When making the decision to adopt a newborn baby through an agency, there are 12 steps that can help get you there. The steps I discuss refer to domestic adoption through a private agency. If you would like to learn about other types of adoption and their associated costs you can read more here.
Let’s take a look at the 12 steps from the beginning of your adoption journey through the time your child is home and legally yours.
When you decide to adopt a newborn baby, there is a lot to learn. It can seem overwhelming. Working with an agency and taking these steps one at a time can help alleviate a lot of the overwhelm.
1. Attend an Orientation
Attending an orientation session at an adoption agency will help launch your journey. It’s an excellent way to get many of your questions answered. This is really the first step in deciding if infant adoption is right for you.
This will also allow you the opportunity to see how you feel about a particular agency. If you don’t like something about the agency at this point, you are in a great position to look for a different agency. Deciding to switch early in the process will help keep things uncomplicated.
For an excellent agency questionnaire to help you select the best agency for you, download the FREE guide below.
2. Submit an adoption application
Once you decide on an agency you would like to work with, the second step to moving forward with your dream to adopt a newborn baby is to complete an adoption application. In some cases, you may have already completed a preliminary application before the orientation. Either way, this would be the time to look into completing a formal application.
3. Complete an Adoption Homestudy
An adoption homestudy by a licensed adoption agency is required by law.
A homestudy is a process through which prospective adoptive parents are educated about adoption and evaluated to determine their suitability to adopt. A home study is a three-part process required before a child can be placed with a family for foster care or adoption: (1) Written portion includes autobiographies, references, medical reports, financial statements, child abuse, and criminal clearances and other written materials; (2) Social work process include a series of visits in the applicants’ home to discuss a variety of issues from the applicants’ backgrounds to their motivations to adopt and their understanding of adoption and parenting; (3) Educational process includes training in adoption and parenting issues. The end result of this process is a written document completed by a licensed agency giving a summary of the applicants’ family life. This document indicates approval of the applicants for adoption. In most states, it must be updated annually.
For more details on adoption homestudy requirements by state, go to this page, find your state and click on it.
4. Create Your Parent Profile
An adoptive family profile is an introduction to your family, home, and life. When your family is a potential fit for a specific birth mom (based on your preferences, etc.), your profile may be one that she views. This is likely how the birth parent/s will initially decide if you might be a good fit to adopt their child. Parent Profiles can be digital or printed. For more tips on creating a great profile, go here.
5. Complete Adoption Education
As part of your homestudy process, you will complete some adoption education. This is an important way to learn more about what to expect longterm as you move forward to adopt a newborn baby. You will be guided through this requirement by your adoption agency. I remember one of the highlights of the training we received was getting to hear from some birth mothers. Getting to experience that opened our eyes to the other side of adoption and helped us better prepare for open adoption.
For many, this is the hardest part. Wait times vary. After we completed our profile we waited for about 2 years but sometimes the wait can be longer. I have heard of waits being double that. It really just depends on timing. It could be sooner or a bit longer. Be sure to ask the agency you plan to work with what the wait times are averaging.
For a list of 10 ways to make the most of your adoption wait, check out this post.
7. Adoption Match
Your agency will notify you when a birth mother who has seen your parent profile wants to meet you (in open adoption) or has selected you (closed adoption). You are considered “matched” when you and the expectant parent(s) officially choose each other and decide to move forward to create an adoption plan together.
We received a call on a Tuesday that a birth mom wanted to meet us that Thursday! And, our daughter had already been born! The day we met her; we also met our daughter.
8. Make a Hospital Plan and an Openness Agreement
Assuming your child isn’t already born, like in our case, your adoption caseworker will guide you and the birth mother to make all the necessary decisions in preparation for the baby’s arrival. This includes a hospital plan.
An adoption hospital plan is a document that details exactly what you and the expectant mother, wants to happen (and not to happen) during your hospital stay. This plan is typically created before going into labor, to help give the birthmother and you peace of mind. It also helps you to prepare mentally for the delivery and adoption process.
Also, in cases where you will have an open adoption, they will walk you through completing an openness plan. An open adoption agreement is a formal, post-adoption contract that outlines expectations and boundaries for ongoing contact between birth parents and an adoptive family. It explains how, and how much the birth parents, adoptive parents, and adopted child will stay in touch after the adoption takes place. It also describes what that contact will look like.
The exact details of placement can look different depending on the specifics of your adoption. You may take your child home directly from the hospital or perhaps after some time in interim care. Your agency will walk with you through this placement process.
When you adopt a newborn baby, the adoptive family is often at the hospital during the delivery or soon thereafter. Some adoptive families are in the delivery room too. But again, sometimes, there may be a short interim period before your child comes home. Birthmothers sign documents to terminate their parental rights voluntarily and legally after the baby is born. Legal requirements and timelines vary from state to state.
10. Post Placement Visits
Following an adoption placement, adoptive families will undergo a post-placement supervision period, during which time a social worker will make visits to the adoptive home and develop a report detailing the child’s and parents’ adjustment to the placement. The number of post-placement visits vary state by state and even by licensing entities; however, most states require three on average. These are usually handled by the same adoption social worker who completed your homestudy. Our post-placement visits were actually very enjoyable. At that point, we had developed a relationship with our caseworker. It was enjoyable having her come over and see the connection we were forming with our child.
11. Legal Finalization of Your Baby’s Adoption!
This is exciting! Once the required information is filed with the court, you are well on your way to having your baby’s adoption legally finalized. The day you receive that finalization is a cause for celebration. This exact process and whether you will appear in court varies from state to state. Your agency should also guide you through the needed steps.
12. Stay Connected
If you have an open adoption, honor your openness agreement. Stay in touch with your baby’s birthparent(s). Share how well your baby is doing. Share pictures and milestones. Depending on your openness level, you may plan get-togethers. We have spent time with our children’s birth mom at various locations such as a park, a restaurant, and even a church.