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The Adoption Process

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

The road to adoption is a long and difficult one, starting with the initial decision to pursue adoption. For some adoptive parents this decision is easily made; for others, it involves a long period of soul-searching and exploration of alternatives. The difficulties do not stop when the decision to adopt is made. Potential adoptive parents then begin a formal application process that is administrative and bureaucratic in nature, involving a great deal of paperwork, time, money, energy, and patience. This tedious process ultimately proves worthwhile when it culminates in its goal: a child is placed with adoptive parents who desire him or her, and the relationship between them is finalized.

A Summary of the Adoption Process

The adoption application process is easier to manage when its constituent parts are understood as a whole. The steps involved end up looking something like this: a couple (or single person) decides to adopt a child. They contact an adoption agency and make an application to adopt. The application requires a great deal of disclosure concerning details of the couple's life, including legal and financial details; the couple will need to take a few days to fill it all out. After the first flush of paperwork and fees are submitted, the couple will have some time to consider what they are looking for in a child and how they will pay for the adoption process, which can be quite expensive. The agency may provide a gallery of images of available children, or they may require the application process be completed before any matching of adoption candidates with children can take place. As part of the application, the agency will also require a home study. A social worker comes out to the couple's home and reports to the agency on what she finds. The couple must contract with a social worker to perform the home study. After some time passes, the couple's application materials are processed and approved (or denied). At that time, the couple will have the opportunity either to select a child or to be matched with a child. If a child meeting the applicant couple's criteria is not available, which is likely in a domestic adoption situation, the couple will have to wait until a child becomes available. Even if a child is available, there will likely be additional administrative hoops to jump through before an adoption is finalized. A significant amount of time will go by before it is possible for the adoptive couple to take their child home. If the adoption is taking place internationally, one or more non-optional extended visits to the international country may be required. If the adoption is domestic and open in nature, the adoptive parents will be introduced to the birth parent (or parents). Eventually, all the necessary papers are signed and more fees are paid. The adoption goes to court and a judge signs off on the adoption, making it permanent. The entire process may take as little as six to nine months, or as long as two years.

That is adoption in a nutshell. The following sections will provide a more thorough outline of the adoption application process.