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To Adopt a Child - The First Step


You want to be a parent and, for any one of a variety of reasons, you've decided to adopt a child. Congratulations! This will be an exciting and happy period, leading to a lifetime of parenting and love. Adoption is a process, both emotionally and legally, and you should take the time now to make sure you're starting off right.

The very first step to take is to make sure adoption is right for you and your household. Your attitude about adoption will shape the entire process, and guide how you interact with other parents, adoption professionals and, of course, your child. Ask yourself:

  • Why do I want to adopt?
  • How determined am I to adopt?
  • How will I feel about not having a genetic link to my child?
  • How much money am I willing to spend to adopt?
  • How will I talk to my child about adoption, and his or her background?
  • What is the ideal adoption situation for me?

If you find you have doubts, it may help to discuss them with a counselor who is experienced in adoption issues. Equipping yourself emotionally and psychologically is the best way to start your journey to adopt a child.

The first practical step is to educate yourself about adoption. You'll need to know:

  • Different types of adoption
  • The costs involved, and resources available for assistance
  • What's involved in the legal process

There are many different types of adoption, and different situations in which you can adopt a child. You can foster a child as a prelude to adoption (called fost-adopt), or adopt a “waiting child,” one who's been legally released for adoption and living in foster care or an institution. Adoptions can be open, with the birth parents directly involved in choosing the adoptive family and maintaining contact with the child after placement. Closed adoptions, in which the adoptive parents and birth parents have no information about one another, are less common these days but do still take place. You can choose to adopt a newborn or an older child. You can adopt through an agency, with the help of an attorney or, in some locations, with an adoption facilitator. Educating yourself on all the variations in the process will help you choose which approach will work best for you.

You should also learn about the cost of adoption, and the resources that can help you afford it. Private and agency adoptions can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but there are tax credits, adoption loans, and even subsidies available in some circumstances. Adopting from the U.S. foster care system often costs little or nothing. Again, learn what you'll be facing so that you can make your best choice.

The legal process of adoption involves applying, being evaluated and approved to adopt through an extensive home study, attending mandatory classes on adoption and parenting, finding your child, petitioning to adopt, then having the adoption finalized. Understanding the different steps, especially the home study, will prepare you for the process and reduce the inevitable stress.

Building your family through adoption is an exciting proposition! It's also a lifelong commitment. Take the first step to adopt a child by thinking about what you want, and educating yourself on the options and process. You'll be on your way to giving him or her all the love and attention they deserve.

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