How to Adopt a Child: How Much Does it Cost, Adopting Child Requirements
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How to Adopt a Child: Step-by-Step Process (Plus Adoption Requirements & FAQ)

If you are thinking about adopting a child, you will have many questions, and you may even be feeling a bit overwhelmed. Don’t worry—this is natural, and you can rest assured you’ve come to the right place. This article will shed light on the adoption process, including requirements, costs, and the various steps in the process. Let’s get started demystifying the monumental task that is adoption!

Contents:

How Hard Is It to Adopt a Child?

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Every adoption is unique, so it’s difficult to say how hard the adoption process will be for you. Still, it’s safe to say that the adoption process isn’t easy. And it shouldn’t be. After all, at the end of the journey is a vulnerable child who needs a capable family willing to wait and work for them!

However, the adoption process isn’t as impossible as some people make it seem. So, if you’re interested in welcoming an adoptee into your home, don’t get discouraged before you even begin. Instead, remember that adoption happens every single day. And with some patience and persistence on your part, it can happen for you as well.

What You Need to Know Before You Adopt

This may come as a surprise, but before you adopt, it’s important to know yourself. More than child-rearing techniques or expert guidance on parenting, you’ll want to study your own motivations for adopting as well as any expectations or boundaries you have.

For example, you may want to ask yourself what age child would be best for your family. Moreover, consider whether you’re open to situations like adopting interracially or navigating an open adoption. Are you prepared to adopt a child with special needs or multiple siblings, for example? How old do you want the child to be? Would you consider adopting from foster care or from a foreign country?

These are all questions you’ll need to dig deep to answer before you even start with the adoption process. Talk to your spouse or partner and make sure the two of you are on the same page. Discovering the answers to the hard questions now can save you a lot of time and frustration along the journey to adoption.

The Cost of Adoption

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Most people assume that adoption is expensive—and it can be. But in reality, expenses associated with adopting a child can vary widely. Most estimates place the costs anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 depending on whether you adopt domestically or internationally and whether you go through an attorney or adoption agency.

Of course, this doesn’t include the cost of raising the child, which could add up to a whole lot more over the course of eighteen years! Despite the exorbitant costs, the vast majority of adoptive parents report that the experience of adding a new member to their family through adoption is priceless.

Financial Help for Adoption

While the adoption process can be expensive, this shouldn’t be a deterrent for families looking to bring a child into their homes. Many organizations exist to help with the expenses related to adoption, including the National Adoption Foundation, HelpUsAdopt.org, A Child Waits Foundation, and AdoptTogether.org. Some of these organizations provide grants, loans, or both to families who want to adopt but cannot afford the cost of adoption.

Step-By-Step Process of Adoption

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The adoption process is complex, to say the least. Still, like anything else, this process can be accomplished by taking things one step at a time.

As you read through the following steps in the process, keep in mind that no two adoption journeys are exactly alike. The steps in your journey could take a different order, or some steps may overlap. There could even be some additional steps you have to take, depending on your individual situation.

Still, the procedure that follows should give you a general idea of what to expect when you start the exciting, confusing, and fulfilling process of adopting a child.

Step One: Select an Adoption Professional

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First, it’s important to realize that adoption isn’t something you can do alone. You’re going to need the assistance of a qualified professional who can help you navigate the process. Remember, adoption is a legal procedure, so there will invariably be documents, verbiage, and proceedings that are best handled by someone experienced in the adoption process. As a prospective adoptive parent, your two main options here are: an adoption attorney or an adoption agency.

When selecting a professional to guide you through the process of adopting a child, be sure to gather as much information as you can to make an informed decision. Here are some questions to ask:

  1. What are the fees associated with the service?
  2. How many successful adoptions have you facilitated?
  3. How do you locate children and/or birth parents?
  4. What specific services do you provide?
  5. What does the adoption process look like?
  6. How long will it take to adopt?

This first step in the adoption process is an important one. It could affect how smoothly things go for you, how quickly you’re able to adopt, and your overall experience. Take the time to choose wisely.

Step Two: Paperwork and Documentation

You may have heard that there is a lot of paperwork involved in the adoption process. This is certainly true! Once you’ve chosen an adoption professional, the next step is to begin filling out the mountains of paperwork and documentation required to adopt a child. At a minimum, this will include an adoption application, a formal adoption plan, background checks, and adoptive parent profiles.

Be sure that you fill out each form in the process as carefully and thoroughly as possible. Any incorrect information or omissions could come back to bite you in the future. At the very least, mistakes will cost you more time and frustration down the line. Don’t take shortcuts.

Step Three: Home Study

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United States law dictates that a home study is required of all adoptive parents before the adoption can be official. The purpose of the home study is to determine whether the household and family are appropriate for the child to live in. No pressure, right?

So what exactly does the home study entail? Essentially, a social worker or other licensed professional will visit your place of residence and interview you to decide whether you are able to provide a healthy and nurturing environment for the child you want to adopt.

Be prepared to answer numerous questions about your background, relationship, finances, employment, parenting approaches, and more. And remember to be as forthcoming and accurate with this information as you possibly can be. Anything you try to hide will be uncovered eventually, and you may appear deceptive if you leave out details.

Step Four: Locate a Child/Birth Mother

After the home study, the next step in the process is to find a child to adopt, or if you are planning to adopt a newborn, a birth mother. This process can vary depending on whether you are adopting internationally or domestically. In the case of domestic newborn adoption, be prepared to meet the birth mother.

Step Five: Prepare Your Home

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Finally—the fun part of the adoption process! Adoptive parents will need to begin the process of “nesting” just as biological parents do prior to the arrival of their babies. Depending on the age of the child you’re adopting, you may need to baby-proof the entire house or simply set up a room for the child to call their own. Make sure the environment is clean, warm, and welcoming for your new addition!

Step Six: Welcome Your Child

Again, this step in the process may look very different depending on the type of adoption. If you’re adopting a newborn, then you’ll likely get a call from the hospital that your baby has been born. In some cases, the birth mother may invite the adoptive parents to attend the birth of their newborn.

Alternatively, in the case of an older child, you may need to go and pick the child up from foster care, or a social worker may bring them to your house. Once you have the child in your care, you may think the long and complicated adoption journey has finally come to an end, but you’d be wrong.

Step Seven: Petition for Adoption

It may seem backward, but the petition for adoption is not officially submitted until your child has been brought home. This document is something that your adoption attorney or agency will help you fill out and submit to the court. Remember, the adoption must be formally approved by the legal authority in your state in order to be legitimate.

Adoption Requirements

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Whether a petition for adoption will be accepted by the court depends on whether the adoptive parents meet all of the requirements for adoption. These requirements vary by state, but there is quite a bit of overlap. In this section, we’ll address some common adoption requirements.

Age Requirement

The age requirement is one of the most basic requirements for adoption. Typically, anyone 21 years of age or older is eligible to adopt. However, some private and international adoptions may have maximum age requirements as well.

Physical and Emotional Health Requirements

Although these requirements may vary widely by state, it’s generally acknowledged that adoptive parents must be in stable physical and emotional health to be approved for adoption. This is to ensure that parents are physically and mentally capable of providing a healthy environment for the adopted child. Be prepared to submit documents from a physician and/or mental health professional.

Clear Criminal History

It should go without saying, but a clear criminal history is usually a strict prerequisite to adopting a child. Again, this requirement is put in place in order to ensure the child’s safety and overall well-being while in the home. Certainly, any allegations or convictions of child abuse will be taken very seriously and could impede your ability to successfully adopt.

Marriage Requirement

You might be surprised to learn that some adoptions require adopters to be married in order to qualify for the adoption. This is usually the case in private adoptions. There is no marriage requirement if you’re adopting from the foster care system. Moreover, international adoptions may have their own rules regarding marriage, and those rules may vary by adoptee country.

Financial Requirements

The reality is that taking care of a child requires money. While there are third-party and non-profit organizations that will assist with certain adoption fees, there may be other financial requirements that could be prohibitive for some adoptive parents.

During the home study or other part of the adoption process, you may be asked to disclose your income and assets for the purpose of demonstrating that you have the financial means to provide for the basic needs of a child. That doesn’t mean you have to be wealthy, of course, but it does mean that you need to prove a stable income. Otherwise, it may be determined that it is not in the child’s best interest to be placed in your care.

If you meet all of the requirements for adoption, then your petition for adoption will likely be approved. Once all the legal issues are resolved, then the real work begins—parenting the child you’ve just adopted!

Frequently Asked Questions

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Adoption is a significant life decision. It requires a lot of forethought and planning. Naturally, you will have questions. Below, we address some common questions from prospective adopters about the process of adopting a child.

Where Can I Find an Adoption Agency?

The Child Welfare Information Gateway provides a comprehensive directory of approved adoption providers in the United States. You can search this directory by state.

What Are the Adoption Laws for my State?

Adoption laws vary by state. You can find the most up-to-date laws for your location here.

Can I Adopt a Child From Another State?

Yes. Interstate adoptions are common. An adoption agency or attorney can help you navigate the process of adopting while adhering to laws from two different states.

How Long Does a Home Study Take?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau, the required home study for adoption can take between two and ten months.

Do I Qualify for an Adoption Subsidy?

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Typically, only foster care adoptions qualify for adoption assistance or subsidy.

Can I Adopt a Child From Another Country?

Yes, but it depends on the country. You can find more information about the laws governing intercountry adoption from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs.

How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Child?

It’s impossible to predict exactly how much your adoption will cost since each adoption is unique. Still, the general consensus is that adoption expenses can range from $20,000 to $50,000.

How Long is the Process of Adopting a Child?

Like the costs associated with adoption, the length of the adoption process can also vary widely. With a foster child adoption, the process could take as few as six months while international adoptions can take several years.

Preparing for Adoption

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If you ask most adoptive parents, they’ll likely tell you that nothing can truly prepare you for the adoption process. Unless you’ve been through it before, you may not be able to imagine how simultaneously difficult and rewarding the journey can be.

The more information you have, the better prepared you can be for the physical and emotional toll that adoption can take. Moreover, the more knowledgeable you are, the more empowered you’ll be to make wise choices for you and your new family.

Don’t forget to share this article with other parents considering adoption!

The picture on the front page: fizkes/Shutterstock.com

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