How to Begin the Process of Adopting a Child

So, you have made the decision to consider adopting a child. How to begin? Adoption can seem like a very long and difficult process, but if you educate yourself about it you can avoid many pitfalls and mistakes that could delay and complicate your adoption proceedings.

Get Help From Adoption Agencies, Groups and Organizations

The first step is to learn where to start. Adoptive parent support groups can be a real help here. Many will often be willing to assist you. You can also get information to help get you started from regional adoption exchanges, local agencies, and state adoption program managers. Also, do not overlook adoption preparation programs offered by local community colleges, adoption exchanges, adoption agencies, hospitals, religious groups, and other organizations.

Adoption Law

Secondly, you must know and understand adoption law. State laws and regulations govern U.S. adoptions and researching them is a must. In many states, the process to adopt a stepchild is different from other kinds of adoption, and this is just one of many possible legal variables you may encounter. Learn the laws that will apply to and affect your case.

Choose an Adoption Agency

You will have to select your adoption agency and explore your adoption options. Will your adoption be domestic or intercountry ? If you choose intercountry adoption, what country will your child come from? If you adopt domestically, what type of adoption is best for your family? Public agency, licensed private agency, independent, or facilitated and unlicensed agency adoptions are all possibilities.

Complete a Home Study Adoption Program

Be prepared to complete a home study adoption program. All prospective adoptive parents must go through a home study or family study program. A home study program involves education, preparation, and gathering information about the prospective adoptive parents. Agencies and individuals want to know the children are going to be entering the best and most stable living situations possible. You should check with your state adoption program to learn about the specific regulations where you live as states vary regarding home study requirements. Depending on agency waiting lists and training requirements this process can take from 2 to 10 months to complete. Be aware as well that intercountry adoption may carry special home study requirements.

The Adoption Placement Process

Next you will actually engage in the placement process. The way you begin this will depend upon which adoption choice you are pursuing. For intercountry adoption, you may review information about your prospective child and may have the opportunity to meet your child in his or her placement setting. If you are going the independent adoption route a lawyer may help you identify expectant parents. Or you may locate them on your own if allowed by state law. If you are working through a licensed private agency, the expectant parents may select your family from among several prospective adoptive families. Again, there are many options to consider.

File the Legal Documents

As they say, no job is finished until the paperwork is done. You will be required to file all necessary legal documents. If you have chosen intercountry adoption, the actual adoption procedure is just one of a series of required legal processes. In addition to the laws of your state, you must also follow the laws of the child's country of origin. You will also have to satisfy U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requirements. All domestic adoptions need to be finalized in court. The process varies from state to state. Generally a child must have lived with the adoptive family for at least 6 months before the adoption can be legally finalized. This is an important time which serves to insure proper placement for the child. After this period you or your attorney can then file with the court to complete the adoption.

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