In recent months, I've had a lot of questions about the adoption process. It didn't dawn on me until this past week that people don't know about the process and how it works. Like infertility treatments, I forget about this sometimes because it's part of my life now. I've done the research and the reading. Others haven't, and I feel like now that I've realized this, it's a good opportunity to sit down and write down some of the most commons questions I've received and to give everyone else an opportunity to ask more.
NOTE: Keep in mind while reading this that we chose to do private, domestic, infant adoption, that all states have different adoption laws, and that our experience may differ from others. This is a great document that lists the basics of each state's adoption laws.
What is a home study?
A home study is basically a piece of paper stating that you are able to adopt. If you've ever read the phrase "paper pregnant," that is often referring to an individual or a couple becoming home study approved.
How much does an average adoption cost?
Our agency estimates the cost at anywhere from $18k to $30k for domestic infant adoption. The national average is somewhere between $25k and $30k. (Update: Our adoption cost just over $21k. That figure does not include our home study, our daughter's time in the NICU, travel, or the cost to print our profiles.)
How much of that money is due up front?
With our agency, we had to pay a $2,250 fee with the submission of our application: $750 for the application fee and $1,500 for the advertising fee. $15,000 is due upon "match," which I'll explain later. The rest of the cost is legal fees, birth mother expenses, etc.
Are you doing closed, open, or semi-open adoption?
Most adoptions today are semi-open. In most cases, this means that you have contact with the birth mother via the agency. For instance, you would send letters and photos to the agency, and they would pass those along to the birth mother. However, we also put down that we would be open to an open adoption if the situation felt right.
Once you are on the waiting list, how long does it take to get a baby?
It depends. The average wait time with our agency is about one year, but it's largely based on individual circumstances. For instance, it could take longer to adopt if you have a gender preference.
Does the birth mother pick you or do you pick the birth mother (or child)?
In most cases, the birth mother chooses the adoptive parents based off of their profiles, and in some cases, a meeting. In rare cases, an agency might choose the adoptive parents if the birth mother does not want to choose or if a child has already been born and parental rights are relinquished.
Are you told every time someone looks at your profile?
No. The reason we were called during the first week is because those situations were special circumstances. This meant the agency had questions about whether we would be okay having our profile shown to these particular birth mothers.
What is a "match"?
A match is exactly what it sounds like - it's when an adoptive parent or couple is matched with a birth mother or a child.
When does a match occur?
With our agency, matches can occur anytime after the 3rd or 4th month of pregnancy.
What happens if a birth mother changes her mind?
This is different with each agency. With ours, the $12,500 we pay when to the agency when we are "matched" with the birth mother is held by the agency until we receive another match. Many agencies will also place you on a priority list of some sort - meaning they will work to get you another match as quickly as possible.
Do you get to name the baby?
In many cases, yes, though some adoptive parents work with birth parents to choose a name together.
How soon can you take the baby home?
In Florida, birth mothers have 48 hours to relinquish their parental rights. After that time, we would most likely be able to take the baby home, should he/she be medically ready to leave the hospital.
So, what questions have you been dying to ask?
Submitted by Jen: After the match fee and the paperwork fee, where do the rest of the fees come from?
Other fees at our agency include a $1,000 pregnancy program fee, birthmother living expenses (varies; average is $2,000 to $5,000), other out-of-pocket costs (travel, etc.; average is $1,000), a finalization fee ($1,500), and a child connect fee ($350).
Submitted by Jess: Are you able to tell your agency in advance your match budget or do you have to be okay with $30,000?
Yes. We were able to put down our budget ($25,000) and we were also able to mark down that the agency could contact us should they have a potential match that's up to $3,000 above our budget. Many agencies would not allow us to put down a budget.
Submitted by Angie: I have heard something about a tax deduction/refund for adopting, but that was a few years ago, is there still a tax break for all of the adoption expenses?
Yes, there is a still an Adoption Credit. You can read more about it here. The current credit is $13,360 and is fully refundable. I believe the amount reduces in 2012, and it becomes non-refundable.
Submitted by Dawn: The company I work for was purchased by another larger company and they offer adoption assistance which wouldn't come close to covering it, but I guess I'm curious if many companies offer this or if it is like IF coverage (i.e. you're lucky to have it).
There are a number of companies that offer adoption assistance. Conceive Magazine provides a great list of some of the best employers out there and their benefits. (I believe the Dave Thomas Foundation has a similar list, but does not disclose the amounts.) We are very fortunate that Joey's company offers $3,000 in adoption reimbursement benefits.
Submitted by Anonymous: Will you post who you are using for your adoption services? And your opinion of their service?
I'd be happy to share who I used for my home study and which adoption agency we chose privately. You can email me at fromiftowhen at gmail.com.
Submitted by gailcanoe: When should you tell your employer about your plans to adopt? I know that all the people who get pregnant don't go telling their boss that they are having baby-making sex and wait to say something until they are a few months along, usually. So, when is a good time to broach the topic when adopting?
I told my employer immediately, partly because I needed an employer verification form signed for the home study and partly because I wanted to. I also met with my human resources representative a week or two after going on the waiting list to make sure that they were prepared to do any sort of LOA paperwork at a moment's notice if need be. My theory is this: you wouldn't wait until month 9 to tell your boss/company that you are pregnant. And, with domestic adoption, every day could be month 9. You never know when you might get a call from your agency.
Submitted by gailcanoe: When adopting domestically, do you have the opportunity to choose the race of the baby? What happens if the mother of the baby doesn't know the father's race because she isn't sure who the father is?
Yes, you do have the option to choose race. The races we are open to are not only listed on our home study, but they are also checked off on our adoption application. In situations where the mother is unsure of the father's race, the agency or birth mother will notify you of the potential race(s) of the child and you can decide from there whether you want to proceed.
Submitted by gailcanoe: Can you recommend some good adoption resources (books, websites, etc.) to help answer more questions?
All of my favorite resources for infertility and adoption are located at the top of my blog under the "resources" tab/link.
Have questions about international adoption? Check out my friend Missohkay's blog!