Adopting Through an Agency

The Procedure

1. Complete the application and preplacement inquiry. When you contact an agency, you may be invited to attend an agency-sponsored orientation session. Here you and other applicants will learn about the agency's procedures and available children and receive the application forms. The agency will review your completed application to determine whether to accept you as a client. If accepted by a private agency, you will probably have to pay a registration fee at this point.

The next step is the preplacement inquiry known as the "home study" or the "family assessment." The home study is an evaluation (required by state law) of you as a prospective adoptive family and of the physical and emotional environment into which the child would be placed. It is also a preparation for adoptive parenthood. It consists of a series of interviews with a social worker, including at least one interview in your home. During this process, you will, with the social worker's assistance, consider all aspects of adoptive parenthood and identify the type of child you wish to adopt. Some agencies use a group approach to the educational part of the adoption preparation process because it creates a built-in support group among adoptive families.

Many of the questions asked in the home study are personal and may seem intrusive if you are not expecting them. These questions are necessary for the social worker's evaluation of you as a prospective parent. Some of the questions are about your income, assets, and health and the stability of the marriage (if married) and/or family relationships. Physical exams to ensure that you are healthy are usually required. Some states require that prospective adoptive parents undergo a fingerprint and background check to ensure that you do not have a felony conviction for domestic violence or child abuse. A home study is usually completed in a few months, depending upon the agency's requirements and the number of other clients.

2. Be prepared to wait. Adopting a child always requires a waiting period. If you want to adopt a Caucasian infant, be prepared to wait at least one year from the time the home study is completed, and more frequently two to five years. It is difficult to estimate the waiting period more specifically because birth parents usually select and interview the family they wish to parent their child. Applicants wishing to adopt African-American infants may have a shorter wait, probably less than six months. If you want to adopt a child with special needs, you can begin now to review photolistings to learn more about waiting children and to look for children who might be right for your family. International adoptions, on the other hand, may take a year or more but the wait and the process will be somewhat more predictable. For any type of adoption, even after a child is found, you may have to wait weeks or months while final arrangements are made.

3. Complete the legal procedures. After a child is placed with you, you must fulfill the legal requirements for adoption. Hiring an attorney may be necessary at this time, if you have not already retained one.

Usually a child lives with the adoptive family for at least six months before the adoption is finalized legally, although this period varies according to state law -- unlike some international adoptions, however, where the adoption is completed before the child leaves his country. During this time before the adoption is finalized, the agency will provide supportive services. The social worker may visit several times to ensure that the child is well cared for and to write up the required court reports. After this period, the agency will submit a written recommendation of approval of the adoption to the court, and you or your attorney can then file with the court to complete the adoption.

For international adoptions, finalization of the adoption depends on the type of visa the child has, and the laws in your state. The actual adoption procedure is just one of a series of legal processes required for international adoption. You must also fulfill the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service's requirements and then proceed to naturalize your child as a citizen of the United States.

Source: National Adoption Information Clearinghouse

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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