To find a public or private agency that is a good fit for you, your beliefs and values, and your unique situation, compare information from several different agencies. Most will gladly provide details about their services and requirements upon request. Before selecting an agency, take the initiative to interview agency representatives by phone or in person to learn more about them. Ask questions about the children available through the agency, costs, timing, and requirements for would-be adopters.
Here are some sample beginning questions
- Who can adopt from the agency?
- What kinds of children does the agency place (ages, backgrounds, etc.)?
- Where do the agency’s children come from, and how many are legally free for adoption?
- How long, on average, must one wait for a child? What is the time lapse between application and placement?
- What are the agency’s requirements concerning forms, classes, fees, and visits?
- How much does a completed adoption cost in total and part by part?
- Can the agency help applicants locate sources of financial aid, including subsidies?
- What are the home study requirements?
- How many children (and what type of children) has the agency placed in each of the past few years?
- Have any of the agency’s adoptions fallen through or disrupted in the past five years? What does the agency do to make sure that adoptions donÃ•t disrupt after placement?
- What is the agency’s policy toward applicants who do not accept the first child offered to them?
- What services such as parenting classes, support group activities, access to therapy and counseling, and respite care will the agency provide before and after a child is placed in your home?
- Can the agency provide references from parents who recently adopted from the agency? (Your state’s Adoption Specialist may also know if complaints have been filed against the agency.)
Let Your Agency Know You Are Serious about Adopting
- When you call an agency to let staff there know you are interested in adopting, the person you talk to may ask a series of screening questions or simply volunteer to send literature about the agency.
- If you want to adopt relatively soon, find out how you can get the process started.
- One common first step is an orientation meeting or training session for prospective adoptive parents. At the meeting or training you will likely:
- meet social workers and learn about policies and practices regarding adoption;
- learn what types of children are available for adoption through the agency;
- learn about foster care;
- be asked to examine your feelings about adoption, and judge if adoption is the right choice for you;
- Gain insight into the challenges and rewards of adoptive parenting; and
- Obtain application materials.
Completing an Adoption Application
- If possible, attend an orientation session before filling out application paperwork, so you are confident in the agency’s ability to meet your needs.
- Application fees are often non-refundable, ask about agency policy if you decide to work through a different agency or change your mind about adopting.
- If you find that the application process is hard to understand, ask the agency or another adoptive parent for help.
- Don’t let the challenges of completing forms keep you from pursuing adoption.
- Find out how long it will take for the agency to process your application once you have completed the forms and paid the fee.
- Ask when you should next expect to hear from the agency, and how you can schedule and prepare for a home study.
Beginning the Home Study Process
- Everyone who hopes to adopt must have a completed home study; loosely be defined as an educational process to help your social worker learn more about your ability to parent and provide a stable home, to teach you about adoption and its effect on children/ families, and to prepare you to parent a child whose experiences and history are different from your own.
- Depending on the agency, the worker, and the prospective parent’s cooperation, the process can take anywhere from two months to a year. Ask about typical times frames to complete a home study.
- Ask about home study fees before beginning the process Public agency services are generally free; other agencies typically charge between $500 and $2,000 for a completed study.
- Specific requirements for home studies vary by state and agency, so be sure to ask for a list of the items and information your agency requires. The following items are commonly required
- An autobiographical statement you create about your life history;
- certified copies of birth certificates for you, your partner, and any children;
- a certified copy of your marriage license;
- certified copies of divorce decrees;
- the death certificate of a former spouse;
- certified copies of the finalization or adoption decrees for any adopted children;
- child abuse and criminal record clearances, or a notarized statement from the police declaring that you and your partner have faced no felony convictions;
- income verification (may include tax returns, W-2 forms, and paycheck stubs);
- a statement of health provided by a physician, which might include lab test results or a statement of infertility;
- written references from friends, employers, neighbors, etc.; and
Ask About Help with Searching for a Child
- If you adopt through an agency, learn how the agency will conduct a search.
- What criteria do they use to match children with families?
- Are they willing to search outside your immediate area for a child?
- If you learn of a child in another state, will the agency pursue the child for you?
- Ask about additional fees for out of area/state searching searvices
- To keep the process moving, stay in close contact with your agency and offer to help in the search process by reviewing photolisting books, attending matching parties, or updating your parent profile.
Source: Adapted from the North American Council on Adoptable Children