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Where to Start on Your Adoption Journey

Where to Start on Your Adoption Journey

When Nathan and I started our adoption journey, we had no idea where to start or what came first—home study or profile book or agency sign-up. It all seemed overwhelming, and the step-by-step process didn’t seem clear. Fortunately, we know many friends and family who have adopted children, and who were willing to share their stories.

In order to navigate the adoption process, we sat down with some of these friends over dinners, scheduled meetings with coworkers who had adopted, and sent out a blanket of emails to anyone we thought could shed insight on where to start and what our process would look like.

Even after many conversations, I was still confused about the best route to take. I needed a step-by-step process that I could systematically walk through. In the early days, I began to cobble together what our steps would look like, and the picture became clearer.

In an effort to help other couples interested in adoption, I thought I’d put together a step-by-step process of what our journey has looked like up to now. Perhaps it will help other couples order their steps through their adoption journey.

Meet with friends, family, and coworkers who have adopted.

Not having a clue about all of the components of adoption, we sought the advice of those close to us. We found that different parts of the process were important or memorable to different friends. It was in the number of conversations and varied experiences that we began to get a picture of what we wanted our journey to look like. Ask your friends . . .

  • What is the adoption process? Where did you start, and what were your steps to adoption?
  • Thinking back to the beginning of your journey, what do you wish you knew then that you know now?
  • What was the hardest part?
  • Tell me about the agency or referral service you used. What did you like/dislike about them?
  • Who did their home study? Were you happy with their work?
  • Where did they get their profile book designed?
  • Regarding the home study, what was the most complex part? Were there any snags in the process or unforeseen difficulties?

Schedule a consultation with an adoption lawyer.

It is well worth your time to schedule a 90-120 minute session with an adoption lawyer. And it may be worth your money to hire an adoption lawyer on a small retainer, as someone solely looking out for your interests. The lawyer would be able to advise in regard to risks, state laws, or parental rights questions. To start, ask him or her . . .

  • What risks are involved in adoption?
  • If adopting domestically, what are the best adoption states, and what makes them good states to adopt in?
  • Are there different routes to adoption? Through an agency, referral service, private, independent, etc. And in their opinion, which is best.
  • What are anticipated costs of adoption?
  • Is he or she aware of financial assistance options for adoptive parents?
  • What are the best steps (the best process) he or she has seen adoptive parents take?
  • Would you be open to a small retainer agreement in which we could email or call with questions as we navigate the adoption process?

Make a list of agencies or referral services and call them.

Gather recommendations from your friends and coworkers, from your lawyer and through online searches. Once you’ve compiled a list, visit the websites for each. Look for in-person adoption information sessions and attend one. Even if you don’t sign up with the particular agency hosting the information session, learning from them is invaluable. In lieu of attending an information session, arrange a time when you and your husband can call the agency or referral service together so you can both hear what’s being said. Each of you will tend to focus on different aspects of the process, so with both of you listening, you’ll likely hear and process most of their answers.

As a side note, the difference between an agency and a referral service, in my opinion, is exposure. With an agency, you will have access to whomever is in their database. A referral service works with a number of agencies so that you have access to the database of several agencies. A referral service is an additional cost to the costs of the adoption agency the birth mother is working with.

Choose a company to do your home study.

At this point in the process, you can go a couple of different ways. You can go ahead and sign on with an agency or referral service and they will help you navigate through a home study and adoption profile (services that they may or may not offer in-house), or you can begin your home study while you continue to investigate agencies or referral services. We chose to begin our home study independent of having signed up with anyone. It will likely take two to four months to gather all the necessary paperwork to complete the home study, so plan for that.

Near the completion of our home study, our caseworker advised us to choose an agency and get our profile book under way so that the approval of the home study coincided with the start of our contract with the agency.

Contract with an adoption agency or referral service.

Once you’ve chosen an agency or service, you’ll enter into a contract with them. You will have a couple of meetings with them as part of their education requirements from your state. Likely, in your first meeting, your caseworker will review some preferred profile book samples with you and give you general instructions for completing yours.

In our case, we wrote our adoption book and had the text approved by the service before proceeding to layout and design.

Once the text is approved, you will need to choose a designer—with costs ranging from $750 to $1,500. Or, you can choose to design the profile book yourself as we did through Mixbook.

In a comparison with other photo book companies, I found Mixbook to offer the best options suitable for potential birth mothers, agencies, and adoption lawyers reviewing the book. We went with the layout entitled, “Hand Drawn Patterns,” as it most suited our casual, colorful style. The process of designing the book (after copy was approved) took about five hours, but saved us about $800.

All totaled, the process of writing the text, designing the book and printing copies took about two weeks.

Distribute your profile book.

Your profile book doesn’t have to solely be distributed through your agency or service. You can choose to distribute your book through the adoption lawyer you consulted with, through trusted doctors, through friends, and through other adoption lawyers.

Review birth parent profiles and ask questions.

Once the hubbub of the home study and profile book are complete, your adoption journey will look like a few long days of waiting between reviewing birth parent profiles.

Birth parents engage with the agency or lawyer who in turn distributes the birth parent’s profile to prospective adoptive parents. It is up to the adoptive parents to choose whether or not to have their profile book shown to the birth parents.

It is in the reviewing of the birth parent profiles that you can ask as many questions as possible to your caseworker. If you don’t understand a medical term or diagnosis disclosed by a birth parent, ask. If you’re not sure of the affects of a drug on a child in utero, ask. Anything that leaves you wondering, ask. Now is not the time to make assumptions or think, “Oh, that’s probably fine.”

And the journey goes on . . .

Because we are in currently reviewing birth parent profiles and submitting our profile book, this is as far as the journey has taken us. As the process unfolds, as we continue this route, we’ll update our process so that others can feel informed as they journey.

©2018 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere,
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