It’s completely understandable that the home study is one of the hardest parts of the adoption for a lot of people; it’s not necessarily difficult, but it does require some preparation. The actual home visit is not as invasive as many think, but it does help to take some time to make sure you have everything that the inspector will be looking for. Below are a few tips on how to prepare for your home study.
Talk the Talk
A home study is more than just someone looking around your house; it also involves an interview process to determine that you are fit to adopt. The social worker will ask you a number of questions. Many of these may be easy to answer — about your experience with children or your work history — while others may be a little harder.
The social worker will likely ask you a number of questions about the adoption itself. Do you have a gender preference? Are you open to interracial adoption? Do you want an open or closed adoption? Are you willing to adopt a child with special needs? How do you plan to parent your child? If you are adopting with a spouse or partner, it is important to discuss these things with them ahead of time so that you can be confident when answering these questions.
Focus on Safety
While it is important to have a clean home when the inspector comes, it is more important to make sure you can show the safe environment you have for a child to live in. Check your smoke detectors and make sure they are functional and have good batteries. Have any firearms stored safely, and keep cleaning products stored somewhere a small child could not access them. If you have a swimming pool, be prepared to explain how you will keep the child safe.
The inspector will also ask to see the room the child will be living in. This room does not need to be a decorated nursery; they just need to be sure the room is a safe environment for a child.
Don’t Forget the Pets
If you have cats or dogs in the home, you may need to answer a few questions about them. The social worker may ask if they have a history with children, and what kind of training they have. They may ask what you will do if the child you adopt turns out to be allergic to the pets you have. Lastly, you will need the pets’ vaccination records, and possibly a letter from your veterinarian that states they are in good health.
Are you adopting and need some help figuring out how to announce it? Getting the word out lets your loved ones celebrate your adoption with you. Here are some cute ideas for announcing to your families and friends that you are bringing a child into your family.
In a play on using the traditional ultrasound announcement, some adoptive families choose to announce their adoption with an ultrasound that has a heart in the ultrasound picture where one might expect to see a fetus. You can also tell your families and friends that you are adopting with a card or piece of paper that informs them that you are “paper pregnant” to let them know that you are expecting a new member to join your family.
Get the Siblings Involved
If you already have children, get them involved in your adoption announcement! Have them hold up signs with numbers on them and use a globe for the child you are going to adopt with an arrow pointing to where the child is being adopted from. For example, if you have two other children they would hold signs reading “1” and “2”, and then have a globe with the number 3 with a arrow drawn to where child number 3 is coming from!
Another cute idea is to use puzzle pieces in your adoption announcement. Everyone loves a good metaphor (“We’ve found our missing piece!”) and it will be adorable. When you take your picture holding puzzle pieces have one that is missing to represent the child that is joining your family. Consider posing the missing piece in a wagon or on a chair at your feet, perhaps with the expected arrival month written on it if that is known.
If you’re traveling to go get your child then a travel-themed announcement might be perfect. If you’re leaving the country to go get your little one to bring them home, use a globe, passports, and maybe a little suitcase. Also rather than doing the usual hands over your baby bump pose use a globe and use your hands to bring focus to where your baby was born! If you are traveling across your own country to your child, then try using a map with a line, showing that you are going on a journey to find your new family member.
If you have a pet, make use of their photogenic cuteness to announce your new family member! You can hang a sign around your dog’s neck saying something like “My parents are getting me a human!” or “I’m going to be a big brother!”. Cats can also star in an announcement — pose for a “the cat’s out of the bag” photo, or simply take a photo with the cat and some baby shoes.
As you move forward with the adoption process and begin to envision your first days at home with your child, you may be considering how to start bonding with your child. Traditional families are able to begin bonding with their child before it is even born, so many adoptive families feel at a disadvantage. However, there are several things you can do to help develop a bond with the child you adopt, helping both you and the child establish yourselves as a new family.
Skin to Skin
The importance of skin to skin contact has been emphasized by doctors in recent years, and it’s not just important in the moments after birth. Infants learn how you feel and smell through skin to skin contact, and learn to associate your scent with comfort and safety. Consider practicing skin to skin contact while feeding your child, and try to find a babywearing device that is comfortable for both you and your child. These devices let you keep your child close, getting them used to being comfortable with you, while also freeing up your hands for making bottles and other tasks around the house.
Babies are constantly watching the world around them, including your face. However, newborns can only see eight to fifteen inches from their face, so when they are small it is important to try to accommodate that whenever possible. Meal times are great for this; hold your child close and maintain eye contact while giving them a bottle. They like looking at you as much as you adore gazing at them, so why not indulge?
Infants are utterly helpless when it comes to meeting most of their own needs, so it is important for them to learn that they are able to trust that you will always be there for them. While “cry it out” may have been a popular parenting tactic in the past, modern research shows that instead, parents should respond to their child’s cries quickly. This helps the child learn to trust their parents, and can allow you a little more wiggle room on response times as they grow older, because they know you’ll come as soon as you’re able.
Use Your Voice
Humans are rather vocal creatures, so you can take advantage of that when it comes to creating a bond with your newborn. While they may have spent a few months hearing their birthmother’s voice, they’ll be hearing yours for the rest of their lives. Start talking to your child early, even if it’s just narrating what you’re doing or talking to them about your day. While they may not understand what you’re saying, you’re getting them used to the sound of your voice, cheering them with pleasant tones, and giving them a head start as their brains start parsing what language is. Reading books to them is also a great way to do this.
It may seem a bit early to start thinking about playing when your child is a newborn, but it’s never too soon! At this age, play will mostly consist of tummy time, which is important for physical development and can be a great time to get in the habit of playing with your child. Play is how children learn about the world and grow, so getting involved with that early can help solidify your bond.
Closed adoptions were the most common adoption type, but in recent years open adoptions have far eclipsed them in number. There’s a reason for that — open adoptions have a number of benefits over their closed counterparts. Adoptees benefit from contact with their birthparents in a number of ways, as we discuss below.
Knowing the “Whys”
In the past, not knowing where they come from could often leave adoptees feeling a sense of abandonment. They would have no way of knowing why they were placed for adoption, and could sometimes feel it was their own fault. Being in communication with their birthparents can help adoptees come to understand why they were placed for adoption. Whether the birthparents weren’t prepared to parent a child or just couldn’t provide all the opportunities the adoptive family could, being able to speak with their birthparents helps alleviate any potential feelings of abandonment and self-doubt.
Knowing Their Identity
Another big issue that was a problem with closed adoptions of the past was adoptees not knowing anything about their racial or ethnic identity. Even if they are adopted by a family of a similar background, many adoptees longed to know their birthfamily’s specific background. Being in contact with the birthfamily ensures that the adoptee can learn about the family’s history, including any countries of origin. Some adoptees are even able to use this information to learn the language of their birthfamily, which can help later in life when they may be interested in becoming a part of that community.
While the adoption agency always tries to get a thorough medical history from the birthparents, many things may not be known until later in life. Being in contact with the birthfamily allows the adoptee to keep their family’s medical information up to date and reach out for more detailed information if new medical issues arise in adulthood or if they are trying to figure out family planning down the road.
Larger Support Network
One of the best reasons for adoptees to maintain contact with their birthparents is that doing so provides the adoptee with an extended support network. While many open adoptions start with a simple email or phone call every few months, it often evolves, with the birthparents becoming a sort of extended family to the adoptive family. This gives the adoptee more people to rely on, and more people to provide support and advocacy for the child as they grow.
As the time grows near for a birthmother to deliver her baby, she may in some cases experience some anxiety about the birth. Even with counseling and birthing classes, fear of the unknown is inevitable and can cause undue worry even in a pregnancy that has been otherwise uneventful. An adoption birth plan can help alleviate some of those fears by giving you a plan for you, the hospital staff, and the adoptive parents to adhere to. Below are some things to keep in mind as you create your birth plan.
Who is Where?
One of the first things you will need to decide is who you want to have present in the delivery room when you are giving birth. You may want to have some people present as you’re laboring, but only one or two present when you actually give birth. You may want giving birth to be a very private moment for you, or you may want a parent, significant other, friend, or even the adoptive parents to be present in the room. Labor and delivery nurses are great about enforcing your wishes, so just let them know ahead of time who you want in the room. Keep in mind that some hospitals have a limit on how many people can be in the room with you — often a limit of 2 — but they may be willing to bend those rules a bit if you explain that you want someone with you for emotional support as well as the adoptive parents.
You will also want to plan out when you will be willing to accept visitors after the birth. You may want some alone time, with or without the baby, or you may be willing to see people almost immediately. Letting people know this information ahead of time can help avoid confusion and hurt feelings on the big day.
Medication and Interventions
Take some time to do your research on any medications or interventions you might be offered during labor and delivery. Some can only be used up until a certain point, while others might have unpleasant side effects you might want to avoid. Try to know going in what kind of birth experience you’re aiming to have — for example, will you want an epidural? Talk to your doctor about possible interventions, how they can be avoided, and when they might decide a c-section is necessary. Note that if a c-section does become necessary, you may need to reevaluate who will be in the room with you according to your hospital’s regulations.
Flexibility is your Friend
While you’re creating your adoption birth plan, keep in mind that babies tend to have a mind of their own when it comes to labor and delivery. Things can and will deviate from the plan, so it’s important to go into your delivery knowing that you will need to be a little flexible; stressing out about sticking to your plan can cause more stress than it’s worth. They’re guidelines, not rules, and you can change the plan as you see fit to make your birthing experience as pleasant and stress-free as possible.
It’s no secret that adoption is not cheap; in fact, it is often one of the biggest barriers people face to becoming parents through adoption. Each adoption will vary in cost based on a number of factors, but it’s almost always a pretty penny. But where does the money go? Below, we take a look at what costs so much in an adoption so you can have an idea of exactly what you’re saving up for.
One of the biggest contributors to the cost of an adoption is the fees associated with all of the legal work involved. Adoptions require a lot of paperwork on both sides, as well as several requirements that have to be met, such as home studies, evaluations, background checks, and post-placement visits and reports.
It is also important to note that these costs will cover legal representation, sometimes for both the adoptive family and the birthmother. Court costs are also included, including pre-adoption procedures and adoption finalization.
Medical and Counseling
The other largest portion of adoption costs goes to medical care and counseling. The birthmother requires prenatal care to ensure both her own health and that of the baby, and in most states she will also receive counseling. Depending on the state and adoption agency, she may also receive living expenses for the duration of the pregnancy and the following recovery period.
Medical and counseling aren’t only for the birthmother — in some cases, the adoptive parents will also submit a physical exam, and in most cases some counseling will be either offered or required before and after the adoption is finalized. Parenting classes may also be required
While medical and legal costs make up the bulk of your adoption fees, they certainly aren’t the only considerations. If your adoption is private, you will also be paying for the matching services provided by your adoption agency or facilitator. If you are completing an interstate or international adoption, you will have travel costs to consider. Adoption agencies and facilitators that work with you and the birthmother also have to consider their own overhead, including rent for their brick and mortar locations as well as salary for the people working there.
While adoption costs can seem staggering to even financially stable families, it’s important to remember that there are a number of fundraising and financial aid options to consider. While it may take some additional time to accumulate the funds needed, costs do not have to stop anyone from adopting. Click here for some suggestions on adoption financial books.
Adoption facilitators offer an incredibly useful service; they specialize in making the initial connection between a birthmother and an adoptive family, using a number of tools to help ensure you find the right fit. They may use questionnaires, counseling, interviews, and more to help determine which birthmother and adoptive family are likely to make a good fit for each other. However, because facilitators are not licensed or regulated beyond basic business regulations, some states restrict their use.
States that Allow Adoption Facilitators
We’ll start off with the ones that make it easy. Some states simply allow adoption facilitators or ban them flat-out. The following states allow adoption facilitators to connect adoptive parents and birthparents, though regulations on how they do so may vary by state:
Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Adoption Facilitators Prohibited
Unfortunately, there are some states where adoption facilitators are not allowed. These states do not allow adoption facilitators either within the state or from another state as an inter-state adoption. Those are:
Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New York, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia
There are a few states that have regulations regarding adoption facilitators that are a little more complicated than ‘yes’ and ‘no’. In some cases, the states allow for an interstate adoption – using the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children – where an adoption facilitator has been used in the receiving state. That means that adoptive parents in a ‘yes’ state can be matched with a birthmother in one of these states by an adoption facilitator in their home state, but that residents in these states cannot use the services of an adoption facilitator.
The following states allow adoption facilitators only from outside states during an inter-state adoption:
Arizona, Georgia, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon
It is important to note that, thanks to adoption activists (of whom there are many on both sides of the adoption facilitator argument), adoption laws on a state level seem to constantly be in flux. Because of that, it is important to check with an adoption lawyer in your state before enlisting the help of an adoption facilitator. An adoption lawyer can help you determine what is legal in your state as well as in any state you might consider an inter-state adoption from.
Adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents often have a lot to say about adoption privacy laws. Some believe one side or the other deserves complete privacy, while others argue that adoptees deserve to know who their birth family is. Adoption laws are currently undergoing quite a few changes, which can make it difficult for those involved to know what their options are. Below are some of the current conditions to keep in mind.
Most states adoption laws allow the adopting parents — and adoptees, upon request — to receive non-identifying information about the birthparents. This information may include things like the birth parents’ age, basic physical description, eye color, hair color, race, ethnicity, religion, medical history, educational level, and occupations. This sometimes also includes the reason for placing the child for adoption, and if the child has any biological siblings. This same level of information is available to the birthparents in only 26 states, and to birth siblings in 15 states.
It is important to note that some states require a little more work in order to obtain this non-identifying information. For example, New York, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island all require those seeking this information to register in a statewide adoption registry.
When it comes to identifying information — in other words, information that would allow the person in question to be found — things tighten up a bit. Some states, such as New Jersey, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and Guam, require a court order for this information to be released, but in most cases it can be done as long as the person about whom information is sought has given permission.
Other limitations do exist, however. Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas al have adoption laws requiring any adoptee seeking identifying information about their birth parents to complete counseling about how the process and contact might affect them. In Connecticut, the release of identifying information can be blocked by the department or agency that facilitated the adoption if they determine that the information might hurt or disrupt the life of the person being sought out.
Original BIrth Certificate
Once an adoption is finalized, in most situations a new birth certificate with the names of the adoptive parents is issued. The original copy of the birth certificate is kept confidential, which is a big deal to a lot of adoptees. This is where a lot of those adoption privacy laws are changing. In past years, nearly every state required a court order for the release of the original birth certificate, but that is slowly changing. That is still the case in 25 states, but in many states the original birth certificate can be obtained through mutual consent, at the request of an adult adoptee, when eligible according to the state’s adoption registry, or if the birthparents put their assent on file.
Because these laws are changing relatively quickly, search here to find the current legal status of the state where your adoption took place to determine what steps you might need to take.
Many adoptive parents who are doing an infant adoption have a rose-tinted view of how the big day will go. They’ll get the call, be in the room during the birth, and be the first ones to hold their new baby. However, it’s important to remember the one working the hardest during all of this: the birthmother. Here are some tips about how to make your time at the hospital go smoothly for all involved.
Remember the Steps
Keep in mind that, no matter how certain the birthmother seems, the baby is not yours until the papers are signed. You have no right to the child right away, and you should avoid all assumptions to that end. While most infant adoptions go off without a hitch, it is important to remember the legalities of the adoption, especially this close to the finish line.
The birthmother has just gone through what is likely one of the most difficult experiences of her life — don’t let that get lost in the excitement of the baby’s arrival. Follow her lead on everything. If she wants company, she’ll let you know. If she needs time alone with the baby, that’s fine too; this is likely the only time she’ll have to experience mothering this child. Showing the birthmother that you respect her and her choices can go a long way toward assuring her that you will follow through on everything you promised to provide her child.
Don’t Spread the Love Just Yet
Do not, under any circumstances, invite any extended family to the hospital to celebrate the child’s birth. That is, at best, rude and insensitive, and at worst harmful to your relationship to the birthmother. This is her birth experience, and most women do not want to be surrounded by strangers in their hospital room. Even if the birthmother encourages you to invite your families, be tactful about who you choose to bring in.
While this is certainly an exciting time, try to avoid getting so swept up that you completely forget all manners. Watch out for the social cues that might indicate the birthmother would like some time to rest, or a moment alone with her family, or some time with the baby. Be aware of how the hospital is treating her; sometimes well-meaning nurses might turn to you for questions about the baby’s care, but those should always be directed back to the birthmother until the official papers are signed. Watch for the signs that the birthmother may need help advocating for herself; is she being treated like any other mother giving birth, as she should be? This is a time where you can prove to the birthmother that you are the loving, caring family she believes you to be.
Avoid the Guilt Trip
This is a tough one, because in many cases your very presence might guilt a birthmother into making a decision she’s having second thoughts about. Women who have made adoption plans for their child are under an incredible amount of pressure to go through with them, and as much as you might already love the child, you would never want to separate them from a mother who doesn’t truly want to place them for adoption. Let the birthmother know that you will support her choice, no matter what it is, and back that up by making sure she feels an ownership over the situation and in control of her child until the decision is final and the papers signed.
Now that open adoptions are more common, secretive adoptions where the child and the birthmother have no knowledge of each other are, for many, a thing of the past. Instead, adoptive parents often communicate with the birthparents, sharing updates like photos and videos as the child grows. Below are some of the methods of communication you might consider setting up with your child’s birthparents.
One of the most common ways for adoptive parents to keep in touch with birthparents is also one of the oldest: letters and printed photos. Because this method gives the sense of a bit of distance, this is often the preferred method of many birthmothers when first starting out. The child’s parents can take photos and write letters at certain intervals or at certain milestones and send it either directly to the birthparents, or to the adoption agency to relay onto them.
Unfortunately, this method of communication is also one of the least reliable. Not only do you have to trust the postal system, you also run the risk of the birthparents moving without remembering to inform you or the adoption agency of their new address.
Another solution to communicating with birthparents is email. Using email allows parents to send videos as well as photos and written communications, offering one more method of connection. Email is also easier for most people to do more often, meaning that if the birthparents want more updates, they are most likely to get that done this way.
An additional benefit of email is that it provides an automatic backup of all communications, so unlike physical mail that can get lost, the birthparent can always go back and find past photos and letters easily, and the adoptive parent can easily see when their last email to the birthparent was.
With the rise of social media in recent years, adoptive and birth parents have found many ways to use the sites as a medium for maintaining communication. Social media is often image-driven, making it simple to share photos of the child as they grow.
There are several options to consider for communicating via social media. Facebook is the most commonly chosen platform, as its privacy options allows both birthparents and adoptive parents to choose exactly how much they want to share. Private groups are commonly used, where birthparents can be added as well as any extended family of the birthparents who would like to see the child’s development and updates. If both parties are comfortable with it, some adoptive families friend the birthparents on Facebook so they can see all of their posts and updates, but this is too close and personal for some to feel comfortable with. The most important thing is to find a balance of sharing and privacy that both sides can feel comfortable with while fulfilling the promised level of communication from the open adoption.