Sunday, January 17, 2010

Adoption FAQ

I get questions rather often about what the adoption process is like, sometimes from people who are thinking about adopting in the future.  Sometimes the questions just come from nosey people, but for those who are looking for some help, here are some of the most common questions I get.

How long does it take?
This depends on what road you take.  Domestic vs. international, private adoption vs. working an agency, special needs vs. healthy.  Domestic adoptions can go rather quickly (less than 1 year) if you don't have a racial preference.  If you do have a racial preference, it can take much longer.  We attended an informational meeting almost one year ago that was held by our adoption agency.  The projected time line for domestic adoption of a Caucasian child was 3 years.  If you adopt internationally, the time line is dependent upon which country you are adopting from.  It can take about 4 years to adopt a child from China.  We are looking at a time line of about 2 years.

How did you decide on what country to adopt from?
Our agency has a preliminary application that you have to fill out if you are interested in pursuing international adoption.  It asks for some basic information about your age, health, income, and length of marriage.  You will then be given a list of what countries from which you could adopt.  We were given our results just a few days after we submitted our prelim app.  We were not old enough to adopt from several of the countries that our agency is licensed in - you had to 30 and we were 29.  We didn't want to wait another year.  Some countries require that you be married for a least 5 years before you can adopt there.  Your health is another thing that can disqualify you.  If you are disabled or being treated for certain conditions, you will be not be allowed to adopt from certain countries.  We had a few countries to chose from.  The process doesn't take quite so long in Ethiopia, and you can adopt infants from Ethiopia.  Not all countries will allow infants to be adopted internationally.

How did you decide which adoption agency to use?
We knew others who had previously adopted through the agency we chose, and we had gotten positive feedback from them.  That's the agency that we first looked at, and it is the one we ultimately chose.  We found a list a questions to ask an adoption agency that an adoptive mom had posted online.  Here it is. And, yes we did ask these.

1. Are you currently licensed to handle adoptions from Ethiopia?  Since when?
2. Have you ever had your license suspended?  Why?
3. How many Ethiopian adoptions have you completed?
4. Do you run an agency list-serv – a forum for pre- and post-adoptive families to converse online?  If not, is there a way for your families to communicate with one another?  This may sound trivial, but it is really helpful to make connections with other people who are going through the same thing you are going through.
5. Can I have a hand in choosing my child, or will I be “matched” with a child by you?
6. What kind of information is available about children you place?  Will I see medical reports, photos, videos?  Will I learn about the child’s history prior to placement at the orphanage?
7. Have you, the director, met the children?  Will you have met my prospective child personally?  If not, on whose word are we relying about the condition of the child?
8. What is a typical time line from the time I accept a child to completion of the process?
9. How does the time line for baby-adoption compare to the time line for older child adoption?
10. May I travel to meet my child before the process is complete?
11. May I travel to pick up my child or do I have the child escorted?  Which do you recommend?
12. Is it possible to adopt two or more unrelated children, or do you discourage it?
13. Is it possible to meet my child’s birth-relatives?  Does my child have a living parent? 
14. What is the cost for an adoption of one or more children?  Are there hidden costs?  Will I be charged for foster care while my child awaits completion of the process?
15. What kind of post-adoption support does your agency offer?  If we have a difficult transition, will you be able to help me through it? 

How much does it cost to adopt?
I usually tell people that it cost about as much as car.  Is some cases, it costs as much as a very nice car.  It depends on what state you live in and what country you are adopting from and how many children you are adopting. 
Did you have to find an adoption attorney?
No.  We did have to give power of attorney to an agency staff member in Ethiopia.

Why does it take so long?
Details.  Details. Details.  It takes about 6 months just to fill out the paperwork.  No stone is left unturned.  You have to turn in your bank records, proof of employment, medical history, tax returns.  you have to go through background checks.  You have to go through a medical exam and have blood work done, and get tested for TB and other contagious diseases.  You also have to have a drug test done.  We had to get fingerprinted twice - once for the state and again for immigrations.  You have to provide 11 letters/forms of reference - one from your doctor for each spouse, one from both your employers (if you both work outside the home), one from a family member that doesn't live with you, and the rest from friends.  Everything you turn in has to be notarized and sealed by the secretary of state.  Once you get your documents sent, to the country you are adopting from, every last page has to be translated.  There are a finite number of people in the country to process the applications and translate.

Do you have the option of indicating the gender/age/medical concerns of the child that you are open to adopting?
You will have a form to fill out where you can indicate what medical issues you are open to.  Ours was about 2 pages long, and it had everything on from a missing finger to HIV positive.  It was difficult to fill it out because each time you check "no" you wonder what real live child that check mark effected and how many more days in an orphanage that it bought them.  You will also be able to specify what age range you are open to, but that doesn't mean that just because you said you wanted a newborn you won't get a call from your social worker wanting to know if you'd like to adopt an 8 year old.  You can specify gender in some situations.  I don't think our agency will allow you to specify gender if you are adopting domestically.  Some countries will allow it.

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