You can expect every domestic adoption to be different. Each agency, birthmom, and waiting family is unique. I’ve learned so much in our adoption journey and I wanted to take some time to share with you on what can be expected in a domestic adoption and help prepare you for what is to come.
Starting the Domestic Adoption Journey
Before we chose an agency we did lots of research, mostly on-line, to find out more about adoption agencies. Did they make promises that aren’t guaranteed? What did they stand for? Were their fees online?
I have to admit, choosing an agency was extremely overwhelming. We chose ours because it was a Christian agency and that was priority because their mission aligned with ours. It also came recommended from a friend who worked there which helped make this big decision much easier.
To get started, our agency required a simple preliminary application with a small fee. Nothing too crazy or time consuming, but would signal any red flags that we would not be a good fit with the agency. (Some agencies have very specific requirements for waiting families such as number of years married.)
The Home Study
Leading up to the home study I felt overwhelmed because of what I read on-line. I’d see articles titled, “Surviving the Home Study,” and that doesn’t make anyone eager to go through it. Y’all, it’s really not that bad. Think of it as part of the labor pains of adoption; it’s not fun, but it’s going to lead to Baby.
Our home study process was made up of three different components: Paperwork, Interviews, and Home Study. It took about two months from the day we officially chose to pursue adoption to the time our home study was complete. This is probably faster than most, but when Beth Burge feels compelled by the Good Lord to do something… watch out!
Here’s a list of what was involved in the home study process:
Paperwork (It’s not as bad as it looks- I promise!)
Animal Safety Statement from Veterinarian
Background Checks: State Criminal, Child Abuse, and FBI Clearance
Certificates: Birth, Divorce, and Marriage
Contractual Agreements: Financial Agreement, Media Release, Grievance Resolution Process, and Post Placement Reports
Finances: Federal Tax Return & Financial Info
Health Records: Health Insurance Card and Health Statement from Doctor
Questionnaires: Short answer type questions for the adoptive parents, both as a couple and individually.
Interviews (The questions centered on our own upbringing, how we intended to bring up Baby, and our relationship as a married couple.)
Adoptive Mother Interview
Adoptive Father Interview
As a growing family, Craig and I want our home to be safe, so a home study was really a no brainer. Our home study was short and sweet, and it checked on basic things like: A safe room for Baby, smoke detectors, and proper storage of dangerous materials. The one requirement that did surprise us was that any firearms or ammunition must be locked separately. If that’s the toughest requirement, then c’mon, a home study is not too bad.
Craig and I are hanging out here right now… Destination: Baby Burge!
After our home study was completed and we formally applied to work with our agency, we began work on a family profile. This is a book with pictures and descriptions about the waiting family that is presented to the birthmom/birth family and helps them choose the adoptive family. I used Shutterfly to make ours. I have to admit it was an intimidating step in the adoption journey knowing that it would be used to help make a very important decision. It just so happened that at this point in the adoption journey, I was at home recovering from surgery due to breaking the radius and ulna in my left arm. You won’t slow down this future momma’s right arm!
Meanwhile, at the agency, the adoption coordinators work with bithmoms or birth families to walk them through the adoption process. They provide counseling and discuss all options. It’s encouraged that any decision on choosing adoption or a waiting family is made in the third trimester. I value this as a future adoptive parent who wants to make sure the decision to place a child up for adoption is one that is freely made and done with good counsel. It gives me peace knowing that the birthmom can have confidence in her decision.
The birthmom or birth family can have as much or as little input in the decision as they want. This means some may have the agency choose, while others may go through countless family profiles until they find the perfect waiting family.
When Craig and I are matched we’ll receive some basic information about the birthmom. Some of this might include use of drugs during pregnancy, other children, level of openness desired, and if a birth father is identified. We might speak on the phone or meet in person depending on what the birthmom or birth family desire.
Now remember, the waiting family is chosen in the third trimester. Therefore, Craig and I are looking at 3 months at most to prepare for Baby Burge. It is possible that things could happen much faster!
This all depends on what the birthmom or birth family would like. We know couples that were there for the delivery of the baby and others who met their baby at the hospital after birth. Craig and I will need to be flexible and understanding, especially to the birthmom who is going through a very emotional time.
Officially Becoming a Family
This is something that we’ve been preparing for, but need to prepare our friends and family for too. Even though we are already a family, the adoption is not legal until it’s legal. The birthmom can change her mind at any time in the adoption process until parental rights are terminated. And that is her right.
Keep in mind that each state has different laws on adoption, and each adoption agency may work differently compared to others. Our agency has offices in Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Indiana. As Kentucky residents, Craig and I assume that Baby will most likely be from our home state, so the information you read is specific to our Kentucky adoption agency.
There will be two court proceedings involved in our adoption. The first is for termination of parental rights and the second is for adoption finalization. After Baby is born, the birthmom and birthfather sign paperwork to voluntarily terminate parental rights. This paperwork can be filed in court 72 hours after Baby is born. Once it’s filed, a court date is set for about 1 to 2 weeks away to terminate parental rights. Once parental rights are terminated in court the decision cannot be reversed.
If the birthfather is unnamed, he has 60 days to come forward to assert his rights. If this is the case, our agency will not file paperwork to terminate parental rights for the birthmom or unnamed birthfather until the 60 days have passed. If this applies, it would push back the court proceeding to terminate parental rights. The process to terminate parental rights will take approximately 10 to 77 days.
The second court date to finalize the adoption takes place 3 to 6 months after Baby’s birth. During this whole process, Baby is at home with us. To complete the entire adoption process in court, it should take approximately 94 to 245 days to complete.
This is the part that really gets Beth Burge flustered. To think that Baby is at Home, but not legally part of our family is overwhelming at times. As I drove home this afternoon from work I had a conversation with God. My talking went like this: “I am broken. I can do nothing. But, my strength comes from you, Lord. My hope rests knowing that you have a perfect plan for our family.” God knew the child that would be in our family before I was born… before Creation. He knows, and I can rest in that. This is a conversation that I am sure I will need to repeat with God, and I am so thankful that He desires conversation with me and cares what we’re going through.
So Now What?
Throughout the legal proceedings of adoption, the agency will complete three post placement visits to check up on Baby and provide support. An adoption coordinator will visit us at around one month, three months, and six months.
Today, most adoptions are considered open. This is one of those terms that can mean many things. In an open adoption, there is communication between the birth family and the adoptive family. The birth mom or birth family might want to receive photos or letters, or request that they have visits with Baby. We will most likely have contact with the birthmom or birth family, either directly or through the agency. I know that this shocks or confuses some, but there is lots of research that demonstrates this is best for Baby, the birth family, and adoptive parents. If you’d like to learn more about birth families, check out the listening library from Let’s Talk Adoption. They have some wonderful podcasts with birthmoms and a birthdad being interviewed about their adoption experiences.
Yes, there’s a lot to the adoption journey, but oh! that we can rest in God’s perfect plan. I am confident that He is with us now on this journey! I trust that He will continue to prepare us for what will come! And I am certain that He will always be there!
Trusting in Him,