If you’ve thought about adoption, you might have wondered where to start when adopting a child. Many couples talk about adoption, but it’s important that both partners are equally interested.
Even if you and your spouse seem to be on completely different pages when it comes to adoption, it’s best to sit down together and talk through all the reasons why you each feel how you do. As you work through your feelings, this will likely be a continuing conversation for many weeks or even months. Enlist the help of a pastor or counselor to help you through the discussions if necessary.
How do you know if adoption is right for you?
You and your spouse need to have open, honest conversations about adoption. It’s a process that involves some soul-searching and a realistic understanding of adoption. Here are signs you know you’re ready to adopt:
- You both believe you can love a child that isn’t biologically your child
- You’re ready to start a family and have accepted any issues surrounding infertility
- You both agree you want to adopt
- You are both emotionally ready
- You are financially prepared to raise a child
- You have researched the process of adopting a child
Should you both agree that you want to adopt a baby, a great resource to check out is the book, Called to Adoption: The Christian’s Guide to Answering the Call. This book will help you with the many decisions you and your spouse must make, such as your preferred age, race, and gender of the child. There are many factors to consider, but the time spent learning about the adoption process before jumping in with both feet is well worth it.
Step 1: Determine Your Adoption Path
The most important decision you must make before beginning this path is determining the type of adoption that will be right for your family. A significant factor in the kind of adoption you seek will be the age of the child you adopt.
First, decide if you want to pursue a domestic adoption or adopt internationally. If you’re hoping to adopt a newborn baby, you will want to adopt within the U.S. With international adoption, you would be adopting a toddler or older child.
Since it involves higher travel costs, and each country has specific laws regarding adoption, international adoption tends to be more expensive. International adoptions are often of waiting adoptable children in an orphanage, and there may be little to no information on the birth parents. Domestic adoption is most often open adoption, so you will have medical and genetic information that will benefit you and your child’s doctor.
Most people seek an infant adoption, as bringing your baby home from the hospital and being there for every milestone are events that many hopeful adoptive parents dream of. Typically, you will have an open adoption with your baby’s birth mother in infant adoption. Infant adoptions are completed with a private adoption agency like Lifetime Adoption.
Another option is the adoption of a toddler. These children, typically between the ages of one and three, are placed for adoption for many reasons. If you adopt a toddler, you’ll still get to experience many firsts, yet skip all the middle-of-the-night feedings. In addition, you will know the child’s history and have all the medical and developmental information you need.
Two other types of domestic adoption include the adoption of a sibling group or an older child. These types of adoptions involve waiting adoptable children and are typically through a public agency. Siblings placed for adoption should be kept together, but it can be challenging to find a couple who is ready to adopt two or more children at the same time. It is a blessing when these children find a loving, stable family in a home where they feel safe and loved. Also, there are many reasons to adopt an older child. Providing an older child with a loving home that would otherwise be left in the child welfare system may appeal to you. Or maybe the “baby stage” does not appeal to you or fit into your lifestyle.
Most hopeful adoptive parents believe that ethnicity will not matter and will certainly not affect how they love their child. But there are considerations to make for the child’s sake. Racial heritage and culture matter, and to dismiss that is a disservice to the child. Introducing and celebrating your child’s culture into your life will be crucial if you adopt outside of your race.
Step 2: Research the Adoption Process
Once you’ve decided that adoption is how you’ll grow your family, it can be hard to know how to start the adoption process.
What do you need help with to begin your adoption? What’s standing in your way of achieving your dreams of adopting a baby?
Deep down inside, you might have answered:
- “I need to know where to start when adopting a child.”
- “I wonder if we’d ever feel like ‘mom and dad’ with open adoption.”
- “We need to know how we will pay for adoption.”
- “My spouse is ready and excited to adopt, but I’m not sure about it just yet.”
- “Our lives are just so busy right now. I need to find the time to go over all of this and take the next step.”
- “I just had another miscarriage and need time to heal.”
- “We’re ready to adopt and need to find the right adoption professional.”
- “To be real with you, I’m overwhelmed about what we should do.”
- “I’m ready to get the ball rolling and just need to know the next steps!”
Maybe you can identify with one of those thoughts or have a completely different one in mind. We want to help provide easy-to-use information as you begin your adoption journey. That way, your questions about the adoption process aren’t holding you back.
Lifetime’s Frequently Asked Questions page is a wonderful place to learn the essentials if you’re new to adoption. If adoption is on your mind (and heart), you’ll want to read these answers to the basic adoption questions you’ll ask as someone who hopes to adopt.
Step 3: Look Into the Cost of Adoption
Adoption can be expensive, so you may have to budget, save, or even finance your adoption. Before agreeing to work with any adoption professional, ask for their contract, fee schedule, and outline of anticipated additional costs to complete your adoption. If the organization mentions’ match’ or ‘placement’ fees, ask what happens if the match or placement fails. Be sure to get everything in writing.
Take a realistic look at your finances; putting yourself at a financial risk will not create a stable home environment in the long run. If you don’t have the funds to adopt a baby, look into a public agency that works with child welfare cases. Also, the website AdoptUsKids lists waiting adoptable children who are in desperate need of a loving family. These children are often lost in the child welfare system and long for permanency.
Domestic newborn adoption runs between $30,000 and $45,000. There are many ways to help raise these funds. In addition to the available adoption grants and loans, some employers offer adoption benefits. Many couples hold successful fundraisers, as many friends, family, and church congregations are happy to contribute to the joyous event of adopting a baby.
International adoption costs between $20,000 and $50,000. Further, you will need to prepare for miscellaneous expenses depending on the country you are adopting from, travel expenses, visas, and foreign attorney fees. You will also want to factor in time away from work: some countries require the adoptive parents to visit several times or stay for a certain amount of time after the adoption.
Step 4: Hire an Adoption Professional
By preparing a list of questions, you will be ready when you contact adoption professionals. Here are some questions you might to ask:
- How long have you been in business?
- What are your adoption fees? Will there be any additional fees come up at a later time?
- How many families have you helped successfully adopt?
- What services do you provide birth mothers?
- What is your reclaim rate?
- What services are available to us, the adoptive family?
Make sure you feel comfortable asking them and are confident in their response. Then, search for their company on the Better Business Bureau website and ask them for referral families that will speak with you. You can get great insight into the process as well as the adoption professional you are working with by talking with their past clients.
Focus on the adoption services you will need. Some professionals, such as adoption consultants, are optional and not required. Take this into account as you prepare your adoption budget to avoid paying for unnecessary services.
Where to Start When Adopting a Child?
Deciding whether or not to adopt is one of the most significant decisions you and your spouse will ever make. Don’t rush the process. Instead, do your research, talk to a counselor, and, above all, talk to one another.
Once you feel both ready, you can begin the adoption process to build your family through adoption. So take the first step today and apply online by completing Lifetime’s free, no-obligation application at LifetimeAdoption.com/apply.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on December 11, 2014, and has since been updated.
Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).
Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.
“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!
Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.
I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.
It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”