Topic updated: February 2013

Title

Where Do I Start?

Step 1: Educate Yourself

What You Should Know

Many resources exist to help prospective adoptive parents educate themselves about adoption.

There are also many books, magazines, and Web sites on this topic.

Step 2: Understand the Law

What You Should Know

State laws and regulations govern U.S. adoptions. Learning about the adoption laws in your State, or any States involved with your adoption, can help avoid frustrating situations.

Step 3: Explore Your Options/Select an Agency

What You Should Know

Families wishing to adopt have many options. The following is one way to think about how choices in adoption may flow from one another:

  • Where will our family's child come from? (Domestic or intercountry adoption?)
  • If we adopt domestically, what type of adoption is best for our family? (Public agency, licensed private agency, independent, or facilitated/unlicensed agency adoption?)
  • If we choose intercountry adoption, what country will our child come from? (Hague Convention or non-Hague Convention country?)

The way you choose to adopt will depend on the characteristics of the child you wish to adopt, how long you are willing to wait for your child, and other concerns.

Step 4: Complete a Home Study

What You Should Know

No matter which type of adoption you choose to pursue, all prospective adoptive parents must have a home study or family study. A home study involves education, preparation, and gathering information about the prospective adoptive parents. This process can take from 2 to 10 months to complete, depending on agency waiting lists and training requirements. States vary regarding home study requirements, so you should check with your State Adoption Program to learn the specific regulations in your State. Intercountry adoption may carry special home study requirements, depending on the country and agency involved.

Step 5: Engage in the Placement Process

What You Should Know

Once your home study is completed, you are ready to begin the placement process - the time when a specific child is identified for your family. Depending on the type of adoption you are pursuing, this process and the potential time involved in waiting for your child vary greatly.

  • If you are pursuing a foster care adoption, you may review information about a number of children who are waiting for families. Your agency may have adoption events, a photolisting service, TV or video segments describing waiting children, or other ways to let you know about available children waiting for families. You can also view waiting children at the national photolisting website. You will often have the opportunity for preplacement visits to get to know a child before he or she moves into your home. Your family may also be able to serve as a resource, foster, or concurrent planning family, working with the agency to support the child's return to his or her birth family as well as being considered as a potential permanent family for the child if reunification does not occur.
  • If you are pursuing adoption through a licensed private agency, the expectant parents may select your family from among several prospective adoptive families.
  • If you are pursuing an independent adoption, an attorney or facilitator may help you identify expectant parents, or you may locate them on your own if allowed by State law.
  • If you are pursuing intercountry adoption, you may review information about your prospective child and may have the opportunity to meet your child in his or her placement setting (foster home or orphanage).

Step 6: File Necessary Legal Documents

What You Should Know

All domestic adoptions need to be finalized in court. The process varies from State to State. Generally a child must have lived with the adoptive family for at least 6 months before the adoption can be legally finalized. During this time, a social worker may visit several times to ensure the child is well cared for and to write up the required court reports. After this period, the agency (or attorney in an independent adoption) will submit a written recommendation of approval of the adoption to the court. You or your attorney can then file with the court to complete the adoption.

For intercountry adoptions, the actual adoption procedure is just one of a series of required legal processes. In addition to the laws of your State, you must also follow the laws of the child's country of origin and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requirements. If you adopt from a country that participates in the Hague Convention, the process carries further requirements to safeguard the parties involved. The process to finalize the adoption depends on the type of intercountry adoption, the type of visa the child has, and the laws in your State.

Step 7: Parent Your Child

What You Should Know

The final, and most important, step in the adoption process is to be a parent to your adopted child. Adoption is a lifelong process. Your family, like many families, may need support adjusting to life with your new child. Your family and your child may have additional questions at different developmental stages.

Read the rest of this excellent article at Child Welfare Information Gateway.

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