Who Are the Children Waiting for Adoption?
More than 101,000 children wait for permanent homes in the United States. Most are school-aged or older. Many have emotional, physical, or learning disabilities. There are brothers and sisters who need to stay together. More than half of the children come from minority cultures.
Caucasian children under five years old often have severe medical disabilities or have older brothers and sisters. African American children, Latino children, and children of mixed heritage cover a wider age range and include healthy infants. The majority are boys.
Most children waiting for adoption live in foster or group homes because their parents were unable to care for them. Often, personal and family problems made it impossible for the parents to maintain a home for their children. Some of these children have been abused, neglected or abandoned.
Can I Ask for More Information about the Child I Want to Adopt?
Most children's agencies can provide more information about a child than they are able to include on a flyer, newspaper article, or website description. However, some of the child's information is considered confidential, and workers may want to share it only with those families they are seriously considering as adoptive parents.
Once you have been selected for a particular child, adoption agencies are required to share with you any information that they have about the child, with the exception of identifying information about the birth family. Unfortunately, they may not always have a great deal of information, especially if a child has lived in several foster homes. It is important to ask for whatever is available, including medical reports, results of psychological or educational testing, and information about early development.
Can the Biological Parents Come Back to Take a Child?
In order for a child to be adopted, the birth parents have to relinquish legal parental rights. With most agency adoptions, a child is already legally free for adoption before a placement occurs. While cases where a parent changes his/her mind (usually before an adoption is finalized) are highly publicized, they occur infrequently. Once the adoption has been finalized, the biological parents have no legal tie to the child.
Can I Adopt a Child in a Different State?
Yes. The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), passed in 1998, requires state agencies to speed up a child's move from foster care to adoption by establishing time frames for permanency planning and guidelines for when a child must be legally freed for adoption. The law also removes geographic barriers to adoption by requiring that states not delay or deny a placement if an approved family is available outside the state.
Can I Adopt a Child of Another Race?
Yes. In October, 1995, the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) became effective. This act and subsequent revisions bar any agency from discriminating because of race when considering adoption opportunities for children, if the agency receives federal funding. Another law affecting transracial adoption is the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which establishes provisions for the placement of Native American children.
How Long Will it Take to Adopt?
There are two stages in the adoption process: pre-placement and post-placement. Placement is when the child enters your home, pre-placement describes the time before and post-placement the time after. There is a pre-placement waiting period for all adoptions. The time frame, like the cost, varies with the type of child being adopted. With a completed homestudy in hand, the process to adopt a child with special needs can often proceed quickly and be completed within a few months. The wait is typically between two and seven years for a healthy infant.
After placement, your agency will have to supervise your family for a legally-mandated length of time before finalization can occur. Typically this post-placement time period will be no less than six months from the time of placement.
What Is a Homestudy?
A homestudy is a series of meetings with a social worker to provide more in-depth information about adoption and help prepare an applicant for parenting an adopted child. The homestudy process varies from agency to agency. Some conduct individual and joint interviews with both members of a couple; others conduct group homestudies with several families at one time. Most ask applicants to provide written information about themselves and their life experiences.
Agencies also require certain documents: a marriage license, birth certificate, medical report, criminal check and child abuse clearance. Personal character references are often required. The homestudy includes at least one visit to your home by an agency worker. The time it takes to complete the homestudy will vary from one agency to another, but families who are interested in children with special needs are usually given prompt attention.
How Does Foster Care Differ from Adoption?
Foster care is meant to be temporary shelter for a child; generally the plan is for the child to return to the parents when they are able to provide care. If that fails, the child is made available for adoption.
Foster parents may be able to adopt the child in their care if the child becomes available, through a foster-adopt program with their agency. In fact, most adoptions in the United States are by children's foster parents. Beginning as a foster parent is also one way that you may be able to adopt a healthy infant or toddler. But you are not required to be a foster parent in order to adopt.
While some agencies approve a family simultaneously for both foster care and adoption, a foster care homestudy and an adoption homestudy are not always interchangeable. If you are thinking about foster-adoption, it is important to inquire how an agency handles this.
If you wish to become a foster parent, organizations which may be able to help you are the National Foster Parent Association, or the National Resource Center for Foster Care and Permanency Planning.
How Can I Adopt an Infant?
Depending on several factors, such as your openness to race and disabilities, you have a number of options available for adopting infants or toddlers. They include agency adoption (both public and private), private adoption, identified adoption, inter-country adoption and foster adoption.
Whatever option you choose, you will need to complete the homestudy process to be eligible to adopt. We suggest that you contact a number of agencies to learn about their procedures for approving families for adoption. Remember, it is important to obtain fee information in writing from any agency, attorney, intermediary or consultant before starting the process.
How Can My Spouse Adopt My Child?
An adoption attorney can help. You can find one through your local bar association, listed in the telephone directory, or by contacting the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, at 202-832-2222 or www.adoptionattorneys.org. For this type of adoption, begin by contacting an attorney.
How Can I Begin the Adoption Process?
• Visit our online course in family preparation.
• Contact us for an information packet, sent by e-mail, including a list of adoption agencies in your state. Or go to AdoptMatch, an online matching service.
• Call several agencies on the list and ask them to give you information about their programs.
• Select an adoption agency to provide you with a homestudy.
• Connect with a parent support group in your area.
• Visit libraries or search online for read books and magazines on adoption.
• In addition to the adoption agency you will be working with, you may contact other adoption resources to learn about available children.
What Will it Cost to Adopt?
It is not costly to adopt a child with special needs. Often the agency has a sliding fee scale, and frequently there is little or no cost. Following the adoption, the children may receive subsidies to cover the medical and other necessary expenses, although the family is still likely to incur other costs, over the years, as they raise their child.
Costs of adopting a healthy infant of any race through a private agency or attorney in the United States range from several hundred dollars to $30,000 or more. Inter-country adoptions are costly, as well. Families pay between $10,000 and $20,000 in fees, which may not include travel and living expenses while in the foreign country.
Is There Financial Assistance to Help Me Adopt?
Under both state and federal assistance programs, adoptive parents of children with special needs are eligible for a one-time payment of non-recurring adoption expenses. Such expenses include reasonable and necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, and other expenses.
A growing number of companies and government agencies are offering adoption benefits, which can include a financial reimbursement for legal expenses, agency fees, medical expenses, post adoption counseling, and other expenses, as well as paid or unpaid leave time and help finding resources and referrals. Check with your employer to find out your company's policies.
Loans and travel assistance may also be available through banks or travel agencies. For more information on loans and grants, you may want to contact the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) at 800-470-6665 or www.nacac.org or contact the National Adoption Foundation.
Is There a Tax Credit for People Who Adopt?
Federal legislation was passed in June, 2001 that increases tax credits and exclusions for all adoptive families. The Hope for Children Act taking effect on January 1, 2002 provides an adoption tax credit of $10,000 for all adoptions from 2002 and thereafter, and a tax exclusion of up to $10,000 for employer-provided adoption benefits, effective in 2003. Learn more about tax benefits for adoptive parents visit the IRS.
Can I Receive Financial Assistance after Adoption?
Most children registered with agencies as having special needs have already been classified as eligible for financial assistance, also called subsidies. Sources of assistance may be federal or state funds. It is important to discuss subsidies with your social worker and local department of social services and to have a written adoption assistance agreement prior to adoption. Many children also receive medical assistance in the form of a Medicaid card. A child's eligibility for adoption assistance is based on the child's need and not that of the adopting parents.
What Services Are Available Before Adoption?
During the preparation for adoption, as you complete your homestudy, an agency social worker counsels you and provides information and support. Sometimes social workers will refer families to special interest groups for a particular child's needs. They may also provide information on adoptive parent support groups, a valuable resource. These may be general or specific to a certain type of child or family, for example the Committee for Single Adoptive Parents or the Latin American Parents Association. Some groups have newsletters and other written materials.
Family preparation classes are offered by some agencies and required by others. Another very helpful option is an online family preparation class, the Foster Family to Forever Family available here.
What Services Are Available after Adoption?
After placement, many agencies offer post-adoption services to you. These can include support groups, individual and family counseling, workshops on specific topics of parenting, or ongoing contact with your social worker. If a child was receiving therapy or special schooling before the adoption, it will usually be continued. An employee assistance program at your workplace may also offer referrals for needed services.
How Can I Meet Other Adoptive Families?
Your social worker may be able to provide you with the names of other adoptive parents or information about an adoptive parent support group in your area. Some agencies will pair a waiting family with a "buddy" family who has already adopted a child with similar circumstances, while other agencies sponsor their own parent groups. The North American Council on Adoptable Children provides a searchable database of parent support groups throughout the United States and Canada. Select Post-Adoption Services on their website at www.nacac.org. You can also meet other families online.