Start with a home study.
Everyone, except close relatives, needs one. They are prepared by private licensed child placing entities. They are also called preplacement assessments, or preplacements, because the expectation is that it is prepared before a child is placed with you. They are generally valid for 12 months, in North Carolina they are valid for 18 months. Also ask about postplacement services – After the baby is placed in your home, then you will also two post placement visits and a Report to the Court. The home study and postplacement services may be priced as a package or separately.
After we have a home study, then what do we do?
There are many ways to adopt a baby. It is not a one size fits all process. No two adoptions are exactly alike. There is a broad range of options available. It is important to choose the path that best suits you. Think of it like building a house. If you were building a house, you could hire a general contractor or you could build it yourself. There are many options in between. No one way is right for everyone or every situation. The challenge is to identify the option that is the best fit for you.
How do we find a baby?
The most challenging part of adopting a baby is finding an opportunity – a baby that is available for adoption – and making the match. There are three basic approaches:
- Direct outreach
Some or all of these professionals may be a part of your adoption team. It is important to know and understand what services each provides.
Agencies accept relinquishments from birth parent, are legally responsible for the baby, and place the baby with adoptive parents. If you were building a house, an agency would be like the general contractor. Agencies do most everything for you, except the legal work necessary to finalize the adoption. Agencies prepare the home study and a profile, and provide advertising, marketing and outreach services. Agencies screen placement opportunities and facilitate communications and make the match. They also arrange for signing the relinquishments by the birth parents and place the child in your care. Agencies also provide postplacement services. Choosing the right agency is important. Your level of personal involvement is minimal.
Facilitators advertise and market. They do this part very effectively. Their job is to present you with opportunities and make the match. The rest is up to you. Facilitators are generally not licensed or regulated. Facilitators do not prepare home studies, provide in-person counseling, screening, place children for adoption, or provide postplacement services. Choosing the right facilitator is important. Your personal level of involvement is moderate.
Many states, including North Carolina, allow prospective adoptive parents with a favorable home study, to advertise directly for adoption opportunities. You do the advertising, screen opportunities, make the match, arrange for all required services – in-person counseling, postplacement services and legal services. You identify, hire and supervise the various professionals for your adoption team. Your level of personal involvement is high.
How do we decide on whether to accept a potential match?
Before committing to a potential match, you should consider:
- Birth mother expenses
- Legal risks – consent and revocation periods, legal fathers, and birth father’s rights
- Medical risks – health history information, lack of health history information, prenatal care, and drug use
- Choice of law issues – If more than one state is involved, where do we finalize the adoption?
- Health insurance coverage
When do we need a lawyer?
For most people considering adopting a baby, lawyers are an afterthought. For better or worse, after prospective adoptive parents have hired an agency or facilitator, or even committed to a match, then they call a lawyer.
This is unfortunate. Lawyers can often provide their greatest value in beginning of your adoption process. Some opportunities are better than others. Not every match is right for every adoptive family.
Lawyers can often provide the greatest value by:
- Helping you to examine your own preferences
- Identifying options
- Helping to examine risks before agreeing to a match.
After we have found a baby and been matched with a birth mother, then what do we do?
Hiring a Lawyer
After a match or a placement has already been made, then adoptive parents call a lawyer for what is known as finalization. This is one part of the adoption process that you should not try to do yourself. It is complicated. There is no how to video that will meet your specific needs. It is too important to figure out as you go along, while you are adjusting to parenting a baby. The procedure will vary substantially from state to state and case to case. You should hire an experienced adoption lawyer.
Choosing the right lawyer is important. Look for a lawyer who concentrates his practice in adoption or devotes a substantial portion of his practice to adoption. Look for lawyers who have attained certifications from their licensing authority or recognition from other lawyers. Visit the website for the American Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproductive Attorneys.