I want to say right off that I have no second thoughts about adopting. That is true. Regrets? I absolutely have regrets. There are so many things I wish I knew before I adopted my 3 children. I wish I were prepared for the struggle. Yes, almost all adopted children are going to have issues. It doesn’t matter where you adopt them from. What matters is whether you’re going to fight for them throughout their lives.
How hard is it to adopt a child? Understand that the moment you decide you will adopt is when you to be ready for the fight. Just getting through the process is the first major battle and it can take years. Here are just some of the things to consider before adopting a child.
How much is it to adopt?
If you go through a private adoption agency, it will cost between $5,000 and $50,000 depending on how old the child is, where, and what agency. Babies through private agencies are going to cost the most. Older children in the foster care system will cost the least.
Adoption.com is a great start to find out what you might want to do. This site can be overwhelming for anyone with an initial interest. Still, it provides quite a bit of information for all types of adoptions. Just remember, if you look at the photo gallery of “Waiting Children,” you can’t save them all no matter how much your heart breaks.
Deciding which adoption path is right for you
The first steps into adoption are to decide which path you wish to follow. The route you choose will ultimately depend on various personal, legal, and financial factors. In the US, there are 3 main paths to adopting:
- International adoption
- Domestic adoption
- Foster care adoption
International adoption involves US families adopting children from outside the country. There are pros and cons to international adoption. When I decided to adopt, we wondered which country we should choose. I seriously looked into international adoption in Ethiopia. However, adoption practices and fostering requirements change every day, so it can be tricky finding a country with a consistent history of international adoption.
According to a 2019 Global Statistics report by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH), International adoptions from Ethiopia and China have dwindled. This can be attributed to Ethiopia’s ban on foreign adoptions amid concerns that kids face abuse and neglect while abroad. China’s economic circumstances and development of domestic permanency options have enabled the significant drop. Other reports suggest that while top countries such as South Korea and India remain consistent, most of the children adopted internationally are now from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ukraine. Colombia’s numbers have been on the rise too.
I have 2 nieces who were adopted from China. My sister planned on adopting a special needs girl for her 2nd child and both girls are beautiful young women now. A good thing to remember when adopting from China is that their process is relatively rigid. You meet your child on paper and then pick her up. There are no visitation times and what they tell you on paper may not be everything you need to know about the child you hold in your arms when they hand her to you. Of course, this can certainly be true with domestic adoption as well.
Domestic adoption involves birth parents, adoptive parents, and the child living within the United States. The entire adoption process, including initial placement, background checks, consent, and finalization, is regulated by state law and policy. I decided to stick with Los Angeles (LA) county and began my battle with one of the country’s largest foster care systems. Some counties manage their own adoption processes, while others outsource their adoptions to agencies. Some states require you to take a parenting class in order to be approved for adoption; some don’t. Whether you’re interested in domestic or international adoption, all states and agencies require a home study to be completed and approved before you can be considered to adopt a child.
Each step is a decision that will impact who you meet and who you’re led to. The weird thing about adoption is that you make so many choices based on a gut feeling, Holy Spirit, meditation, or spidey sense—something that leads you to your child and you just know it was the right thing to do.
Adopting a foster child
If you are going to adopt a child through foster care, you will 99% of the time have to become a foster parent first and your home study is part of that approval process. This doesn’t mean that you need to foster a group of children you aren’t interested in adopting. The way the rules work is a bit complicated.
The primary hope for children in foster care is reunification. Case workers do all they can to put the families back together again after physical abuse, sexual abuse, incarceration, neglect, or abandonment. These are all typical reasons why kids end up in foster care. When a case worker sees that this is not possible for a specific child, he introduces the idea of adoption to the judge who oversees the case and the court decides.
Some biological parents’ rights are terminated while the children are in foster care; some are not. It depends upon the courts and what counties prefer to do. Some judges prefer to wait until the finalization of an adoption is about to happen.
Here are the crazy, complicated steps I went through for adopting my daughter:
- My home study was approved for me to be a foster parent.
- I met my daughter.
- A year came and went with me attempting to jump through every hoop they threw at me.
- The committee approved the adoption.
- We had a few visits. We were supposed to have more, but my daughter became too much of a handful for her foster mother.
- She moved home.
- Case workers visited each month to check up on us for a year.
- A year after she was placed in my home, her biological parents’ rights were terminated.
- Then the adoption was finalized and I became her adoptive parent.
Private adoption agency vs. public adoption agencies?
Agency adoptions can occur either through a private adoption agency or public adoption agencies. A private agency uses private funds and should hold a license in the state where it conducts business. Public adoption agencies are funded by local, state, and federal sources. While private adoption agencies handle international and domestic adoption, public agencies handle children with special needs, older children, and sibling groups, but they don’t offer international options.
My state of Oregon uses adoption agencies to outsource adoptions. Mine was A Family for Every Child (AFFEC). They are located in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. The great thing about AFFEC is that they’re very low cost because the kids available are from foster care in counties across the country—not just the 3 states they are situated in. It was about $2,000 after the two-year process to bring my 2 boys home. Check your county’s Department of Human Services for information about how to start the adoption process.
What does a caseworker do?
Once you have your agency or county picked out and your home study complete, you will more than likely have your caseworker. The role of the caseworker is to assist you with finding your match. They understand the ins and outs, the paperwork, and the hoops to jump through. Your caseworker is your advocate.
Your child or children will also have a caseworker. These professionals work together to find the best fit for forever families. Once you agree with the caseworkers, a committee must also agree on whether you and your child are a good match. With so many requirements for adopting a child, there’s always a catch.
When I began the process of adopting my daughter 25 years ago, I lived in Los Angeles County. Close to the end of the process, I moved to another county to purchase a house where we could live happily ever after. Since the adoption was going to be processed through LA County, she had her caseworker and I had mine. But I had to complete a whole new home study for the 2nd county and complete a 2nd parenting class. We both had additional caseworkers—two for LA County and two for Ventura County. Yes, it was slightly ridiculous.
How long does it take to adopt a child?
Adopting through the bureaucracy of LA County took almost 4 years to bring my daughter home. For my boys, I’d been searching for over a year, met them on a Tuesday, and less than a week later, they were home. The waiting period may also be based on the family and child’s individual circumstances. It’s different for everyone.
Do I need an attorney to adopt a child?
At some point during the process, you will need an adoption lawyer. For private adoptions, this forms part of the high cost. When you’re adopting foster children, it is only at the time of finalization that your adoption lawyer can file your court documents for you.
Many child adoption lawyers actually do this pro bono, which is quite nice. They join you in the courtroom for finalization and it is a very special celebration. Some people choose not to go to the court to sign the papers, have the judge smack the gavel, and declare you a family, but I thoroughly recommend it.
This is one of the best experiences of adopting. It’s a memory that will last forever and becomes something to celebrate every year. People who adopt usually celebrate this as their ‘Gotcha Day”. It’s like having a birthday for the whole family. Every time I think of my Gotcha Day with my daughter and my Gotcha Day for the boys, I get teary eyed.
How do you know if it’s right?
My daughter picked me. The caseworker for my boys picked me. Yes, I had my gut feeling, Holy Spirit, and spidey sense moment for all 3, but I really didn’t pick them. I was chosen. That was my experience; yours might be different. Just be ready for the battle.