November is National Adoption Month. Organizations across the country use this month to celebrate adoption as a positive way to build families and to raise awareness about the children in need of permanent homes. Activities like recognition dinners, public awareness events, and recruitment campaigns take place throughout the month. The month also includes National Adoption Day, usually held on a Saturday, when thousands of adoptions are simultaneously finalized in courthouses across the country.
Many people have considered adoption, but have more questions than they have answers. From things like what types of adoption are available to how much does it cost to adopt a child? In honor of National Adoption Month, here are answers to 5 of the most common adoption questions.
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What types of adoption are available?
There are three basic options for adoption – domestic adoption, international adoption, and foster care adoption. Simply speaking, domestic adoption is when parents seek to adopt a child, usually an infant, from within the US. Oftentimes, this term is used to describe the process when a family seeks to adopt from a woman expecting a child who is seeking an adoptive home for her unborn baby.
International adoption is adopting a child, both infants and older children, from another country. These children often live in orphanages.
Foster care adoption is adopting a child from the foster care system who has been permanently separated from their birth family and is need of a permanent family. Although the ages of children in foster care range from newborns to 18-year-olds, the average age of children in foster care is around 9 years old. Some of these children may have special needs, such as they may be suffering from trauma or have a disability or medical condition. There are also many cases where there are brothers and sisters who should be adopted together.
How do we know what type of adoption is best for our family?
There is no one perfect fit for everyone. People are generally drawn to one type of adoption over another because of the age of children who are available or because of a particular aspect of that adoption process. For instance, the cost of international adoption is much higher than that of domestic adoption or foster care adoption. The process to adopt from foster care is often long and involves mandatory training classes and monthly in-home visits with social workers until the adoption is finalized.
Determining which option is best for your family should be done by considering what type of child you are looking to add to your family – an infant, toddler, or an older child? Are you willing to parent a child of a different race? Look at your community and ask yourself how your child would develop a racial or cultural identity within your town or city – will a child from China have opportunities to explore her culture where you live? Consider what goes into the process of each type of adoption (the time it takes, the cost, the paperwork and requirements involved) and whether or not that is something your family can handle.
How much does it cost to adopt a child?
Answering the question “how much does it cost to adopt a child?” is a bit tricky. There is no straight answer. The cost of adoption varies greatly and is determined by a number of factors. On average, most domestic and international adoptions can cost between $25,000 and $60,000. The factors that contribute to this range of cost can include the following:
- The agency and adoption programs you choose
- Legal fees
- Home study fees
- Travel costs, when applicable like in the instance of international adoption
- Expenses related to the birth mother when pursuing domestic infant adoption (like medical bills and other expenses)
Your budget, along with other factors, can affect your adoption wait time. For example, in a domestic adoption situation, a woman seeking an adoptive family for her unborn baby who has higher living expense needs will need to be matched to a family with higher adoption budgets. So if a woman is seeking an adoptive family but her needs are higher than your budget allows, she will be matched with another family whose budget is a better fit.
Adopting from foster care is a different story. The cost of adopting a child from foster care is minimal compared to that of domestic and international adoptions. There is sometimes a nominal fee when using a private agency to help facilitate the process. Then there are other small fees that often include things like the cost of fingerprints and background checks, a home study, and CPR classes.
Is there financial assistance available to cover the cost of adoption?
While adopting a child can be financially challenging, there are resources available to help finance an adoption. Loans, tax credits, and employee benefits may be options. It is also not uncommon for families to set up fundraisers to help pay for their adoption.
A growing number of companies and government agencies offer adoption benefits, which can include financial reimbursement for legal expenses, agency fees, medical expenses, and other expenses, as well as paid or unpaid leave time. Loans and travel assistance may also be available through banks or travel agencies.
In addition, most adopted children are eligible for an adoption tax credit. This credit allows adoptive parents to claim adoption expenses from their federal taxes – such as necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, travel expenses. It is worth noting, however, that the adoption tax credit is not a tax refund. Taxpayers can only receive the credit if they have federal income tax liability.
The North American Council on Adoptable Children has plenty of resources and more information on loans, grants, and the adoption tax credit.
How long will it take to adopt?
For all types of adoption, the amount of time the process will take varies. However, the wait time for any type of adoption to be complete is usually significant. For domestic adoption, the amount of time it will take depends on how appealing your biography is to expectant mothers, how much you can afford to spend on applying to different agencies, and on the type of child you are willing to consider (health, race, and potential risk factors).
When it comes to international adoption, the time could be anywhere from 12 to 36 months, depending on the country. However, a few countries, such as China, have significantly longer waits.
The time it takes to adopt a child from foster care varies greatly depending on how flexible you are in terms of the type of child you are interested in adopting. Parents looking to adopt younger children will have a longer wait time than parents who are interested in children in a larger age range. Once a match has been made, the time it takes to complete the adoption will depend on factors like whether or not the parental rights of the biological parents have already been terminated, the caseworker’s workload, and the amount of time the court takes to process adoption decrees.
From start to finish, the process of adopting from foster care can easily take 2 or 3 years. However, the good news is that once a match has been made and the decision has been made to move forward with an adoption, the child is in your home while you wait for the adoption to be finalized.
Adoption is not for the faint of heart. It is a hard process that can be frustrating and seem neverending at times. If you are considering expanding your family through adoption, research your options. Be realistic about the type of child you can parent and what is right for your family. Look at multiple agencies before choosing one. Still, there will inevitably be times when you wonder if going through all the waiting and bureaucracy and frustration is worth it. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that once the process is complete and you have added that child to your family, you will have everything you ever wanted.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Considering adding a child to your family through adoption? Check out the article 4 Signs You’re Ready to Turn to Adoption.
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