to make further researching even easier.

1. Adoption is About The Adoptee. One of my friends has three daughters, all of which she adopted from foster care.  While I was looking for insights and complexities about the process itself, she pointed out that the most important principle to remember is that adoption is about the adoptee. You should focus on what you can bring to the child’s life, rather than what you think you’re entitled to. In short, you have to remember that you are dealing with a human being, not a product.  She pointed me towards the #FlipTheScript movement, which focuses on the perspective of those most affected by adoption – the adoptees.

2. Four Main Methods for Adoption:  Now that we have the right mindset, down to some nuts and bolts. There are four main methods of adoption:

  • State or Public Agency Adoption. This route involves adopting a child who is in foster care from the child welfare system. These children tend to be older and have been removed from their birthparents due to abuse or neglect.  While the goal is to return them to their parents, it’s not always possible. Of the approximately 500,000 children in foster care, 129,000 are eligible for adoption.
  • Private Agency Adoption. You can pursue an adoption through an adoption agency that helps place a child with you.  Agencies set criteria for who they accept (and may or may not be GLBTQ friendly), often requiring applications and classes. And if chosen by the agency, they match you with a selected birth mother. Adoptions can either be open or closed. The term open means that the birthparent identities are not kept from the child or adoptive family.  There also may be contact between the birth parents and adoptive family. Closed means the record of the biological parents are sealed.  
  • Independent Adoption. Instead of going through an agency, you can search on your own for parents who want or need to place their child in an adopted home. You will still need legal counsel and formalities to pursue this route.
  • International Adoption. This step involves adopting a child from another country through an agency or independently.  This process has been notoriously difficult for same-sex couples, as many other countries still discriminatory views of the GLBTQ community.

3. Be Thoughtful About the Situation You Create:  Adoption can provide many challenges. You will have to consider what you can offer the child emotionally, culturally, and financially. You have to address practical issues like whether you would better serve a boy or girl, whether sexual orientation matters, and how many children you want to adopt. You should also consider broader concepts like whether you want that child to know his or her birth parents, if you can adopt their siblings, and how you will explain adoption to your child. Here are some additional questions to consider.  

4. Costs Matter: When choosing where to adopt a child, you have to pick the route that’s best for you. However, keep in mind that costs for adoption can very widely. According to the Independent Adoption Center, it costs $0 to $1,000 to adopt from foster care (this includes government incentives and possible ongoing government support). Adoption from a non-profit agency will generally cost between $10,000 and $25,000. Independent adoptions with an attorney can cost $20,000 to $30,000.  International adoptions can also run in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, depending on country and travel fees. As you can see, being prepared financial is critical for adoption. More on how to do that next week.

5. Be Patient: As you can imagine, bringing a child into your home isn’t a quick process. I have two friends that are going through a private agency, and it took them 10 months and a ton of work just to get on the list of possible adoptive parents. That’s still not the end of the process. They now have to get chosen by a birth parent. That process can take a couple of weeks or a couple of years. The bottom line is you just have to be patient.  It typically is quickest to adopt through the foster care system, but even that can range from a couple of months to a year.

Hopefully these tips help make you aware of what is involved with adoption. Next week I address how to build the right financial foundation for the process.