By Jessica Hartwig, Adoption Recruitment Specialist

Today more than 427,000 children are waiting in foster care in the United States; more than 111,000 of them are available to be adopted. Each year more than 20,000 of those waiting children will “age out” of care, putting them at greater risk of homelessness, underemployment, health challenges, and great emotional loss throughout their entire lives.

Because of these staggering numbers, November is recognized as National Adoption Awareness Month in the United States.  In 1995, President Bill Clinton expanded National Adoption Awareness Week to the entire month of November.  As of 2016, National Adoption Awareness Month has been celebrated for 21 years! Child welfare advocates and U.S. leaders celebrate National Adoption Awareness Month to pay tribute to the thousands of adoptive families who make sacrifices and open their homes to youth living in the nation’s foster care system.

Many people choose to begin pursuing adoption during National Adoption Awareness Month. If you are ready to begin your adoption journey, read on!

What are your adoption options?

There are many ways to adopt, including:

  1. Public Agency Adoption
  2. Licensed Private Agency Adoption
  3. Intercountry Adoption
  4. Independent Adoption
  5. Facilitated/Unlicensed Agency Adoption

These options can be a bit overwhelming at first glance. You should know that once you decide on the age of the child/ren that you would like to adopt, it becomes easier to know which route to take.

Often, families who want to adopt an infant will hire a local/domestic, licensed “private adoption agency” within the United States. Others will choose to go the route of an “international/intercountry adoption” and hire a Hague Convention accredited intercountry private adoption agency.  Should you decide to choose a Licensed Private Adoption Agency, you will pay them for their services to match you with a birth parent who has relinquished their parental rights to that agency.  You will then work with the agency to adopt.  Both Licensed Domestic and International Adoption Agencies are required to adhere to licensing and procedural standards.

Alternatively, children waiting in foster care in the United States range between the ages of 1-18 and are often adopted through what is called a “public adoption.”  This type of adoption is conducted through your local foster care agency within the Department of Child and Family Services/ Children’s Division Office or Foster Care Case Management Licensing agency.  Should you decide to choose a public adoption, you will first need to get licensed as a foster family within your county of residence.  That entire licensing requirement and home study process will typically take families 4-6 months to complete.

Who can adopt a child from foster care?

To adopt or foster in many states, you must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be in good physical and mental health
  • Be single or married, with or without children in your home
  • Complete a child abuse and neglect check and criminal record check, including fingerprints
  • Have a stable income
  • Live in an apartment, condominium or home as long as it meets agency licensing standards
  • Be willing to participate in and complete necessary training and full assessment process
  • Be prepared to honestly evaluate your own loss, grief, and emotions surrounding this adoption plan and your future needs in growing your family
  • Participate willingly with the professional team surrounding you, (within the agency whom you have chosen); voice your concerns and perspectives
  • Be willing to “possibly” communicate or even partner with the child’s birth family or nearest relatives

How should you start? What does the process look like?

  1. Educate yourself and decide which adoption route fits your needs
  2. Contact a local “private” or “public”  agency and attend a scheduled orientation  or interview the agency
  3. Complete program application
  4. Complete agency and home study licensing requirements
  5. Search for a child and use any referral and matching services available for child placement within your adoptive family
  6. Become the chosen adoptive family for the child
  7. Exchange information, conduct visitation, transitioning and placement of the child with your pre- adoptive family
  8. Celebrate the court “finalization” of the adoption
  9. Live forever as an adoptive family
  10. Consider growing your family through adoption once again 🙂

Where should you look for resources?

You can visit the following website to find the correct state/county “public” adoption contacts near you:
https://www.childwelfare.gov/organizations/?CWIGFunctionsaction=rols:main.dspROL&rolType=Custom&RS_ID=14

This resource allows you to find domestic, licensed “private” adoption agencies that may fit your needs:
https://www.childwelfare.gov/nfcad/

The following excellent websites offer more detailed pre- and post- adoptive information:

It’s a good idea to continue adoption-related research before, during and after your adoption.

You can utilize The Adoption Exchange’s website for pre- and post- adoption resources, trainings, and information.  The Adoption Exchange’s “Children’s Gallery” allows you to review profiles of children who are waiting the longest for their permanent, adoptive families.  Visit The Adoption Exchange website regularly, at http://www.adoptex.org

Best wishes to you throughout the New Year, as you journey along this emotional and rewarding experience of growing your family through adoption.

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