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What to Know Before Adopting a Child

The relationship that exists between prospective adoptive parents and their professionals is an “intimate” one, says Guston of the A.A.A.A. “So it really is important to not make your decision lightly — call several agencies and lawyers and ask lots of questions.”

No matter which adoption path you choose, you will be required to complete a home study, the process that clears the way for you to legally adopt. “A good home study will have two parts: evaluation and education,” said Dawn Davenport, Executive Director of the non-profit group, Creating a Family. “Your case worker should be assessing your fitness to serve as an adoptive parent, as well as educating you and providing you with resources.”

Though it varies by state and by agency, home studies generally take anywhere from three to six months to complete and include: several visits to your home by a case worker, health exams, proof of income and health coverage, a criminal background check, and the names of several people close to you who can serve as references. For more detailed information on what to expect from and how to prepare for the home study process, explore resources made available by the Child Welfare Information Gateway and Creating a Family.

There is a clear trend in the United States towards maintaining some degree of contact between birth and adoptive families, thanks in part to ongoing research that has found benefits for all involved. Just how “open” your arrangement is will be the result of a negotiated process between you and your child’s birth family. “It can range anywhere from letters being exchanged once a year on the child’s birthday, to frequent in person visits,” said Davenport of Creating a Family.

Even in the case of a “closed” adoption, Davenport notes that children will still be able to access some identifying information about their birth parents when they turn 18. The popularity of commercially available DNA testing services, like Ancestry.com and 23andMe, has also made the process of finding birth relatives so easy that the notion of an entirely “closed adoption” is now all but obsolete. Creating a Family dedicates several resources on its website to open adoption as does the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Adopting through foster care is essentially free and often comes with subsidies. But the costs associated with other paths can be considerable. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, an agency adoption generally ranges from $20,000 to $45,000, an independent adoption from $15,000 to $40,000, and an international adoption from $20,000 to $50,000.

“With so many children needing good homes, cost should never be the reason people don’t adopt,” said Fawcett, whose organization, HelpUsAdopt.org, provides donations of up to $15,000 to help offset the costs of adoption. A number of additional grant and loan opportunities are also available. “Also be sure to check with your employer,” Fawcett said, as many offer adoption benefits or assistance programs. Also, check to see if you qualify for the adoption tax credit.

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