There are numerous different ways to pursue an adoption, and we've chosen to do so through an agency. As such, I'd break down our process into 4 major steps:
- Choosing the agency
- Completing their application and home study
- Waiting for placement with a birth family
- Finalizing the adoption
Currently, we're at the point where we've chosen an agency (Open Adoption & Family Services, more on that in a later post), and we're waiting to begin our application; so I'd say that Brian and I are between steps 1 and 2 right now.
By all accounts, choosing an agency that fits right with us is extremely important. We'll be working with the agency throughout the entire adoption process, and even for the rest of our lives (many agencies provide ongoing counseling for both birth families and adoptive families even after adoptions are finalized). So it was important to us to consider what agencies were available to us, and to find one the felt right.
This part of the process can take as long or as short as you want it to; for Brian and I, we took about 3 months.
2. Completing the Agency Application and Home Study
Time for paperwork!
Different agencies have various requirements for their applications, and the specifics run the gamut. That said, any adoption is going to involve mounds of paperwork no matter how you slice it! Additionally, all states require that a home study is done, as well, to ensure that the adoptive parents are ready and able to care for a child. This is conducted by the agency, and often is done in conjunction with the agency's application. This phase involves filling out a ton of forms, giving information about your own family and background, having background checks done on you, etc, etc.
Our agency requires that we first attend their Pre-Adoption Seminar, and only then can begin what they call the Application and Intake Interview. Finally, following their application, they'll conduct our home study.
The length of this stage varies depending on the agency's and the state's particular requirements. For our situation, we expect this to take 3-4 months from when we attend the Pre-Adoption Seminar. We're scheduled to attend the seminar in late February, so we hope to have the home study completed by sometime in June.
3. Waiting for Placement with a Birth Family
Some would say that the hard work is done after the home study's complete. From everything I've read, the waiting that happens now is when the real hard work begins!
At this stage, we'll have finished our paperwork and we'll be ready for a match with a birth family. Since we're doing an open adoption, the birth family will be the one to choose us as their adoptive family, not the other way around. (Once we're selected, of course, we're still able to turn down the placement, but the initial match is not something we control.) So we'll go into a pool with other waiting families, and hope that something in our profile makes us stick out!
OA&FS (our agency) shows many of the waiting families on their website. Brian's already going in there and sizing us up against the "competition" :)
This is where the big unknowns come into play. Once we enter the pool, we simply wait. We could be chosen in 2 weeks; or we could be chosen after a few years. For our agency, the average wait time is 11 months (14 months for same-sex couples), although the extremes of that are anywhere from 2 weeks to 52 months (their longest ever wait).
4. Finalizing the Adoption
The final portion of this whole process can vary a lot depending on the birth family's circumstances. OA&FS tries to match families sometime during the third trimester of the pregnancy, and if that's the case then we'll probably have a few months to prepare for a placement. In some cases (last year for OA&FS, 16% of their families), the placement is made at the last minute, in the days after the child has already been born. So whenever we get "the call", it'll only be at that point that we determine what the end game will look like for us.
It's important also to keep in mind that the birth family cannot (and should not) relinquish their parental rights until after the child is born; specific laws vary depending on the state. Even if we're matched with a family and go through the final months of the pregnancy with them, we will not officially be parents until after the birth. Disruption rates are low with this particular agency, but it's something that we will need to be prepared for.
The legal adoption process will take a few more months after the birth to finalize, but at this point we'll have a child at home and will begin parenting! This is the end goal, of course, and it's quite exciting to imagine it happening. Of course this is still a ways off for Brian and me, but I'm sure we'll need to keep it in mind often to remind ourselves why we're going through all this stuff!
Of course there's a ton of detail I'm glossing over here, but that's what the Internet's for :) And Brian and I will do our best to answer any questions, although of course we're learning as we go here.