If you’re considering adoption or know someone who wants to adopt, you’ll likely be curious about the steps involved to complete an adoption. The following steps typically occur with domestic newborn adoptions. International adoptions will require additional steps, and those through foster care will require less.
1) Informational meeting — Before you start the adoption process, you will want to meet with an adoption agency or attorney. Many agencies have group informational meetings for potential adoptive parents. Those that don’t offer these can set up a one-on-one meeting with you. An agency representative or attorney will give you an overview of how the process works and will answer your questions.
2) Preliminary application — Once you’ve chosen an agency, you’ll need to complete a preliminary application and pay a small fee. This application will include basic information about you, including your ages, employment info, finances and reasons for wanting to adopt.
3) Formal application — After your preliminary application is approved, you will need to complete a more detailed formal application. You’ll need to gather and make copies of important documents such as your driver’s license, marriage license, financial statements, income tax returns, etc. You’ll be required to have credit and background checks, and you’ll also need references from employers, family and friends. In addition, you’ll complete an autobiography with detailed information about your family history, upbringing and philosophies on parenting.
4) Home study — Next comes the home study. During this crucial step of the process, you’ll have 4-6 meetings in your home with a licensed social worker. He or she will discuss adoption, help educate you, ensure that you and your home are equipped to handle an adoption and help you complete more paperwork. Expect your home study to take a couple of months.
5) Profile/expectant parent letter — Once your home study is approved, you’ll complete a profile and/or letter to prospective birth parents. You’ll want to share your hobbies, interests, occupations and other facts, so that someone considering placing their baby for adoption will get a good sense of who you are. You’ll also include pictures of you and your family.
6) Waiting — This step is usually the most nerve-wracking. You wait for a potential birth parent to choose you. The wait is unpredictable and can take months to years. During your wait, it’s helpful to network, read books on parenting and prepare yourself for your future role as parents.
7) Birth parent meeting — An expectant parent will often want to meet with you to help decide if you are the right parents for her child. Meetings can take place at your adoption agency or attorney’s office, a restaurant or some other public place.
8) Placement — Once the baby is born, he or she will be placed in your home. This doesn’t mean the adoption process is over yet. There are still a few more steps left.
9) Termination of parental rights — The birth parents will go to court and sign papers relinquishing their rights as parents. At this point, the child is legally free for adoption, and the birth parents cannot change their minds and decide to parent.
10) Post-placement visits — Much like the home study, you’ll have more visits with a social worker in your home. These visits will help the worker assess how the baby is adjusting to his or her new environment and how you are handling your new role as parents. Expect this step to last 6-9 months.
11) Finalization — After the post-placement visits are complete, your social worker will write a letter to the court recommending that the adoption be finalized. You will also write a letter expressing your desire to adopt the child. Then a court date will be set. You, your spouse and your child will attend the hearing to finalize the adoption.
If you have further questions about the adoption process, some good web sites to visit are Adoption.com and InfantAdoptionGuide.com.