I am both an Adoptive Mom and for the past 5 years have worked to help other couples and singles navigate the process and steps to adopt successfully in the U.S. As someone who has both the BTDT experience personally and has helped numerous people through the steps from thinking about adoption to being placed with a baby, here are the basic steps laid out for you.
1. The first step is to educate yourselves about the various types of adoption (open versus closed) and what various adoption professionals do. There are Adoption Coaches like myself, adoption agencies, adoption attorneys, adoption facilitators and social workers. Each of these people play key roles in the adoption process and in most instances you will work with most of the people on this list.
2. Spend some time thinking about how open you are comfortable with in a future adoption. This could range from a relatively closed adoption to letters through an agency or attorney on a mutually agreed upon schedule or more open meaning keeping in touch via Facebook or a private web site up to regular face to face visits. I always tell clients do not promise more than you know you can follow through with after the baby is born. Mutual trust is essential in a successful adoptive relationship and you want to start off on the right foot.
3. Find the right adoption professionals to assist you from the initial paperwork (called a home study) through finding a potential birth mother to birth and finalization of your adoption (done through the family division at court in the state where the baby is born. One of the initial services I provide is an assessment of needs and wishes of those planning to adopt and coming up with a suggested plan including adoption professionals to help meet those wishes.
4. Complete your home study which includes background checks, finger print checks, medical clearances on all those involved in the adoption, visits with a social worker to ascertain readiness to adopt and after placement visits with the social worker to make sure that the placement is going well.
5. Next you will be ready to create your Adoption Profile or what is commonly referred to as a Dear Birth Mother Letter. It is a flyer like presentation of information about yourselves and the life you would be offering to a baby. It will include both text and photos and this profile has gone from a simple letter format when we were adoption 8 years ago to a much more involved graphic intensive digital scrapbook format. This is another of the services I offer to my clients.
6. When your Dear Birth Mother Letter is prepared it will be shown to potential birth mothers. Birth Mothers select the couple or single person that they are choosing to parent their child and form an Adoption Plan. At this point an attorney or agency will be helping to put together paperwork to assist both the birth mother and adoptive parent(s) as they move forward with plans to have the child placed for adoption.
7. Discussions should take place during the final weeks/months to decide if the adoptive parents will be a the hospital when the baby is born. The birth mother’s choice to place the baby for adoption should be drawn up in a birth plan so that when she enters the hospital, all staff are aware of her decision and are sensitive to her situation.
8. Every state has different waiting periods wherein the birth mother has a particular period of time to sign what is known as the Termination of Parental Rights (TPR). Most states necessitate that the birth mother be out of the hospital and it is clear she is making the decision without coercion. The birth father’s Termination of Parental Rights must also be obtained. In some states this is handled as a separate legal process through an attorney.
9. Paperwork is filed with the court and a court date is established to come in and finalize the adoption. At this time the original birth certificate is sealed and a new one is issued listing the adoptive parent(s) as the parents of the child.
10. I highly recommend all adoptive parents take the time to continue to educate themselves on adoptive parenting. I also recommend speaking about the subject of adoption early and often – by the time your child is old enough to understand the concept, you will be much more comfortable with practice speaking of it. Your child’s comfort level with being an adopted child will be greatly influenced by your own feelings and emotions around it.
I hope this information is a good jumping off start for you if you are considering domestic adoption as a way of family building.