Starting your adoption research can and should be exciting — but it can also be overwhelming when you’re not sure where to begin. Here are five of the most common adoption questions you might have if you’re trying to decide whether adoption is right for you.
1. What does adoption cost?
No two adoptions are alike, and the cost of adoption can vary greatly based on several factors. On average, most adoptions cost anywhere between $25,000 and $50,000. This wide range is influenced by a variety of factors, including:
- the agency and adoption programs you choose – different adoption agencies will have different fees based on the programs and services you use
- the state in which you live – cost of living varies from state to state and can have an impact on your overall adoption cost
- medical bills – every adoption situation is different, and each child and birth mother will require different medical care
- birth mother’s living expenses – the cost of your adoption is impacted by the amount of financial assistance the birth mother needs
- legal fees – you will need to work with an attorney to finalize your adoption, and you will be responsible for the costs of these services
- home study fees – the cost of your home study will vary based on your state and the home study professional you work with
- travel costs – you will be required to travel to the state where your child is born, and those expenses should be considered as part of your overall adoption budget
With these variables in mind, you may work with an adoption professional to develop a budget that works for your family. This budget will be taken into consideration throughout the adoption process as you are matched with potential birth parents.
Your budget, along with other factors, can affect your adoption wait time because you will be matched with women whose financial needs fall within your designated budget. For example, women with higher living expenses will need to be matched to families with higher adoption budgets. For this reason, it is important that you develop a budget that is as flexible as possible.
While adopting a baby can be financially challenging, there are many resources available to help you finance your adoption. Loans, tax credits and employee benefits may be options for you. It is also not uncommon for families to set up fundraisers to help pay for their adoption.
2. How do I find a birth mother?
The most challenging part of the adoption process is often finding a match with a prospective birth mother.
Adoption agencies can help connect you with potential birth parents, as well as guide you through the entire adoption process. Your adoption agency will match you to potential birth mothers based on your preferences regarding the baby’s background.
Because the birth mother ultimately chooses her baby’s adoptive family, it can take some time for the agency to find a match for your family. To increase your exposure to potential birth mothers and minimize your adoption wait time, it is important to be flexible and open to a variety of adoption situations regarding race, gender, budget, contact with birth parents, medical history and substance use.
It is possible to network and find potential birth parents on your own. If you already know a birth mother, you may wish to work with an adoption attorney to pursue an independent adoption. If you know a birth mother already or find one independently, you may still work with an adoption agency on an “identified adoption” to take care of things like screening, support, correspondence after the adoption and more.
Regardless of how you find a birth mother, the important thing is that you find the right one who matches the situation you are seeking.
3. Do I have any control over the birth mother I’m matched with?
While a birth mother ultimately chooses the family that will adopt her baby, adoptive families also have a say in the type of birth mother and adoption situation they are comfortable with.
Like prospective birth mothers, adoptive families may develop their own adoption plan, based on their preferences of:
- desired race or races of the child
- birth mother and her family’s medical background
- baby’s exposure to substances
- continued contact with birth parents after the adoption
- and more
Some agencies also offer gender-specific adoption programs, but may charge an additional fee to help cover the costs associated with finding and working with birth mothers who know the gender of their baby.
Determine your priorities and comfort level with each of the factors listed above. Decide what aspects of the baby’s background are most important to you and which ones you are willing to be more flexible with. Your level of openness to babies of different backgrounds can affect your adoption wait time.
By working with an adoption agency, your adoption specialist will help you develop your adoption plan and help you better understand how your choices may positively or negatively affect your wait time.
4. Do I have to have a relationship with the baby’s birth parents?
In the past, the majority of adoptions were considered “closed,” meaning that after the adoption took place, the adoptive family had no contact with the child’s birth parents. Prior to the 1980s, adoption was much more secretive, with many women facing unplanned pregnancies traveling out of state to have their babies, who were then placed with an adoptive family that had no contact with the birth mother.
This practice was detrimental to everyone involved in the adoption, especially the adopted child. And thankfully, those days of secrecy are buried in the past.
Today, birth mothers are increasingly requesting more open adoption arrangements. Semi-open adoptions — in which the adoptive family maintains contact with the birth parents through conference calls or meetings prior to the adoption, continues to send pictures and letters after placement, but exchanges no identifying information with the birth parents — are now the most common form of adoption. In these arrangements, adoptive families do not need to disclose their address, phone number or surname unless they choose to share that information with the birth parents.
Completely open adoptions include the exchange of personal contact information, such as phone numbers and email addresses, and might include more increased contact with the birth mother, such as Skype calls or annual face-to-face visits.
The adoptive family can choose the level of contact they would like to share with the birth parents both before and after the adoption. However, many agencies require adoptive families to be open to some level of communication, and many do not work with adoptive families who are only seeking a closed adoption arrangement because those families will often wait for a long time until they find an appropriate birth mother.
Aside from decreasing your wait time, there are many benefits to maintaining an open or semi-open adoption. More open adoption arrangements:
- ease the birth parents’ sense of grief and loss
- help the adopted child understand himself or herself more completely
- make it easier for you to stay up-to-date with your child’s family medical history
- allow you to have honest, open discussions about adoption with your child and answer his or her questions more easily
- expand your child’s support system
- help you and the birth parents establish a sense of mutual trust and understanding
These are just a few of many reasons why open and semi-open adoptions are beneficial to the entire adoption triad — birth parents, adoptive families and adopted children. If you have additional questions or concerns about maintaining contact with your child’s birth parents, your adoption professional can provide guidance and support.
5. What if the birth mom changes her mind?
It is a common misconception that birth parents can take their child back at any time with no cause. The birth mother typically has 48 to 72 hours after the baby is born to sign over her parental rights. A birth mother’s rights are terminated once she signs the legal paperwork, but she is legally able to change her mind at any point up until that time.
While a disruption in the adoption process can be painful, it is important that you are prepared for this possibility. While you should approach every adoption opportunity with excitement and commitment, remember that it is not guaranteed until the paperwork is signed. If you do experience a failed adoption opportunity, you may want to take some time to work through your emotions before you are ready to pursue additional adoption opportunities. You should work with your adoption professional to determine what is best for you in these circumstances.
It is very rare for an adoption to be disrupted after placement and for the child to be returned to the birth parents. Working with a reputable adoption agency or attorney can help ensure that mistakes are not made throughout the adoption process that would lead to a failed adoption.
As you progress on your adoption journey, you will likely have many questions about what to expect at each stage of the adoption process. Remember, every adoption story is different, and there is no one correct answer to any question about adoption.