Category Archives: home study

I Want to Adopt…Now What?

I Want to Adopt – Now What?

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Men and women all around the United States make one life-altering decision every day. Oftentimes, this decision is an amazing one: I want to adopt a child. With this choice comes relief for some and anxiety for others. What will this mean for me and my family? What does the process look like? What sort of things do I have to look forward to? With this step-by-step guide to the adoption process, you will be able to more readily navigate your own adoption journey.


Step One: Find the Type of Adoption That Works Best for You

There are many different types of adoptions and it’s about finding the right fit for you. While many domestic adoption plans in the 1980s and 1990s primarily focused around closed adoption, the adoption climate today has changed. Many private adoption agencies, such as Adoptions From The Heart, specialize in open adoption. This unique adoption journey allows children to stay connected with their birth parents after their adoption has been finalized. Studies have shown that open adoption is the best option for adoptees, as many struggle with their identities when they are unsure of their roots. To determine which adoption plan works best for you, ask yourself a series of deeply personal questions to guide your decision-making. Would I feel comfortable allowing my child to reunite with their birth parents throughout their life? Am I the kind of person who would be able to adequately answer my child’s questions about their background? What are my biggest fears about open adoption that may be holding me back?

Step Two: Research the Cost

There is a great difference in cost between foster care, Christian services and private adoption agencies. There is also a difference in cost between domestic and international adoption. Factors such as your home state and the use of an attorney can also affect the total cost. Whichever route you choose, be sure to do your research so as to prevent any surprise fees associated with your adoption. While adoption can be costly, it is important to note that there are resources available to manage the fees.

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Step Three: Select an Agency and Work Closely to Create Your Plan

Now that you’ve discovered what type of adoption plan you would like to follow, as well as the local costs for adoption, it’s time to choose your agency. Google local adoption agencies and search online to read reviews from former adoptive families. Social workers at these agencies are incredibly helpful. Reach out to, and meet with, local adoption social workers to determine which agency best fits your family’s needs.

Step Four: The Homestudy

The homestudy is an integral part of the adoption process. Prospective adoptive parents open their homes to social workers who conduct thorough home research and background checks to ensure that an adoptee will be properly cared for. Guidelines differ by state, so be sure to ask your adoption agency which documents you will need prior to the homestudy. Many waiting families experience anxiety throughout the homestudy process. This article offers tips on how to pass your homestudy with flying colors.

Step Five: Put Yourself Out There

Many adoption agencies do their best to help adoptive parents create profiles to make their information readily available to expecting mothers. Websites such as Adoptimist help families create a unique online presence to show others about the things that make their family a wonderful fit for a child. Take advantage of these online resources as some birth mothers may seek out families individually on the internet before reaching out to an agency.

Step Six: Make Preparations for Your Child

As the months tick by, families get closer and closer to meeting the child they are waiting for. Be sure to keep some basic necessities on hand that cater to the age of the child you are planning to adopt. Be mindful that emergency placements do occur. Expecting mothers go to the hospital, give birth and decide that they would like to place their child. Don’t be surprised if you get a seemingly random phone call telling you to come meet your baby. While it is not the most common experience, it happens. Prepare accordingly.

Step Seven:  Petition to Adopt/Finalize Adoption

There is nothing better than finally meeting the child that will join your family. Your agency, social worker and lawyer will help you officially petition the court for adoption rights. Once your petition has been approved, you are officially parents!

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Adoption can seem like a daunting process when you’re not sure what to expect. Remember that there are always resources and individuals who are willing to help you sort through any questions you may have. Do not be afraid to reach out to local adoption social workers, agencies and attorneys for guidance. With 1 in 6 American families touched by adoption, the support network is larger than you even know.

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The Home Study

What is the home study?hyacinth-1369537_1280

The home study is “an assessment of prospective adoptive parents to see if they are suitable for adopting a child.” It covers many elements of the prospective parents’ lives to not only ensure that they are ready and able to take care of a child, but that they will be placed with a child that is the best fit for everyone involved.

What is the process?

While a portion of the process, as the name suggests, is in the home of the prospective parents, there are other steps as well. In the “home” portion of the process, a social worker or case worker will evaluate where the family lives and plans to raise the child. They will check to ensure everything is safe for children, such as child locks on cabinets containing cleaning supplies, as well as the home is up to code, if that state requires that type of check. You can find out more about the laws in each state here.

Outside of the check of the home itself, there are many pieces of the home study. There will be several documents and statements the prospective parents will need to provide the social worker such as health statements, income documents, background checks, and potentially more depending on the particular state or agencies standards. The prospective parents will also have multiple interviews with the social worker, and potentially write an autobiographical statement about themselves, to provide more information. Information from interviews and statements include but are not limited to; family background, education, previous and current employment, daily lifestyle, past experience with children, previous and current relationships, religious affiliations or belief system, their surrounding family and friends, and their feelings about adoption and welcoming it into their lives.

In addition to these logistical measures, there will be aspects of the home study that explore the character of the prospective parents. This portion is not in place to discriminate who is able to adopt a child. Rather, it is to help ensure that the parties involved are ready to be parents and that they will be matched with the right child based on their abilities and lifestyle. References from people who have known the prospective parents but are not related will give the social worker more background as well as give them a view of the network of loved ones that will be around.

Other aspects may be included on a case by case basis. For example, if the prospective parents already have children, those children may be interviewed to gauge their thoughts about welcoming a new family member as well as helping to ensure the safety of the home by how they have been raised so far.

What’s the purpose?

LGBT ISTOCK - LGBT FAMILY 2 (1) croppedThe purpose of the home study is to prepare the prospective adoptive parents while assessing the fitness of the prospective adoptive parents to adopt and match them with a child who they can responsibly care for.

I really want to start my family, how long does this process take? Is it expensive?

The time and cost of home studies can vary dependent on the type of adoption, state laws, specific agency fees, and more. The average time of compiling a home study report is 3 to 6 months. For domestic infant adoption through a private agency, $1,000-3,000 can be expected but that may also include other fees. For foster care into adoption, it can less, and for international adoption it can be similar or more.

How can I make sure I get approved?

There are no set standards for who gets approved to adopt a child through a home study, other than elimination of those with history of abuse and certain crimes. Different agencies and states may have varying views and guidelines they must follow. Race, religion, sexuality, gender, and other identifying elements are not in any way accounted for in someone’s ability to be approved for adoption. These aspects may help a social worker see what children could be a potential match, but they will not affect the approval process.

Some general tips to keep in mind for a positive home study experience are:

  • Know the laws and requirements for home studies in your state
  • Be completely yourself and 100% honest
    • Whether it be about your income, previous relationships, or potentially even matters of your criminal history, always be honest. Social workers can help, even with criminal activity if one is rehabilitated, dependent on the crime, of course.
  • Stay organized and have any potential needed documents readyfriend-1107005_1280
  • Ask for references from people who really know you and have for some time, not those who you think might have nice things to say about you
  • Keep your home clean and safe but do not try to be perfect
    • Social workers are not looking to eliminate applicants based on normal household clutter. They are looking for an environment that is clean and organized to a degree that is safe for a child while adhering to safety measures such as a working smoke alarm.
  • Start thinking about your parenting style, what your capabilities are, and how a child will fit into your current lifestyle.
    • No matter how much you want to grow your family, not every child being placed for adoption will be a good fit for you, nor you for them. Being open and honest with yourself and your social worker will help ensure you are placed with the child who will become part of your forever family.
  • Be flexible and have a sense of humor

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The home study can be a stressful process, but if you keep an open mind, be yourself, and let your social worker help you, you will find relief. For a more detailed view of home studies, check out this resource and be sure to research the home study services of your local adoption agency!

The Different Adoption Costs and How to Adopt Without Going into Debt

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As a prospective adoptive parent, you are likely researching various adoption agencies and professionals with one big question in mind: How much will this adoption cost, and will it fall within our budget? Many people say that they would really like to adopt but they automatically think they can’t afford it because the one word that comes along with adoption is EXPENSIVE. The one important piece of advice we urge our readers is to not just choose one specific adoption route because it is less expensive than the path you feel most. There are a lot of other important factors to think about when picking out the right adoption plan for your family. Be very honest with yourself and choose the adoption plan that you feel most comfortable and then focus on the cost associated with that choice. There are so many different ways that you can raise money throughout your adoption journey to help offset the cost and stay out of debt!

Statistics on the Cost of Different Adoption Plans

After making the decision to adopt, your family should understand and anticipate the financial costs associated with the different kinds of adoption. Costs of adoption may be minimal or can total more than $40,000, depending on a number of facts. The wide range of cost is dependent on the type of adoption, type of placement, agency, child’s age and many other different factors. Below are just a few statistics of how much adoption can cost, which are based on the different types of adoption.

  • Licensed private agencies- Fees range from $4,000 to $30,000.
  • Independent adoptions- This type of adoption is not allowed in most states but adoptive parents report spending $8,000 to $30,000. Fun fact, they spend over $5,000 in advertisement alone!
  • Intercountry Adoption Costs- If you’re adopting a child from another country, the range of adoption cost is $15,000 to $40,000+.
  • Foster Care Adoption- If you’re adopting through foster care, which generally involves becoming the parent of an older child, the cost is much lower: zero to $2,500.

Why does Adoption Cost so Much?

So what exactly are you paying for, other than the opportunity to become a parent? Breaking down the total cost into universal expenses and adoption-specific expenses might help you better understand where the costs come from and the best plan to pursue for your family.

1. Universal Expenses: These are the type of expenses that occur for every type of adoption, including the home study and court costs
  • Home Study: A home study must be completed for all prospective parents no matter what type of adoption you pursue. For a public agency adoption a home study may be waived or cost a minimal of $500. With other types of adoption it might cost $1,000-$3,000 for the home study alone.
  • Legal Fees: All domestic adoptions and some intercountry adoptions must be finalized in the court in the US. The cost for court document preparation can range from $500 to $2,000, while the cost for representing adoptive parents in an open adoption can range from $2,500 to $6,000.
2. Adoption-Specific Expenses: In addition to the costs common to every adoption, adoptive parents incur costs to the specific type of adoption that they choose.
  • Public Agency Adoption Costs: Most public agencies focus on placing children from foster care. Up-front fees and expenses for this type of adoption can be as much as $2,500 which includes attorney’s fees and travel expenses.
  • Private Adoption Costs: These costs widely ranges depending on the type of agency used. There is a licensed private adoption agency, an independent adoption agency and a facilitated/unlicensed adoption agency. The cost of private adoption agencies can range from $5,000-40,000 depending on which agency you choose to go with. Working with a private adoption agency definitely comes with a lot of benefits as the fees cover basically everything.
    • Free services provided to the birth parents
    • Educational Courses
    • Advertising and marketing
    • Home studies
    • Post placement support and paperwork
  • Intercountry Adoption Costs: Agencies that provide intercountry adoption services charges fees that ranges from $15,000-$40,000+. These fees generally include immigration; court costs and in some cases a required donation to the foreign orphanage or agency.

Tips on How to Save Money While Adopting

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Prospective adoptive parents may be concerned about to costs of adopting a child, as is understandable based on the range that was given in the beginning of the blog. The important thing to understand is that to become a parent in general is rarely free of expenses, as pregnancy and childbirth can be extremely expensive as well. However, with the proper planning and knowledge about the different types of adoptions and available resources, it will be easier to develop a budget and set a plan in motion. A great book that has helped a lot of our hopeful adoptive parents afford adoption is the book Adopt without Debt written by Julie Gumm.

1. Adoption Grants: Adoption grants are basically “free” money for your adoption. But free doesn’t mean they don’t come without work. There are three basic grants that are available for any adoptive parent looking to help with the payment of their adoption.
  • Direct Grant: Direct Grant organizations review applicants and award money outright. The money is never paid directly to families, but is paid to your adoption agency or attorney. These are usually the hardest grants to receive. Resources4Adoption is a great go-to database for adoption grants and loans. Some organizations that reward direct grants are; Gift of a Adoption, Show Hope and a Child Awaits.
  • Fundraising Grant: This gives you an account with a non-profit grant organization to which people can donate. This provides your friends and family with the added benefit of a tax deduction when they give to your adoption fund. Some examples of great fundraising grant are; Lifesong for Orphans and His Kids Too!
  • Matching Grant: basically a combination of direct and fundraising. The grant organization allows you to fundraise and provide the tax benefit to your donors. Then they match a certain dollar amount of donations received.
2. Adoption Loans: Loans may make sense to cover large and immediate expenses that may be reimbursed later by your employer, the military, or the government’s reimbursement of non-recurring adoption expenses. One source of loans is the National Adoption Foundation which can be accessed through nafadopt.org.
3. Fundraisers are a great way to raise money for your adoption while having a great time! Here are just a few ideas we found that helped raised a lot of money, while getting the whole community involved!
  • “Tag The Bag”: Pick out the bag you are going to use for travels and get your family and community together. Put a price on how much you would like to raise and put a specific amount together per signature!
  • “Adoption Fund Garage Sale”: We had an adoptive family hold a garage sale teaming up with their local church and they raised over $5,000. You would be surprised how many people would donate used clothing and toys and even more surprised on how many people would be interested in purchasing used clothing and toys!
  • “Puzzle Piece Fundraiser”: Your family, friends, coworkers, and strangers can sponsor puzzle pieces for $5, $10, or any amount that helps you reach you goal. Then, you can hang your completed puzzle in your child’s room as a constant reminder to all of the people who worked to bring your child home.
4. Employer Benefits: A growing number of companies and government agencies are offering adoption benefits to their employees. Benefits may include:
  • adoption information and referral services
  • legal expenses
  • agency fees
  • medical expenses
  • post adoption counseling
  • paid of unpaid leave time for the adoptive parent
  • financial reimbursement
5. Tax Credit: Adoption federal tax credits may be available to defray some adoption costs. As of 2014 the Adoption Tax Credit is $13,190 per child.  Whether you adopt domestically or internationally you are eligible for a $13,190 tax credit the year you complete your adoption.  The credit amount can depend on a family income, whether the child has “special needs” and any other adoption benefits. Even now several states have enacted state tax credits for families adopting children from the public child welfare system in that state!

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Putting the Pieces Together

The majority of people work their entire lives to prepare for starting a family one day. Whether you have a baby through traditional means or through adoption, there will always be an expense involved. Don’t let the cost of adopting effect your decision to follow your dreams in creating a family. Like you can see throughout this blog, there are so many resources out there that will help you adopt without emptying your bank accounts

Choosing An Adoption Agency

If you are considering building your family through adoption, you’ve probably done some research. This post is all about how to choose an adoption agency that meets your needs.tips

To begin, we would suggest searching on websites such as BuildingYourFamily.com, Adoption.com, or RainbowKids.com for a list of agencies that are licensed in your state. Read through the descriptions of the agency and make a list of all of the agencies that have a program you are interested in and that you’d like to learn more information about.

Now that you have created a list of possible agencies, go to their websites. You can get some of your questions answered through research on their website as well as making phone calls. It’s important to look at the agencies expectant parent page as well as their adoptive parent page to see the services they provide to pregnant women.

Below are a list of questions that we would recommend researching on and asking when you talk to a representative of the agency. These questions will help you narrow your search of an agency.

  • What services do they provide for expectant parents?
  • Do they offer ongoing support to all members of the adoption triad?
  • Do they have restrictions for adoptive families? For example: single, LGBT, etc.
  • How long is their average wait?
  • How many families do they work with compared to the placements per year?
  • What is their fee structure?
  • When are the fees due?
  • What type of support do they provide while you wait?
  • Do they support open adoption?
  • How often do they communicate with families during each step of the process?
  • If Domestic: How does the agency locate pregnant women?
  • If International: Which in country facilitators or attorneys do they use?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • How soon after you apply will your home study begin?

 

You should attend a meeting at any agency that you are interested in getting more information on. Many adoption agencies hold monthly meetings or individual meetings in which you can ask more questions and get information on the program, the process, and even meet the staff. This can be very helpful in selecting the agency that is the right fit for your family. You may also meet other prospective adoptive parents who you can share experiences with and get support along the way.

Pay attention to any red flags while researching an agency. Be aware that some agencies promise a child before a family assessment or assure you that the birth parents will relinquish a baby before birth or require no home study fee. These are huge red flags as no agency can legally do this. Any agency that does not mention the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, a uniformed law, you should stay away from. In international adoptions you should stay away from agencies that promise faster placements or an inside track to ease paperwork or that guarantees a certain child. Doing research on the agency will help you find these red flags before it is too late.

You can expect a month or two of investigating alternatives before you find the agency that is right for you. We hope that by going through the list of questions provided that your search will be easier and go smoothly.

Adoption 101

WINTER Dreamstime - boy bundled up for winterOne Size Does Not Fit All – What worked for your friends or relatives may not be right for you. There are many variables that determine which option is the best fit for your family. Domestic adoptions from the U.S. offer families the opportunity to know their child’s medical background, meet their child’s birth family, and parent their child from infancy. International adoptions offer more predictable time frames, no chance of disruption, the opportunity to get to know a different culture and provide a home for a child in need.

Do Your Homework -Learn as much as you can from reliable sources- not just the Internet. There are few decisions in your life as important as this one, so turn to the experts for help. Attend free adoption information meetings or webinars, read books, ask questions.

Separate Fact From Fiction -Myths surrounding all aspects of both domestic and international adoption are plentiful. Don’t rely on preconceived notions, hearsay or sensational stories. Be open-minded, ask questions, and get the facts. Internet support listserves are wonderful sources of information, but they can also spread rumors and panic. Check your facts and contact your agency if you have questions.

Adoption Professionals Are Not All Created Equal -If you plan to adopt through an agency, be aware that their requirements and programs are not all created equal. When choosing an agency, consider factors such as number of years in business, the number of yearly placements, help preparing necessary documents, counseling and treatment of potential birth parents. Be sure that your agency is state licensed and non-profit, also Hague accredited if you choose international adoption.

If you are choosing to use an attorney, make sure that they understand the adoption laws of the state that you reside in and the state that the potential birth parents are in.  Using an attorney who is part of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys is a good place to find an attorney versed in adoption. Ask what support the potential birth parents will receive before and after placement. Often attorney’s can partner with agencies to provide counseling for women who are considering an adoption plan.

If you are choosing an Adoption Facilitator, find out if this is legal in your state. Adoption facilitators are usually small organizations with one or two staff members who often have no counseling background. Most adoption facilitators advertise to locate pregnant women on behalf of their adoptive clients. Once a woman selects a family, the facilitator will refer both the prospective adoptive family and pregnant women and their families to a local professional (a law firm or licensed adoption agency) and remove themselves from the rest of the adoption process. They are middle men who charge families extra money to facilitate their adoption.

Taking The Fear Out Of The Homestudy – You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to own your own home, or make a million dollars annually. A home study is a written evaluation regarding the suitability of your family to become adoptive parents. This may sound scary but the reality is that a home study is an education process to help you understand the type of adoption you have chosen, the differences between adopted and biological children and, to make sure that your home is a safe environment for a child.

Know The Numbers – Understand the fee schedule and make sure all the costs are listed to avoid any surprises down the line. Steer clear of adoption professionals who aren’t forthcoming about fees. Don’t let fear of expenses keep you from adopting – get the facts, check out tax credits, employer reimbursements, grants, low interest loans, military subsidies and creative financing.

Build A Support Team – In the beginning of the adoption process there is a lot to do, paperwork to fill out, meetings to attend and documents to gather, when this is completed you wait. This may sound simple but many families find it the most stressful.  Join a support group either online or in the area, surround yourself with family and friends who can support you during this emotional time.  Never be afraid to reach out and call your social worker. They are there to support you through this process. Remember you are not alone!

You Can Be Successful – Be patient, and persistent and it will happen. It may take time, but if you are persistent you will complete a successful adoption.

September Book Reviews 2013

DreamBigReadAll books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.

abc-pubready-cover_front-2ABC, Adoption & Me by Gayle H. Swift & Casey A. Swift -Bright, quirky illustrations with a really positive message.  Each page goes through a letter of the alphabet and explains another detail of adoption.  Its a great way to start a conversation with your child or keep the conversation going!   amazon.com price $10.84 kindle price $6.99

9780807752128_p0_v1_s260x420What If All the Kids Are White? (Early Childhood Education Series) by Louise Derman Sparks & Patricia G. Ramsey – This book was written for teachers but it really should be directed toward anyone, particularly parents.  Do you talk about race with your kids? Most Caucasian parents don’t unless it directly applies to them but is that the right thing to do? This book says no.  Full of uncomfortable but very interesting questions and observations about how a Caucasian person views race and how speak to children about it.  Some people believe that young children don’t see race but this has been proven not to be true and by ignoring it we allow the media, and others to influence our children.   amazon.com $18.66 kindle edition $17.73


41QggwyO2QL._SY300_Breeding in Captivity: One Woman’s Unusual Path to Motherhood by Stacy Bolt –This book has to be one of the most funny yet honest looks at a woman’s journey to parenthood.  I have had friends go through these different steps and I have witnessed it first hand in my work and its hard. Stacy has a way of telling her tale with a light touch and a wit that will keep you laughing and smiling but you can also feel the pain, the desperation and finally the relief when her journey finally ends with her adopting.

Her journey through the adoption process is spot on.  The hoops she jumps through the feelings of euphoria and then the disappointment of a failed adoption. The anger that she has to fill out 120 questions and have someone “judge” her when women on meth and crack are having babies all the time with no issues.  This book is honest and spot on while also being light hearted. This is a great book for those experiencing the pain of fertility struggles to know you are not alone and for those entering into adoption to read first hand some of the ups and downs that go along with that process as well.  All paths to parenthood are a roller coaster, but each is a little different.  amazon  price $16.36 Kindle edition $9.99