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Are You Ready to Adopt?

Although the average adoption is completed within two years, it's impossible to estimate how long the entire process may take in any one case. You may have a child in several short months, or be mired in paperwork or waiting for a child for years. This unpredictability can be hard to endure, and there can be many false starts and adoptions that fall apart at the last moment. The amount of time required is partially determined by what kind of adoption you are undertaking and what kind of child you want to adopt. For example, if you are looking for a Caucasian newborn from the U.S., it may take you longer than if you are interested in an older baby or child with a disability from Latin or South America or Asia.

The Adoption Process

Whether you use an agency or a private lawyer to adopt in the U.S. or another country, you must complete what's known as "home study." This includes counseling and culminates in a written evaluation of you and your family by a state-licensed social worker. The agency worker assigned to your case will usually perform the home study; however, if you are adopting independently, you can still use an agency to do your home study, or you may contract with an independent state-licensed social worker.

When you begin searching for a child - whether through an agency worker or through private solicitation - don't be afraid to be brutally honest with yourselves and with your adoption counselor or agent about the kind of child you want. If you don't want an older child, one with limitations or disabilities, or one of a different race, say so. It is better to set expectations now than return a child after he or she has been placed with you.

Your Marital Status and Age

Some agencies and foreign countries have age restrictions for adoptive parents. For instance, they may only consider couples who are between the ages of 25 and 40, who have been married at least 1 to 3 years, and who have stable employment income. Some agencies even require that the couple have no other children and be unable to bear children, while others require that one parent not work outside the home for at least six months after the adoption.

However, there are many agencies and countries that have no restrictions on age, marital status, or other children in the home. And don't worry if you're not "perfect;" most agencies are interested only in ensuring you will provide a loving family for the child. In most cases:

  • You may be married or single, childless or already parenting other children.
  • Having a disability will not prevent you from adopting a child. Agencies want to ensure that you can care for a child, ensure his or her safety, and meet his or her needs.
  • Divorce or a history of marital or personal counseling will not preclude you as an adoptive parent.
  • You are not required to own your own home or to have a high income. Agencies are more concerned that you will provide the child with stability, love, and care.

Emotional Readiness

Be sure that both you and your partner (if applicable) are ready to adopt, are doing it for the right reasons, and have come to terms with any sense of loss because the child won't be born to you. Don't adopt him or her just because you are lonely or empty or feel sorry for the child. Adopt him or her because you want to be a parent. Ask yourself if you are ready to handle a child that may resent you and the adoption and grieve for the loss of his or her birth family. To find out more information about adopting, go on to the Child Welfare Gateway Website where you can find fact sheets, agency contact information, and reading lists to educate you further about the process of adopting a child.

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