Okay so the first thing to note is that my knowledge is limited to my own experience and information I’ve gathered from friends and doing my own research. Adoption is a complicated process and there are many different approaches to it. So while my hope is to help share some knowledge and shine some light on domestic adoption – please do your own research too and seek out more sources of information.
So it’s been a while since I shared one of these. But I wanted to share the next part in my adoption series that’s covering the different types of adoption and the things to know about them. Last time we talked specifically about international adoption. So today I want to talk about domestic infant adoption – a subject near and dear to my heart.
One of the first places to start is to decide how you want to go about this. There are four main ways you can pursue domestic infant adoption: privately, with an agency, with an attorney, or with a facilitator. The reason it’s important to figure this step out first is that each one has it’s own process and some are involved in more aspects of the process than others. For example – if you choose to adopt privately, you’re going to be doing ALL the work yourself. You don’t have anyone helping you thorugh process or helping you make connections, which means it’s often the cheapest option. An agency, however, is often your most costly option because they walk you through every step of the process. Their fees will include your home study and background check, helping develop your profile, legal fees, etc etc. And then facilitators and attorneys are in between those two options. A facilitator is basically just your marketing team. They’ll help you make connections and extend your reach further while providing very minimal guidance but the bulk of the process is on you to figure out and handle. Attorneys sometimes also have connections that may help you get matched faster than if you were adopting privately. Plus, they’re the ones who will make your adoption legal so you’re basically getting your ducks in a row in advance with this route.
Obviously there are pros and cons to each option. Private adoption can be hard, especially if you’ve never done this before. It can mean a longer wait or the potential that no one ever sees you if you don’t know how to make those necessary connections to get in front of a potential birth mother. However, with technology many people can create their own websites and social media accounts to increase their reach. The lower cost and no middle men is also a really encouraging part of this process. Agencies again are the most costly BUT they hold your hand every step of the way. Plus, they typically have a better chance of getting you in touch with a potential birth mother and they are highly motivated to find a match for you since their contract with you is typically until you are successfully matched. Bear in mind this can also mean more failed matches and heartbreak. Facilitators, on the other hand, usually have a time limit on their contract – like two years. If you aren’t matched during that time – you have to re-up your contract with them and pay fees all over again. So they are a little less concerned about getting you matched quickly. And that added expense can certainly be concerning. Working with an adoption attorney or organization like Lutheran Child and Family Services, can help provide another avenue of getting matched. They usually have a “finders fee” that is no small amount either. Often I see these options used as add ons rather than a primary source of connection.
Paperwork & Home Study
You’ve made your choice on how or who you’re going to move forward with. Now it’s time to do dig in and begin the seemingly endless process of paperwork. There will be form upon form for you to fill out before you can even be considered as an adoptive parent. There are background checks and fingerprinting. You’ll need to get a physical. You’ll have to map out escape plans from your home in case of a fire. You’ll have to provide very personal information (written in essay form) about your life and childhood. It feels like a never ending stream of paperwork. Your home study is separate and involves not only visits with a social worker in your home to ensure that your home is a safe place for a child, but it also requires you to take some classes too. The goal of the home study is to better equip you to meet the needs of your future child so you will have some choices to make when selecting those classes.
Be Ready to Answer Hard Questions
During all that paperwork, you’ll hit a point where you have to fill out some forms that ask some really hard questions. I say hard questions because they’ll make you seriously step back and look at yourself. One such form involves what disabilities or handicaps you are open to in your future child. This includes things like missing limbs, downs syndrome, drug or alcohol exposure, speech problems, hearing problems… the list is pretty detailed and you have to walk through each item and decide “am I open to this or not?” Saying no can make you feel like a terrible person, but you have to be honest about what needs you are truly capable of meeting. Some issues are involved and costly and may require one parent to stay home. It’s really important to be honest about these things in order that the child receive the best possible care and placement. So don’t let your ego or desire to be a parent get in the way of what is realistic for your family.
Open, Semi-Open, or Closed
You’ll also have to consider what kind of adoption you’re open to: open, semi-open, or closed. Closed adoption means there is no contact between the birth family and adoptive family and child. This was incredibly common in the past, but is gradually becoming less common. As time has progressed, we’re seeing more and more how beneficial maintaining some form of contact with the birth family is for all involved. It prevents a loss of identity and helps the child stay connected to their roots and have a knowledge of where they came from. Studies also show that it’s often better for the birthmother mentally and emotionally too – though maintaining that contact can often be really hard and painful. Open adoption usually includes communication with the birth family whether that’s texting, phone calls, or video chats as well as getting together in person too. The frequency or timing of all of this varies dramatically from person to person so there’s no set standard for what open adoption looks like. Many adoptive parents are concerned about what openness means and how that contact may impact their child and parenting. Often this concern is based on the unknown, stereotypes, and simple fear. The best thing you can do is seeking out more articles on this topic to learn more and really think about what’s best for your future child. Also – there is a third option between open and closed adoption called semi-open adoption, which is usually described as pictures and letters being sent to the birth mother so she can still see that her child is safe, loved, and cared for while getting to see who he/she is growing to become. It is really important that you take time to carefully consider this decision as it’s something an agency or facilitator will ask you about.
Another thing you’ll need to decide is what races you are open to adopting. There are a lot of reasons a person might opt to adopt a baby of the same race. You might live in a rural community with little diversity and feel it’s unfair to bring a child of a different race into an environment you are unable to move from. You may feel unable to handle the concerns, questions or issues your child may have in the future. Or you may have family who you know aren’t going to be as open to a baby of a different race. The decision to adopt a baby is huge and there is no shame in being honest about what you are and aren’t capable of doing. Adoption is about putting the best interests of the child first – always. (I’ll most likely be creating a separate post entirely focused on Transracial Adoption in the future.)
While not the most expensive approach, domestic adoption can still be quite costly and can range anywhere between $15,000 to $50,000 and the average sits in the around $35,000 range. This is no small commitment. The unfortunate reality is where all that money is going. Yes – some goes to the state, some goes to legal fees, but the bulk of that often goes towards marketing or finders fees. If you’re working with an agency or facilitator you’ll find this to be true – this will cover the cost of getting your profile put together and listed on their website as well as creating your printed profile to be handed out to potential birth mothers. They basically get a huge chunk of change for being match makers. Other organizations/persons (like hospitals or lawyers or organizations like LCFS) also have this standard finders fee which usually seems to start at around $10,000. Even more upsetting is the truth that birth mothers seem to walk away with very little to no financial assistance, particularly when compared to what hopeful adoptive families are expected to pay. The unfortunate truth is that they are very specific about what you can and can’t give a birth mother so as not to create a situation that could be mistaken for “purchasing” or “bribing for” a baby. Even after placement – these strict regulations stay intact.
Adoption Scams Are a Thing…
We didn’t even know this was a thing until it happened to us, but be aware that there are people who prey on hopeful adoptive families. I’ve written a whole article about this in the past regarding the warning signs of a scam (which you can read here). I primarily bring this up just so you can be aware of this reality.
No Guarantees of Placement
Of course I think anyone who pursues this avenue of growing their family feels accutely aware of the truth that there are no guarantees they will ever be chosen. You feel a bit like an old toy in a toy store, left behind after Christmas. You may see other couples get matched over and over and start to feel like perhaps there is something wrong with you. This is another concept I could write a whole post about – all the emotions and feelings wrapped up in this thought. But I won’t do that today. I just feel it’s important for all those people who think “just adopting” is an easy answer – it’s really not that simple.
Open Eyes and Heart to All Perspectives of the Adoption Triad
This is probably one of the most important points I could make. Adoption isn’t just about a family being made – it’s also a family being torn apart. It’s about new parents finding their new identity in parenthood and it’s about a child, eventually forming an identity around missing pieces and a birthmother giving up a piece of her heart. It’s important to respect all perspectives of the adoption triad (adoptee, adoptive family, and birth family) because all three are effected by this choice. And having an awareness of this truth is so important for being supportive of your child in the future.
Okay – so that’s a SUPER simplified break down of domestic infant adoption. The fourth part of this series will be focused on fostering or fostering to adopt, which again – this is something I don’t have any personal experience with so I’ll do the best I can with what I know. I’ll also likely have another post in the future on transracial adoption since that’s something I’m quite passionate about too. But if you have thoughts or questions – I’d love to hear them! Feel free to shoot me a message or leave me a comment below.