The How Adoption works.


How does adoption work?

If you are considering adoption, there’s no doubt that there endless things to consider. First you need to come to actually make the decision to adopt, which is tougher than it sounds. You need to make sure that you are emotionally ready to become a parent, or to add onto your family, and that everybody else in the house is onboard with it. This can be a long, complicated process that takes months or years or it can be very simple, with everyone waiting anxiously for the new child to come. Once you are sure that you, and everyone else involved, is ready to adopt a child, there are a whole other set of issues to concern yourself with.

You will need to start thinking about whether you want an open or a closed adoption and whether you want a domestic or inter-country adoption. You will need to start learning about things such as home studies and foster care and that’s not to mention all of the legalities that go along with adopting a child. It can seem overwhelming but be assured that if you are looking to adopt, there is a multitude of information at your fingertips using online resources and local adoption and government agencies. It may seem a little less overwhelming if you simply look at adoption as a step-by-step process – that in the end will change your life! Here’s a look at some of the basics of adoption and what the terms mean and how it all works.

The Different Ways to Adopt

Adoption Agencies
You may think that because you are thinking about adopting, you automatically must find an adoption agency that you want to work with. Well if you live in the United States and you’re among the majority of people who are looking to adopt, this is just the way to do it. Adoption agencies all over the country are responsible for most of the domestic adoptions that take place. However, this is not your only option and if you’re unable to find an agency that you want to work with, or simply want to try a different route, you can do that too.

When working with a private, licensed adoption agency, the birth parents will release all rights to the child to the adoption agency. The agency will then find an adoptive parent, or parents, to adopt the child. Generally the birth parents and the adoptive parents don’t meet when working through a private adoption agency however open adoptions are certainly possible when going through an agency. Private agencies have many regulations and rules that by law must be followed. These rules not only apply to the actual adoption process but also screening prospective parents and following up once the adoption has taken place. The screening process when trying to find an agency can be very strict but generally, agencies are just looking for stable parents that will be able to provide a secure and loving home to a child.

It’s important to make sure that any agency that you are considering allowing handling your adoption is a reputable company that has handled many successful adoptions in the past. You may want to check with your state’s directory of reputable adoption agencies to begin finding names. Your next step will be to check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure that any agency you are considering has not had any complaints or legal action filed against them. Once you have started talking to agencies, ask them for at least 3 references from clients who have adopted from the agency at least 3 years ago. Once you contact the references, ask them how helpful the agency was, how easy they were to contact, and how supportive they were before, during and after the adoption. You could also join a local adoption support group and talk to others who have adopted or are adopting in your area and talk to them about the agency they’re using.

Facilitated or Unlicensed Adoption
Facilitated or unlicensed adoptions involve hiring a facilitator who will work as a middle man between the adoptive parents, the birth parents, and the adoption agency. Usually these types of agencies are not regulated through the government and therefore, are not considered reliable or reputable. In some states, these agencies are even considered to be illegal.

Identified Adoption
An identified adoption can take place when the birth parents and the adoptive parents find one another. They can do this through local ads, going through local and government agencies, or an instance can occur when the birth parents already know the adoptive parents personally and they have already discussed the adoption. In this case, the adoption will mostly take place between the lawyers of the birth parents and the adoptive parents, and privately between the different sets of parents but an adoption agency will still be necessary to conduct the home study.

The Home Study

The home study is a very important part of the adoption process, no matter how you choose to adopt or where you are going to adopt from. Home studies are also known as family studies or family profiles but in any case, it’s a process that involves a social worker and the adoptive parents and allows each to get to know each other. Most importantly, it’s a chance for the social work to interact with the adoptive family and get to know them as well as understand the environment the adopted child will be living in. The social worker can be hired privately by the adopted parents if they are not using an agency or the adoption agency that the parents are working with will find the social worker.

Home studies generally take 3 to 6 months but by making sure that paperwork is filed early and that medical exams and such are scheduled and documented early, this process can be moved along quite quickly. When the home study is being done in a foster care home, they generally cost around $300 to $500 but this is also usually reimbursed once the adoption has gone through. If the home study is being done for another type of adoption they can cost as much as $1,000 to $3,000 and are usually non-refundable. It’s important for potential parents to fully understand how much the home study will cost them before going ahead with it as they can become quite costly.

Many adoptive parents are very nervous about meeting with the social worker and work for days making sure that everything in their home is perfect. Truthfully, social workers are just looking for loving and safe environments that will be healthy for a child to come into. The social worker will begin by introducing the family to the adoption process and letting them know what they can expect and what will be expected of them. They will present both the joys and the challenges of bringing a new child into any home and will help the parents understand how to cope with those issues. They will also talk to the adoptive parents about special issues that come with adopted children, such as situations of neglect or abuse that the child could be coming from. The social worker will also make sure that the parents are equipped to deal with these issues. The social worker will certainly want to talk to both parents (if there are two adoptive parents involved) and they will most likely conduct separate as well as joint interviews with them. If the parents have other children, whether they are living inside the home or not, the social worker will most likely want to speak to them as well.

Once the social worker has spoken to everyone, they will want to do a physical examination of the house. During this time, they will be looking at things such as where the child will be eating, sleeping and playing. They will make sure that there are not only adequate amenities for the child but that it is also a safe and secure environment and one that is ready to welcome a child. In some instances, fire and health inspections may also be required to make sure that the home is up to code and safe for a child. Parents may also be asked to get a physical examination completed by their doctor to make sure that they are healthy and capable of taking care of a child. This doesn’t necessarily mean that those who are dealing with conditions or illnesses will automatically be denied. It’s simply a way for the agency to make a better match for the parents. Mental health professionals may also be required to give an examination or provide documentation of past visits by the parent or parents. This also does not automatically make someone ineligible to adopt and can actually work in the applicant’s favor if it’s shown that they have overcome certain challenges or issues.

The next thing that an adoption agency will look at is whether the adoptive family is financially stable and able to handle the expenses of a child. Income statements and tax receipts may be required for proof of income and the agency may also look into outstanding debts and ask about savings and insurance. They may pay particular attention to what health insurance you have and what health insurance will be provided for the child. Adoptive parents may also be asked for birth certificates, divorce decrees, and they may also perform a criminal record check. The agency will also ask you for 3 or 4 personal references. These references will be from people who know you extremely well and can attest to the fact that you will be a good parent. It’s very helpful if these references come from people who have seen the way you are around children.

It is up to the discretion of the adoption agency whether or not you see the final home study report. However many other people may see it including other adoption agencies and potential birth parents. Be sure to ask the agency who will be shown the report and why.

Domestic and Inter-Country Adoption

Whether or not you choose to adopt domestically or abroad, there are many factors to take into consideration and each has their own benefits and disadvantages. Despite what you may hear in the news about overseas celebrity adoptions, the majority of the adoptions within the United States occur domestically with only a very small percentage happening within other countries, which are called inter-country adoptions. One of the disadvantages of domestic adoptions is that it can take a very long time to get a child, especially if you really want to adopt an infant. Generally the waiting time to adopt an infant within the United States is 2 years but your agency will be able to give you a more accurate waiting period to expect depending on your location and other needs.

Orphanages were one of the very first forms of domestic adoptions. Orphanages were first established in the 18th and 19th centuries and were generally large buildings filled with rooms and accommodations for children who were to be privately adopted from the orphanage’s clients. Generally when we think of orphanages today we think of decrepit buildings unfit to raise children in and this isn’t far from the truth of what they actually were. The children were also often neglected due to the sheer number of them and the orphanages were thought to be more interested in making money than caring for the children. After World War II, most orphanages began closing their doors and today they have been replaced with cleaner, smaller group homes or boarding schools. These are formally called residential treatment centers and most adoptions take place through one of these institutions or through foster care.

Foster care adoptions can sometimes happen quite quickly and is one of the advantages to domestic adoptions. Children to be adopted from residential treatment centers or through foster care are generally older children, sometimes already in their teenage years. They sometimes come with special needs, as they were taken from their family due to abuse or neglect and so it’s important that the adoptive parents understand that special care will need to be taken to address certain issues. When adopting through foster care, parents can choose from children who are already in different homes in foster care or they can become a foster parent with the intent to adopt the child. Foster care is an extremely intricate system and process that needs to be fully understood, and is far too in-depth to cover here, before deciding to adopt through foster care.

Inter-country adoption occurs when a parent, or parents, from one country want to adopt a child from another country. One of the biggest advantages to inter-country adoptions is that it’s much easier to get a younger child or an infant. Generally, all of the children adopted through an inter-country adoption are younger than 4 years old and half of those are less than 1 year old. There are some challenges to adopting from another country. In the United States, it’s required by law that to adopt from another country, the child must have been declared an orphan by that country. This means that must have been abandoned by their parents or both of their parents are deceased. The adoptive parents usually have to go abroad to pick up the child and are usually required to visit at least once before the actual adoption takes place. Some countries require that the adoptive parents visit several times before actually adopting a child.

Usually the waiting period for an inter-country adoption is 1 to 3 years but unlike domestic adoptions, there’s a very specific time frame placed on each adoption, meaning that you’ll have a much better idea of when you’ll get a child. The average cost for this type of adoption is also $7,000 to $30,000 but that mostly depends on how often you’re required to visit before the actual adoption. Because contact with the birth parents is rare some people see this as a major benefit to inter-country adoptions. Others like finding a child with a unique culture and incorporating that into their own lives. Private adoption agencies that specialize in inter-country adoptions will oversee the process with this type of adoption but generally in regards to the home study and other procedures, it’s much the same as adopting domestically.


Once the adoption has taken place and the child is settled down into their new home, it may be required by the adoption agency that you provide reports and maybe even photos detailing the child’s development and how they are adjusting and doing in general. Even if your agency does not require this, it’s nice to let them know. By that point, the agency and the people there will have become a big part of your life and it’s nice to let them see the final result of their hard work.


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