Around 140,000 children are adopted by American families each year. While many people choose to explore adopting from a foreign country or through the foster care system, domestic infant adoption is a third option. The first step to understand your adoption choices is to take a closer look at the infant adoption process. What is domestic adoption? How does it work? What are the pros and cons of this form of adoption? Is domestic infant adoption the right fit for your family?
What Is Domestic Infant Adoption?
Domestic infant adoption is a voluntary, permanent placement of a baby for adoption. The birth parents may choose to work with an adoption agency or arrange for private adoption. The match between birth families and prospective adoptive families happens before the baby is born. The adoption process cannot be completed without the assistance of an adoption attorney or a reputable adoption agency.
What Are the Benefits?
- The adoptive parents can bond with the child from birth instead of after a child is in the foster care system.
- Birth parents and adoptive parents can choose open adoption.
- Other children in the family can participate in the adoption process.
- Increases the possibility that the extended family will bond with the adoptee.
Benefits of Bonding in the Infant Adoption Process
Being at the hospital (often in the delivery room) is a huge advantage to domestic newborn adoption programs. Bonding with a newborn will aid in the child’s overall development. Studies have shown that bonding with a newborn decreases the risk of disease; boosts immunity against viruses and bacteria; enhanced a child’s IQ; and much more. When an adoptive parent, adoptive sibling, or extended family have the chance to engage in skin-to-skin contact with a newborn, the baby is also more likely to have positive emotional development.
The bonding experience also benefits the birth parents. They have the chance to see the adoptive parents interact with their birth child. The interaction helps build confidence in their choice of adoptive families and eases their emotions through the rest of the adoption process.
What Is an Open Adoption?
An open adoption agreement varies depending on the wishes of the birth parents and adoptive parents. In most cases, an open adoption means that the prospective adoptive parents can engage in the full pregnancy experience, including providing housing and expenses for a mother during her pregnancy.
After the baby is born, the adoptive family may continue to share letters, photos, and other forms of communication with the birth family. This form of adoption may also include the ability to have face-to-face visits between the birth families and the adoptee. Most modern adoptions are semi-open to open.
What Are the Benefits of an Open Domestic Adoption?
- Birth families benefit by keeping in contact with the child after the adoption.
- The adoption transition is less traumatic for the birth families.
- Adoptive families have access to important medical history that only a birth parent can provide.
- The adopted child is less likely to go through an identity crisis later in life.
Can I Close an Open Adoption?
As mentioned before, no two open adoptions are the same. Most of the time, an open adoption is a verbal agreement that allows birth parents and adoptive parents to maintain contact. In this case, the adoptive parents can choose to change the terms of the agreement at any time. The decision to end contact with the birth parents could cause lasting emotional damage to the adopted child. If you are uncertain about allowing the birth family full access, some adoptive families choose a semi-open adoption. This path allows birth parents and their families to receive updates and photos from the adoptive parents without having direct contact with the child.
In some states, legally binding open adoption arrangements are allowed. Be aware that a lawfully binding open adoption is almost impossible to nullify, regardless of the circumstances. The best option for the child is to decide the right fit for your family before the adoption is complete and stick with it unless the adopted child’s safety is in question. Your adoption attorney can help you determine the best adoption plan for you.
What Is the Domestic Infant Adoption Process?
- Find an adoption professional – It is essential to work with a legitimate agency or attorney to ensure that your adoption is fully legal. Working with an adoption professional also protects you from fraud.
- Complete a home study – This process is often the most stressful, lengthy part of the process. You cannot adopt a child without this step.
- Find a birth mother – After you complete the home study process, you can begin searching for an infant to adopt. If you are working with an agency, they will help you find a match.
- Choose a pre-placement contact and adoption type – Once a match is found, you will need to determine what kind of adoption you want to pursue—open, semi-opened, or closed. Parents who wish to place their child for adoption must agree with your adoption type.
- Hospital and placement – Once the birth mother goes into labor, you will travel to the hospital. The birth mother must consent to the adoption after the birth. The birth father should have already terminated his legal rights by this point.
- Post-placement and finalization – There is usually a 3-6 month waiting period before the adoption becomes final. These final steps include post-placement visits by the social worker, final legal clearances, and one last court appearance before a judge to finalize your adoption.
Law Firm vs Adoption Agency – Which Is Best for You?
Each type of adoption professional has advantages and disadvantages. Some adoptive parents can skip the agency matching process by finding their own prospective match, but all families interested in adopting must hire an adoption lawyer. Reputable adoption professionals want the best for everyone involved. They understand that adopting a child is a serious decision, and they will be with you every step of the way. They are a great resource and can answer any questions you have about adoptions in your state.
Adoption Resources Available
- National Agencies – Domestic infant adoption agencies provide matching, advertising, guidance, and other services to families and birth mothers across the country. They are a great resource if you would like to adopt a child.
- Regional Agencies – Unlike national agencies, regional agencies specialize in a particular area, which is good for families who want to adopt closer to home.
- Adoption Law Firms – Legally, you only need an adoption attorney to complete the process of adopting a newborn. However, they do not have the same matching and support services that agencies have.
- Adoption Law Centers and Facilitators – Providing little more than matching services, law centers and facilitators can pass adoptive families on to other adoption professionals after the match.
What Is a Home Study?
The home study process is an evaluation used by the courts to determine if a person or couple can offer a stable home environment for a placement (adoptee). All adoptions, regardless of the type, must complete this review. This process includes a criminal background check; a review of your finances; an in-depth look at your relationships; and much more. In the United States, you cannot move on to finding an adoption match until you complete this step. This process is the most stressful part of the process because of its intrusive nature. A successful home study requires you to be prepared and transparent.
Be Prepared in Advance
- Make sure you have access to all your legal documents – birth certificates; marriage license; medical records; and much more.
- Prepare each member of the adoptive household to complete an interview with a licensed social worker.
- Adoptive families will need to pass an extensive state and federal background check.
- Be prepared to provide character references from friends, family, and co-workers.
- Prepare your home before the home inspections (Ex: baby-proof the house).
Who Conducts the Review?
A licensed social worker conducts the review of the prospective parents’ life and resources. In addition to collecting information about the prospective parents, the social worker will want to review your support system. The court sometimes assigns the social worker. In some states, you will need to find a qualified professional in your area. Each state or county has a different policy related to who can conduct the home study. Your agency representative or adoption attorney can help you find a home study provider near you.
What Happens During a Home Study?
The social worker will conduct interviews and inspect your home. The purpose of this process is to determine your motives for adopting and your preparedness for bringing an infant into your life. As mentioned before, this process is time-consuming. It can also be very stressful. At the end of the process, the social worker will complete the home study report.
What Is the Home Study Report?
The social worker assigned to your case will submit a written report outlining their findings. Adoption agencies use this report to create a family profile as part of the adoptive family selection process. State governments and courts require this document to ensure the legality of the adoption placement. Once this report is submitted, you are considered an “active” adoption match.
Infant Adoption – How Long Does it Take to Find a Match?
The time between activation and matching your family profile with a birth mother is known as your wait time, and it can vary based on several factors. You can increase the chances of a short wait time by being flexible with your adoptee preferences.
Types of Adoption Preferences
- Race and Gender – If you are only interested in adopting a child of a certain race or gender, your wait time may be longer because your profile will only be shown to prospective birth mothers who match your preferences.
- Medical History – It’s rare for anyone, including prospective birth mothers, to have a completely clean bill of health. If any medical conditions worry you, such as bipolar disorder, speak with a doctor about your concerns. He or she may be able to alleviate your worries about potential health risks.
- Adoption Type – If you intend to pursue a closed adoption, which involves no contact with the birth family, this could significantly increase your wait time. Most birth mothers today are interested in sharing at least some contact with the adoptive family and child, so if you are only interested in a closed adoption, you will not be a match for those situations. It’s preferable that you accept at least a semi-open adoption, which is what about 90 percent of birth mothers are seeking.
Is Domestic Infant Adoption Expensive?
On average, the full domestic adoption costs in the United States may range from $20,000 – $50,000. These costs vary depending on the agency or attorney you select. The longer it takes to find the right match, the more these expenses may climb. There are also court fees to keep in mind. Depending on the arrangement you make, there may be temporary cost-of-living expenses, medical expenses, or other costs related to prenatal care. Like all parents, preparing your home for the arrival of a newborn is also costly.
Is Domestic Infant Adoption Right for You?
It is no secret that choosing to adopt a baby is a huge commitment. No two adoption stories are the same. If you are thinking about completing a domestic infant adoption, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, your search could take a long time. Be patient. Second, there are many fraudulent adoption programs. You can avoid these traps by gathering plenty of information before you commit or exchange money. Third, do not be afraid to ask questions. The more questions you ask, the less heartache you could face in the future. Fourth, do you have enough support? Whether it is your first child or your fifth, adopting a child comes with many unexpected needs. Familiarize yourself with the programs available to get you any additional support. Yes, adoption is hard work, but it is worth it in the end!
If you are considering adopting a child, please contact Randle Palmer & Bernays for a consultation today!
(Further reading on adopting an infant child)