Adopting a child or children is an exciting process for you and your family. Many families choose to go through the foster care system in the United States. The statistics on the number of children in foster care are disheartening, but the ability to make a difference in the life of a child is wonderful. If you are considering adoption or are ready to begin the long process, the following steps are the general procedure you will follow.
1. Research Adoption Thoroughly
Before you even begin the process, it is important to do extensive research on adoption in general. Obtain research from reputable sources online, sourcebooks, and magazines on the topic, and talk with other parents who have gone through the process. Adoption agency websites provide valuable information for those new to the system.
2. Work with a Licensed Agency
It is essential to work with an adoption agency that is licensed in your home state. As you would with any serious life change, contact several agencies and interview them thoroughly. Find out about their process, fees, preparation, and time expectation. This can vary greatly and you want to work with an agency that is compatible with your family’s values. Now is also a good time to ask about legal services. The agency will provide some services, but you will want to work with a family law attorney for the finalized paperwork and it is important to know your responsibilities.
3. Participate in a Home Study
Once you have chosen the agency, you will be assigned a social worker. He or she will conduct several interviews, complete extensive paperwork, and make observations of your home. Perfection is not necessary, but the agency must be confident in your ability to care for your potential adoptive children. Your social worker will file a report that includes information on all household members.
4. Locate an Available Child
Once you have been approved, the agency will begin the search for your child. This may include working with other agencies to find the right match. You can be an active participant at this stage by viewing listings of waiting children provided by the agency and its partners.
5. Apply for Adoption
When you have found a child who may be the right match for your family, your information is sent to the assigned caseworker for evaluation. You may also receive more information about the child. You and several other families may be considered and this step can take time. You will be notified if you are selected.
6. Meet Your Child
You will meet your child for the first time, followed by several visits over a period of time. If appropriate, paperwork is then filed by your agency and the one representing the child. There can be additional steps when the child lives in another state, if parental rights have not yet been terminated, or if adoption assistance is needed.
7. Finalize Your Adoption
The child then comes to live in your home. There will be several meetings with your social worker over the following months. The adoption is finalized in a court hearing, at which an amended birth certificate and certificate of adoption are created. From this point, the child is a legal part of your family.