This may be an exciting, and perhaps overwhelming, time as you investigate options and steps to building your family through adoption. Each family’s adoption journey is unique. However, there are important considerations, decisions to make, and actions to take along the way that are common to every family.
Below, we have outlined the basic steps of adoption so that you may understand the process and some of what to expect along your adoption journey. This includes learning as much as you can about adoption, selecting an agency, attending orientation and training classes, completing a home study, engaging in the placement process, finalizing the legal adoption, and accessing resources to support the needs of your adopted child/children and your family over time.
A Family for Every Child (AFFEC) is dedicated to finding loving, permanent families for every waiting for a foster child. We serve children and families nationally and we are licensed by the states of Oregon and Washington as a private adoption agency. Although some of the steps listed below may apply to other types of adoption, our primary focus here are the steps in the Foster/Adoption process.
The more you learn about adoption, the better prepared you will be for the challenges and joys unique to this experience.
Read, Read, Read
There are many good books, articles and online resources that cover many adoption topics. These can be invaluable sources of information and can be helpful before, during and after adoption.
Talk to Other Adoptive Parents
Let family members, friends, co-workers or neighbors know you are interested in adoption or join an adoption support group. You may be surprised by the connections you can make through networking. Other parents can help you identify agency options, provide helpful tips and may also be an important resource for you throughout your adoption journey.
Attend Adoption Orientation or Information Sessions
Many agencies will offer free orientation/information sessions in person or online. We encourage you to attend orientation meetings offered by agencies in your area. Although you must ultimately select one agency to work with, you may gather information from as many agencies as are available–even if you don’t live in that agency’s specific geographical area.
- The needs and characteristics of children available for adoption through state foster care systems.
- Attachment, separation, grief and loss, abuse, neglect or traumas that children have experienced.
- The role and responsibility of adoptive parents.
- The importance of cultural and ethnic identity to the child.
- The steps in the adoption process with approximate timelines.
- Their adoption program and related policies and procedures.
- Their application and home study requirements.
- The background check requirements.
- The child search, matching, and selection process.
- Rights and responsibilities of the adoptive family and the Adoption Agency.
Oregon/Washington Residents: A Family For Every Child conducts free monthly Adoption Orientation Sessions for prospective adoptive families. Sessions are offered online and in person.Register for an Orientation Session
Selecting An Agency
Research various adoption agencies. Go online and review organizations in your city, county, state or region. There are both private and public agencies that assist families in the adoption process.
Agencies may differ on their training requirements, what services they provide, fees they charge, and types of families they work with–Some agencies have specific faith-based requirements and some will work with single parents or same-sex couples while others will not.
In addition, some agencies will only place children from their particular county or state. Some will work to place children on a regional or national basis. It’s important to do your homework, review your options and speak to representatives from the agency to determine the one that is right for you.
Adoptive Parent Training
All states will require you to attend a series of specific classes to learn about the adoption process and emotional and behavioral issues that adopted children may experience. In most cases, you can complete these classes while your home study is being completed. Requirements will vary from state to state and also if you are adopting from foster care or private infant adoption.
The Home Study
A Home Study consists of an application and several home visits which results in a written report. The Home Study Report is required to assess and determine your eligibility to adopt.
The application usually asks extensive, and often very personal, questions about you and your family members and requires you to submit various documents. Typical information requested includes:
- Biography/life sketch
- Medical Reports
- Marriage / Divorce Decrees
- Proof of employment/Ability to financially support a child
- Criminal Background Checks
- Child preferences
- What brought you to adoption
An Adoption Worker will meet with you in your home to review your application and conduct individual and/or joint interviews with each prospective parent in the home. They will also take a tour of your home to ensure you offer a safe environment and that you meet your state’s licensing standards. During the home visit, the adoption worker may ask more detailed questions about information you submitted on your application. It is important to BE HONEST and FORTHRIGHT. This ensures that all parties have the information needed to determine your eligibility to adopt and the characteristics of the children that you will be most successful parenting.
Once the home visit and interviews are completed, a written home study report is produced that reflects the adoption worker’s findings. This report is then used to assist in matching you with a potential adoptive child or sibling group.
The home study process may take 2 to 4 months to complete. Please, While you wait, we recommend that families do additional reading, research and connect with other adoptive parents or support groups to prepare for the next phases of the adoption process.
Important Considerations – What’s Right for Your Family?
As you learn more about adoption and the children in the foster care system, reflecting on what is important (or not) to you and your family is a vital part of this process.
Please know there are NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWERS. Being realistic and honest about what truly works for your family increases the potential for a good match and a successful adoption. Some questions to consider throughout this process are:
- Would I/we consider a sibling group or just a single child? If a sibling group, how many children could I/we accommodate?
- What age range would work best for our family?
- Would I/we be open to parenting a child from a different race, ethnicity or religious background? If so, am I/are we supportive of them maintaining a connection to their racial, ethnic, cultural or religious identity?
- Would I/we be able to parent a child with a medical condition or physical or mental disabilities? If so, what would I/we be able to accommodate?
- Do I/we prefer to add a boy or a girl to the family? Or does it matter?
A Family For Every Child can provide you with the home study required for an adoption. If you are interested in completing a home study with us, please email our Adoption Agency Director at email@example.com. A Staff member will get back to you and answer your specific questions about adoption and the services we provide.
Matching and Selection
During this stage, you and the Agency will work together to identify the child or sibling group that may best fit your family. You may receive information on possible matches directly from your adoption worker or you may find information on waiting for children on various websites.
Also, every state differs in how they make the selection of where to place children. In some states the caseworker of the child makes the decision, in other states, it is decided by a committee of people. It may take many months for the matching and selection phase of the process. When a possible adoptive child match is identified, your Home Study is “submitted” on that child or sibling group. Each agency may have its own policies or procedures for submitting a home study. Make sure you understand the process used by your agency and what options are available to you.
Important Note: Finalize and be very clear on your preferences and what characteristics you and your family can and cannot manage with a child from foster care. Then learn as much as you can about the child/children before considering the placement and meeting them. This will help in making the best selection for your family and, ultimately, be in the best interest of the child/children.
The matching and selection process can be very challenging and frustrating. BE PATIENT and DON’T LOSE HOPE. Know that finding the best match is more important than the speed at which a child is placed in your home.
During this time you may have several visits of increasing length with a child or sibling group to get to know each other. For out of state adoptions you may make one or more trips to meet with them. Depending on the situation, the time between the “match” and when the child/children move into your home can be a few days to a few months.
Important Note: There can be times when a placement does not work out and a child is moved from the home. This can be very detrimental to the child and heartbreaking for all involved. Therefore, it is imperative that you spend time with the child/children, learn as much as possible about them, build an initial connection, and ensure that you are fully committed to them before agreeing to the placement.
Your child/children finally come home! This can be an exciting and stressful time as there are tremendous transition and change for everyone. Your agency, adoption worker, parent support group and/or professional counselors can help your family during this often challenging time.
During this period the adoption worker will visit your home to provide support and assistance, ensure the child is well cared for, and write up the required court reports. In addition, you will likely have various other people that regularly visit your home. These may include the child’s caseworker, a Guardian Ad Litem (an attorney acting on behalf of the child), and/or a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). All of these individuals are there to ensure the ongoing health and safety of the child/children and may provide additional support and assistance.
In addition, you will need to file a petition to finalize the adoption with the court. You will need to engage an adoption attorney to assist with this process. Your agency can usually refer you to a listing of adoption attorneys in your area.
Finalizing the Legal Adoption
Your adoption worker and/or adoption attorney will usually go to court with you to finalize your child’s adoption. Adoptions from the foster care system are usually finalized 6 months to 2 years after placement. This allows the child and family sufficient time to adjust and to provide additional support to help meet the child’s needs.
As mentioned earlier, adoption is a journey and a lifelong process. Your family, like many families, may need support adjusting as your child grows and matures or you may have questions at different developmental stages. Oftentimes, emotional or behavioral issues that may seem to have been resolved earlier may reoccur or other issues surface at different points in time. Do not hesitate to contact your agency and/or your adoption worker for help, support, resources, referrals, and to share your success stories.