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									Getting Started

The following adoption checklist, which can help ensure a successful
adoption, was provided by Deb Harder, adoption information supervisor at
Children’s Home Society & Family Services, a not-for-profit organization
based in Saint Paul, Minn.:

1. Examine what’s motivating you to adopt. The first step for anyone
considering adoption is to make sure you’re firmly committed to rearing
and nurturing a child. Look very carefully at your skills and strengths as a
person, and how they translate to being an effective parent.

If you’re dealing with infertility, it’s important to acknowledge that you’re
unlikely to bear children. You should see adoption not as a second-best
option, but as an alternative way to become a parent and create a family.
You may also want to learn more about gestational surrogacy, or third-
party reproduction. But be aware that the field is still a maze of legal issues,
which are being addressed through laws and regulations proposed by the
American Bar Association and the American College of Pediatricians and

2. Decide what kind of child you can effectively parent. Some families
consider adopting only a healthy same-race infant, and seldom think of a
child with special needs or one born in another country. Assess your
strengths and decide what you are open to and can manage.

Consider whether you can integrate the rich yet different cultural
background of a child from another country. You will need a plan to
incorporate that heritage into your family’s life.

3. Learn as much as you can about adoption and how it meets a child’s
need for a family. Find out about the children waiting for adoption in the
United States and other countries. As you consider the types of adoption
programs available, you will come to an understanding of how your desire
to be a parent matches a child’s need for a family.
You will also learn how your hopes for a particular kind of child affect your
program options and wait times. Take advantage of educational
opportunities that prepare you for adoptive parenting and set the stage for
you to begin the process of adoption with good information and

4. Learn what your state law requires of agencies and families to complete
an adoption. Also find out what is required by the U.S. Bureau of
Citizenship and Immigration Services for international adoption.

Among the first things a family should do is contact their state’s
department of social services and talk to an adoption supervisor to learn
about legal requirements.

5. Choose the type of adoption that interests you. One of the first decisions
is whether you’d like to adopt an older child, in which case you can also
adopt through a public agency, which primarily works with foster care and
group homes. Some infants are also placed in foster care.

If you want to adopt an infant or a child from another country, including
older children, you will work with a private agency. You can also opt for an
independent, or private, adoption (state law permitting), in which adoptive
parents work with a lawyer or other non-agency adoption provider to find a
birth parent or child. There are certain risks with private adoptions and
more of a safety net with an agency.

6. Assess the costs. The cost of adopting a child ranges from several
thousand dollars to upwards of $40,000, particularly for an adoption done
with a private agency and/or an attorney. However, parents adopting a
child through a state system do not pay for adoption expenses and
actually receive adoption assistance after placement, including certain
out-of-pocket expenses.

Private adoption has the reputation of being more expensive because the
costs usually aren’t set up front. Some agencies may charge on a sliding
scale basis.
Different agencies have different fee structures, services and missions. Try
to get details about the services they provide, and insist that they assign a
service to each fee.

International adoptions also tend to be more expensive because of the
costs for additional documents and travel.

7. Expect to feel as though you’re being examined during the adoption
process. Most agencies now offer open adoptions, which means that the
birth parent(s) choose(s) which prospective adopter(s) they want to adopt
their child, and the two families make an adoption plan together. The
agency staff can and does compile a book of dossiers with biographical
information about prospective families for birth parents to review. Some
prospective adopters choose international adoption because they feel
uncomfortable with the open plan or the feeling of “marketing” themselves.

8. Be honest during the adoption study, commonly known as a “home
study.” All prospective adoptive parents must undergo the process, which
helps agency personnel assess your readiness for adoptive parenting.

It’s not unlike applying for a mortgage, with lots of personal questions to
answer that require verification. For example, staff members assess what’s
motivating you to adopt, how you were parented and how you plan to
discipline the child. They’ll also ask for references and look at your
finances and psychological stability.

If you have a criminal history or a history of psychiatric illnesses, you need
to fully disclose these details — don’t lie about the situation — or it will
cause greater problems than if you’re upfront and explain what’s what.
Agencies will also follow up with thorough background checks.

Think about the type of child you want to adopt and which program helps
you meet that goal. If you want to adopt a domestic newborn, then you
need to consider your comfort with an open adoption. You and the
adoption staff members will likely work directly with a birth family in
devising a plan for communication after you adopt the baby. Think not only
about your feelings now, but also about how your relationship with your
child’s birth family might evolve.

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