While hopeful adoptive parents and prospective birth parents often face very different challenges, emotions and decisions, one thing many have in common as they begin to explore the possibility of adoption is wondering how the adoption process works.
Prospective adoptive parents and expectant mothers considering adoption often have questions about the steps of the domestic infant adoption process, what their roles will be and what choices they have through each step of the journey.
While the domestic adoption process can seem overwhelming, taking each step one at a time can help simplify adoption procedures and answer those important questions. Here is an overview of the basic steps of the adoption process for pregnant women and hopeful parents wondering how to adopt a child:
1. Decide if Adoption is the Right Choice
Whatever road has led a person or couple to consider adoption — whether they are facing an unplanned pregnancy or struggling with infertility — choosing adoption is not automatic. It takes careful thought, consideration, research and planning to determine whether adoption is the best choice for each individual. The first step in any adoption journey — both for prospective birth parents and those hoping to adopt — is to choose to pursue adoption. For adoptive parents, this means discontinuing fertility treatments and both spouses fully embracing adoption. For pregnant mothers considering adoption, it means carefully weighing all the options and deciding whether adoption is the best option for her situation and her baby.
2. Plan for the Adoption Process
Once a couple or individual has chosen to pursue adoption, it’s time to begin planning for the adoption process. During this stage, birth parents and adoptive families both need to make decisions about what they are hoping for in the adoption. For adoptive families, that means making important decisions about the type of adoption they’d like to pursue, the types of adoption situations they are comfortable with and the type of adoption professional they’d like to work with. For prospective birth parents, it means developing an adoption plan to guide them through the rest of the adoption process, achieve their goals for the adoption, and most importantly, to provide a child with the most amazing life possible. It is during this stage that adoptive families and expectant parents should choose an adoption professional to work with. This adoption professional can help facilitate the adoption process, answer questions and help create an adoption plan.
3. Find an Adoption Opportunity
Finding an adoption opportunity with either adoptive parents or a birth mother is one of the most important parts of the adoption process — and also one of the most emotional. Prospective birth parents are faced with the sometimes overwhelming task of choosing the ideal family for their child, and adoptive parents will often feel a rush of cautious optimism and nerves when a mother chooses them.
Adoptive parents and expectant mothers may be matched through an agency’s matching services or through independent advertising and networking. Adoption agencies provide matching services and will usually match birth parents and adoptive families based on their adoption plans.
Once a match is made, the adoptive family and prospective birth parents will get to know each other to make sure the adoption situation is a good fit. This pre-placement contact can take place over the phone, through email or even through in-person visits and may be mediated by an adoption counselor.
4. Completing the Adoption
Placement is an emotional time for everyone involved in the adoption, and this step looks different in each adoption based on the mother’s “hospital plan.” This hospital plan will determine when the adoptive family arrives, who will be present during delivery and how much time the birth mom will get to spend alone with the baby, among other factors. When the birth parents are ready, the adoptive parents will meet their child, and the birth parents will legally consent to the adoption by signing the adoption paperwork.
5. Finalizing the Adoption and Beginning Post-Placement Contact
Adoption does not end with the placement of the child — it is a lifelong process that is just beginning. After placement, birth parents will take time to heal while adoptive families undergo the adoption finalization process and start the unique journey of parenting an adopted child.
Both the adoptive family and the birth parents will continue their relationship as they agreed to prior to the adoption. This relationship can take many forms and will likely evolve over time, like any other relationship.
Most adoptions are considered semi-open, meaning an adoption agency or another adoption professional mediates contact between the adoptive family and birth parents, including the sending of pictures and letters. This allows both parties to limit the identifying information they share. In more open adoption arrangements, adoptive parents and birth parents may choose to communicate directly via phone calls, text messages and face-to-face visits.