NAFA has developed this information in response to the many questions that people have about adoption. The adoption scene is ever changing. The information presented here is only a summary of adoption as it exists today. Please note that this information is meant to be general in nature; each adoption, each agency, each attorney, has its unique perspective. We simply hope to be able to give you enough information and support to reach your own personal decision about adoption as a way to create or expand your family. And, should you decide on adoption, we offer encouragement in the process and support and fellowship to your family through the years.
NAFA offers a DVD and information packet entitled Adoption Options: Picturing the Possibilities free of charge to those considering adoption. This packet will answer many questions and give you information on adoption from adoption professionals, adoptive parents and children who entered their family through adoption. To receive a copy contact call NAFA’s message line, (503)243-1356 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Wishing you success,
Northwest Adoptive Families Association
ARE THERE CHILDREN AVAILABLE FOR ADOPTION?
Yes. Even infants are available, though it may take more determination than in previous eras. Our society’s morals, domestic and international politics, and your own ability to determine what type of child will best suit you and your family are the only considerations. But it can be done!
It is true that the adoption picture in the United States has changed. Years ago, any stable family with minimal patience could adopt an infant of a similar heritage. School aged, minority children and those children with special needs were rarely adopted, and such parentless children faced years of institutional living. In recent years, due to birth control, abortions, and changing social norms, fewer and fewer infants have been available for adoption. Yet the number of older, minority, or children with special needs wanting loving homes has remained high. It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 children available for adoption in the United States; and many more who could be freed; and of course, countless numbers overseas. In general, adoption agencies are most eager to find adoptive parents for minority children, school age children, and children with special needs, and with minimal or serious handicaps. The distinction between “minimal” and “serious” handicap varies greatly depending on the viewpoints of the social workers and the future adoptive parents. There are also sibling groups available for adoption that need each other and share a need for loving parents.
WHO MAY ADOPT?
Adoption agencies today are more flexible than ever before, however certain basic requirements must be met to adopt:
Marital Status: Agency requirements for length of marriage range from newlywed to five years, with two years being the average. An individual may be single or divorced. If divorced, a person must have proper legal documentation. Many agencies are currently placing children with single parents; however, if you are considering international adoption, know that not all countries will work with single people.
Age: Generally, adoptive parents must be over 21 years of age. Upper age limits vary depending on the agency, often allowing no more than 40 years difference between the child and the oldest parent. All agencies are concerned that the parents be able to see an adopted child through young adulthood. In international adoptions, age range is typically 25 years to 50 years old, depending on the country.
Religion: Some agencies are religiously affiliated and give top priority to prospective adoptive parents of that religion. (Remember that children are often placed with parents of the same religion, so where applicable, it helps to designate religious affiliation in the broadest possible terms.) Many agencies have no requirements concerning religion.
Same sex couples: Some agencies welcome same sex couples as prospective adoptive parents. Many same sex couples have successfully adopted in Oregon and Washington.
Financial Status: Modest incomes are acceptable as long as would-be parents can manage their financial affairs. A person does not have to have a large bank account or own a home.
Documentation: In most situations, you will need the following documents: birth certificate for each parent and perhaps for any children in the family; marriage certificate; divorce decree (if applicable); proof of citizenship; naturalization papers (if applicable); and a recent medical examination. You will probably need three to five personal references, proof of employment, and a financial statement (including a copy of your most recent 1040 tax form). (Oregon Vital Statistics can give you the current fees and addresses if any of your certificates need to be obtained from another state.) A good rule of thumb: Never mail original certificates if you can avoid it. Also, make copies of everything you send and use a private overnight currier.
Home Study or Adoption Study: Home studies are generally not transferable from one agency to another, so it is best to do your groundwork before starting the home study process. An agency is primarily concerned with the children in its care. The agency prefers to seek out parents for a particular child rather than spend precious time interviewing people who are not interested in the type of children they have available. The primary emphasis for agencies remains finding the “right family” for a particular child, rather than a child for a family.
WHAT DOES IT COST TO ADOPT?
The cost of an agency adoption in Oregon can be divided into two parts, first the fee charged by the adoption agency or agencies, (this includes home study and post-placement fees) and then the legal fees required to finalize the adoption. States usually charge no fees, except for the home study (which is often waived) for adoption of children in the custody of the state. Fees for agencies vary. Be sure you have a clear understanding of the fee structure an agency uses, what the fees are for, what expenses you will have in addition to the agency fees, and whether you pay in a lump sum or pay as you complete each part of your adoption process. You may be eligible for an adoption tax credit on your tax return (check with your tax accountant), and some companies also give an adoption credit to employees as part of their benefit package.
An attorney’s fee to finalize an adoption can run anywhere from $500 to $800, or more. Find an adoption attorney through the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys or contact your State Bar Association for attorneys experienced in adoption.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO ADOPT?
The best way to learn about the realities of adoption is to talk with other adoptive families or read about their experiences. At one time adoption was a private affair no one talked about. Today people are talking and writing about adoption and freely sharing their adoption experiences. NAFA maintains a lending library that is housed at the Lake Oswego Library and is available through the inter-library loan system. For information about the library, contact NAFA at (503)243-1356 or visit the Library Collection section of our website.
A good time to join NAFA is when you are beginning your process. Our members have adopted through every conceivable method – independent and agency, parent-initiated, domestic and international, open and traditional. You have a good chance of finding a resource person for whichever route you may choose to pursue. Adoptive parents are also a very understanding and empathetic group and really want to help you with the process and the wait, and share in the joy of your child(ren) joining your family. Please give us a call or e-mail us and we will send you an information packet.
HOW DO I START THE ADOPTION PROCESS?
Once you have decided you are interested in adopting, we suggest that you do the following:
- Watch the NAFA DVD Adoption Options: Picturing the Possibilities. This will help you explore your own feelings about adoption and the type of child you might seek. While most agencies offer pre-adopt classes, they seldom offer information about other agencies or about independent adoptions. The Adoption Options DVD is designed to be an overview of all the adoption alternatives.
- Broaden your concept of an adoptable child as much as possible. Never take a child whom you do not really want or whom you do not feel you can really love and nurture. Love comes in many colors, sizes, and degrees of intelligence and physical abilities. The chances are, however, that once you begin to explore adoption, your previous limits will be expanded.
- Establish and maintain contact with NAFA or another adoptive parent support group to gain encouragement and support before, during, and after the placement. Adoptive family groups are a valuable source of current adoption information.
- Contact agencies to verify their current requirements and available services. Do not be discouraged by a less than enthusiastic response. If you are trying to adopt via one of the less established paths, you must be willing to put a lot of time and emotional energy into the effort. Above all, be patient and persevere!
- Based on all the information you have gathered: decide whether you want to do an agency or independent adoption; whether you want a domestic-born or foreign-born child; and whether an open adoption is comfortable for you.
- Tell as many people as you can about your desire to adopt. Many a parent has connected with their child through their friends, minister, doctor, etc.
SELECTING AN ATTORNEY
Care should be taken in selecting an attorney to use in any adoption matter. Many attorneys are not experienced in adoptions and no attorney can be an expert in all areas of the law. Some attorneys have experience in step-parent adoptions but not in non-relative adoptions. The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (http://www.adoptionattorneys.org) lists attorneys in each state who are members of that academy. Many State Bar Associations have a Lawyer Referral Service, though it does not necessarily ensure expertise, as any lawyer can register and indicate he has a desire to handle adoptions.
In making contact with a lawyer, do not be afraid to ask what experience he or she may have had in adoptions. Ask how many adoptions he or she has handled in the last year. One or two is not enough to indicate sufficient expertise to help you through the fairly precise laws involved. Ask about costs involved, both the lawyer’s fees and the other costs that will occur in an adoption. Be wary of an attorney who quotes a large flat fee. Cost is not always the determining factor – an experienced attorney may charge more an hour, but actually saves on total costs. You should be able to ascertain what the fees actually cover and what other expenses you may encounter during the process. Do not engage an attorney unless he appears to be truly interested in your case. You should get a straightforward answer to any questions you may have. If he cannot answer a question, he should give you a logical explanation as to why he cannot. (Note: it is impossible for an attorney to predict how long it will take to find a child, as the decision is the birth mother’s, not the lawyer’s.) The attorney should be ready to act promptly on your behalf, when such prompt action is needed. Do not engage an attorney who does not respond to your telephone calls; he is either too busy or not interested enough. However, do not expect to receive too much legal advice from a lawyer on the telephone prior to a first appointment. Attorneys make their living by receiving payment for giving legal advice.