I often get referred to people interested in the adoption process by friends and family to talk with them about our own journey. Many people want to know how long it takes right away. The reality is that no situation is alike and depending on how you go about building your family and various factors, it could take anywhere from a year to significantly longer. Understanding that every situation is different and that you can’t measure your experiences up to another is the first stage in starting the adoption process.
Researching and Getting Started
For my husband and I, our process was a little bit longer because we really wanted to do our research and find an agency that we felt comfortable in working with and this step was critical to me. I wanted to find an agency that was putting birth families and birth mothers first. The agency we chose didn’t just do adoption placements, but helped to support those who decided to parent and who needed additional resources. For those who made an adoption plan, they offer lifelong counseling. It was crucial to me that birth mothers come first. This meant that we searched a little bit longer for an agency who aligned with our same beliefs when it came to adoption and because birth mothers rightfully came first, we had several matches that didn’t pan out and they shouldn’t have. I was grateful that the agency we worked with helped families make the choices that worked best for them.
Once you get started on the process, you’ll need to identify what is important to you in an agency. Some people opt not to use an agency for adoption and just hire an adoption lawyer. See what works best for you and what you’re comfortable with, but know that like anything else, this research phase takes some time.
Paperwork, Home Studies, and More
Another time consuming step for many is the paperwork and home study process. When you’ve chosen what path you want to take and have potentially chosen an adoption agency, you’ll start filling out paperwork, gathering letters of recommendation, working on your profile book, etc. All of these things take time and should be done well. It depends on your location, agency, etc. how long it will take once that is submitted to set a time for the home study and then that goes through its own approval process. I spoke to a family who was adopting not that long ago that mentioned they felt this was tedious and took up too much time. I couldn’t disagree more–if someone is deciding whether or not to give you their child, you should be spending the time to show that you have the ability to be a good parent. These processes are important to ensure proper placement for a child, so now is the time to practice your patience–a skill you’ll need when you have a new baby or child in your care!
International Vs. Domestic Adoption
Though it is assumed that domestic adoption is always faster than international adoption, this isn’t always true. Some countries go through the process rather quickly, while others take more time. This all depends on the need to find placement for children, laws in those countries, and travel time, etc. In some countries, there is a waiting period once you’ve gone and met the child to when you can bring them home and in others, you don’t travel there until it’s time to bring home the child. In the United States, you could wait a significant period of time to be matched. There is no set time for this process because in order for you to adopt a child, someone else has to relinquish their rights and this isn’t an easy decision. Infant adoption can often take longer than adopting an older child as well. Again, there is no clear estimate. Every situation is different.
I personally spent over a year doing research and once we chose an agency, we spent an additional few months completing paperwork and the home study. We brought our daughter home 18 months after the home study was completed.
Foster Care Adoption Vs. Private Adoption
It can be true that adoption through foster care is shorter than some private adoptions. However, that’s not always the case. I have known many individuals that have had a child in their home through the foster care system for 3-4 years before a permanent placement was established, while some started the adoption process shortly after a child was placed in their care due to birth parent rights already being relinquished.
According to childrensrights.org, there are nearly 424,000 children in foster care in the United States, so if you feel led to open your home to one of these children, reach out to a local agency to start the process.
I know that you potentially read this with the hope that you would get a clear cut timeline of when you could expect to adopt, but this is not a process that yields an exact estimate. Being patient, going through the processes, and having empathy for the families involved is important and will make all of the difference in your mental health as you embark on the path to build your family through adoption.