According to the Adoption Network, “Six in 10 Americans have had personal experience with adoption, meaning that they themselves, a family member, or a close friend was adopted, had adopted a child, or had placed a child for adoption.” Every year, there is a total of 135,000 children adopted by families in the U.S.
The numbers make it clear that adoption is commonplace — but it is also an advantageous and rewarding experience, too. Adoption enables many to experience the joy of raising a family, the opportunity to love a child and watch them grow, and to continuously learn. Plus, adopting a child may even improve the quality of your life as well as your physical well-being.
“A focus on cooking at home and providing healthy meals, enforcing bedtime rules, and allocating time for play and rest for your child are just a few of the innumerable areas where your life will be inevitably shaped (for the better) by the rules you apply to your child’s life,” The Children’s Bureau writes.
Of course, many would-be parents do not need any more convincing about the benefits of adoption. If that describes you, read on to learn more about the process of adopting a baby and making your dreams of becoming a parent a reality.
Find a Reputable Attorney
The process of adopting a baby requires quite a bit of red tape. Do yourself a kindness, and find a reputable attorney early on in the process. With an attorney’s help, you will first begin the termination of parental rights (TPR). In order to finalize the adoption of your child, the state must first terminate the legal rights of the child’s birth parents. Ideally, this takes place with all parties’ consent. In some cases, if the birth parent is unfit to care for their child, they may lose their legal rights, thereby putting them up for adoption. Adoption can proceed before this process is complete. However, it will be considered a high-risk adoption as long as the termination of parental rights remains in question.
Your attorney will also help you file the necessary paperwork that constitutes a “consent to adoption.” According to the Adoption Center, this step will generally require at least two documents. The first is a document from the birth parents clearly outlining their intentions to put their child up for adoption. Over time, this will be replaced by a formal TPR. The second is written consent from the adoption agency. This form certifies that the adoptive parents have met all legal requirements. In the process of adopting a baby, that’s it. If you adopt a child 12 years or older, some states require the child to sign a document consenting to their adoption as well.
You’ll also need help from your lawyer with finalizing your baby’s adoption. “In a court hearing, an attorney represents the family and presents the case to the judge, resulting in the adoption decree,” The Adoption Center explains. This final court hearing takes place after the baby is placed in your home for a predetermined time. That time period varies from state to state, but it is usually at least six months.
Healthcare Services For Your Baby
After taking the legal steps necessary in the process of adopting a baby, it is time to plan for their healthcare. As you would with your own child, devote some time to finding the best pediatrician and dentist before you welcome your new baby into your home.
Your baby’s first few years will involve a lot of checkups. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends babies get checkups at birth, 3 to 5 days after birth and then at 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, and 24 months,” The Bump. As such, it is instrumental to work with a doctor you trust.
Find the perfect pediatrician for your child by narrowing down your options. Do this by prioritizing offices based on availability, proximity, and pediatricians’ bedside manner. To ensure that your baby receives the very best care, it is important that their doctor is close and available during traditional hours, at the very least. Ideally, you want to work with a professional who can refer you to a nurse’s hotline or pediatric hospital during their off-hours.
A pediatric doctor’s most important qualification may be their bedside manner. Remember that, ideally, you will work with the doctor for years to come. Many pediatricians see their patients well until their late teens, or even until they are 21 years old. Plus, even a cold or relatively minor symptoms can be alarming when you are caring for an infant. Work with a practitioner that you trust to put your mind at ease, and investigate further when necessary.
Looking after your baby’s well-being does not end there. Did you know that your infant needs to see the family dentist when they are as young as six months old? Find a suitable dentist by asking other parents for recommendations or reading reviews online. A family dentist will be able to see your baby at six months old, when they are four and five years old, and even when they are adults. If your child is especially nervous about his or her dental care, consider a pediatric dentist who specializes in treating infants, toddlers, and young children.
Your Home: What’s Best For Your Family?
The process of adopting a baby can involve taking an objective and critical look at your life so far. For example, is your house big enough for a new baby? Is it fit for a new baby?
If the answer is no and you have already begun the process of adopting a baby, don’t worry. Look into your options to sell your house fast. To sell your home as quickly as possible, work with a top-rated real estate agent with an impeccable record of selling homes fast, sell your home at auction, put your house up for sale by owner (FSBO), or request a full cash offer.
Remember, while you may be able to make it work without a designated nursery or room for your baby for the first few months, that does not last. “Raising a baby in a small space isn’t easy and may not be a permanent solution; once a baby starts walking, parents note, a tight space can quickly feel even tighter,” The Washington Post writes. Plus, adoptive parents face additional challenges. While many parents can and do make do with a room for their baby, courts and social workers judge adoptive parents’ fitness to raise a baby. If your living space is cramped and packed together with barely enough room for your baby, this can work against you.
If your house is large enough for the new baby but needs some adjustments, make them well before the baby arrives. For example, if you have old, uneven, or slippery floors, call flooring services to replace them. Carpeting is a popular option for homes with small children. Hardwood floors and tiles work, too — just beware of potential hazards. If you put your child down to play, put them down on an area rug or a rubber mat or rubber tiles made especially for playing. If you use area rugs on hardwood floors, invest in anti-slip rug pads to prevent your infant from falling.
Proving You Will Be Reliable Parents
One of the most important steps of the process of adopting a baby is demonstrating that you will be a capable and loving parent. This can seem like an incredibly daunting prospect. Know what adoption agencies look for and prepare adequately.
First, have legal documents on-hand. While adoption agencies typically conduct a home study to assess parents’ capability and fitness, that name can be misleading. Yes, a social worker will walk through your home and evaluate it. They will also ask for documentation. To be on the safe side, set out your driver’s licenses, social security cards, marriage certificate, birth certificates, medical records, immunization records, pets’ vaccination records, and proof of income and/or proof of employment for adoption agencies to photocopy and file.
Next, you’ll need to demonstrate basic proficiency and your ability to provide a safe environment for your baby. Clean your house from top to bottom. “Make sure all locks work properly on windows and doors, smoke detectors are functioning, stairs have safe rails and gate, electrical outlets are covered, the home is clean, and you have emergency plans prepared in case of disasters,” American Adoptions elaborates. Secure kitchen and bathroom cabinets with baby locks.
While a sparkling clean home does not hurt, near-perfect cleanliness is not what the social worker is looking for. Instead, they are looking for a reasonably tidy home and one that will be safe for your baby.
You will also need to prove your readiness to adopt. While adoption agencies may certainly understand if you pick up necessary items after the adoption is in its final stages, having items like a bassinet, a crib, a crib sheet, a changing table, and diapers set up in the nursery will only work out in your favor.
Baby-Proofing And Protecting Your Home
On that note, eliminating hazards should not just be for show. Baby-proofing your home is a very important part of the process of adopting a baby. Here are a few pointers to get you started.
To begin, think about the bigger picture. Some parents do not realize that a general level of safety goes a long way to protect your baby. If you haven’t already, invest in a reliable home security system that will prevent break-ins, intruders, and theft. Unfortunately, some attempted thefts end in violence when the robber unexpectedly finds someone home. If your alarm goes off, however, they are likely to run away instead of sticking around.
Secondly, limit exposure as early as possible. Before your infant’s baby teeth come in and before they are able to crawl, address any safety hazards. Replace the batteries in carbon monoxide detectors. Look out for peeling and chipping paint, and call in professionals to remove lead paint residue and repaint if applicable. Mount furniture that is in danger of tipping firmly to the wall. Do all of these things before your baby is crawling and especially before they are up and about and walking around.
Also, be mindful of the crib. Keep your baby safe by keeping their crib safe. Avoid hanging anything that they can pull down. As babies age, lower their crib according to the crib’s instructions.
A final note includes keeping the bathroom firmly closed and inaccessible to your baby. Lock cabinets anyway. Bathrooms tend to house a lot of products that are potentially dangerous to your baby. Use child safety locks to keep them shut. Store any caustic chemicals or products high up out of your baby’s reach.
Preparing Your Finances
The process of adopting a baby costs money — upfront, for the adoption process itself, and indirectly.
Adopting a baby through an adoption agency costs an average of $30,000 to $40,000. Adopting through foster care costs markedly less — sometimes even nothing at all — but entails a much longer and much more tenuous process. (While in foster care, children have the potential to return to their original homes. If parents are deemed unfit for months or years at a time, their children will go up for adoption.)
While that is a high price tag upfront, remember that that may not be all the costs associated with adoption and the process of adopting a baby. If your car is a small, two-door or four-door sedan, for example, you may end up needing to replace your vehicle to accommodate a growing child and have more room. Talk to a new car dealership about your best options for family-friend vehicles.
It’s not all about racking up costs. In most cases, you actually get a significant adoption tax credit. Talk to tax preparation services about filing your taxes and receiving this credit.
The process of adopting a baby is ultimately an extremely joyful and rewarding one. Like anything else, it can feel difficult and tiresome at the moment. Use the pointers above to adequately and thoroughly prepare for the adoption of your baby and take some of the stress out of the process.