Thinking about adopting a child? There’s a lot to consider.
You might want to start by asking yourself these seven questions:
1. Why do you want to adopt?
It’s a big decision. What motivates you to adopt?
"The only really good reason to adopt is because you really want to parent a child," says pediatrician Sarah Springer, MD.
2. If you've had infertility problems, are you ready to move on?
Before you adopt, you may want to take the time to process your emotions about what you've been through in trying to have a baby.
Infertility, as well as infertility treatment, can leave you with feelings that run deep, says psychologist David Brodzinsky, PhD. Some people may need to grieve the loss related to infertility before they're ready to adopt, he says. Counseling may help prepare you to move forward.
3. Are you ready for the responsibility?
Becoming a parent is a lifelong commitment. If you don't have kids now, are you ready for the permanent change that happens with parenthood?
Many adopted children thrive in their new families. But some have extra challenges. Are you prepared for that possibility?
4. Who do you want to bring into your family?
"I always suggest that families just starting to consider adoption think about three variables," Springer says.
- The child's age
- The child's ethnic background
- U.S. or international adoption
These are personal choices; there is no right or wrong answer.
5. How long are you willing to wait?
All adoptions involve paperwork, background checks, and waiting, but some take longer than others.
According to a survey from Adoptive Families magazine, adopting an infant within the U.S. usually takes between 3 and 24 months; adopting older children from foster care usually takes 2 to 12 months. International adoptions can take up to 5 years, depending on the country.
6. Are you ready financially?
The fees involved in adopting an infant in the U.S. typically run as much as $40,000, and in some instances, they may go higher. Make sure the initial estimate that you're given includes all costs, such as a home study, background checks, travel expenses (if applicable), and post-placement costs; there shouldn't be any additional or hidden fees.
You should also ask whether there will be any non-refundable fees if, for any reason, the adoption doesn't go through. These fees may vary and could include administration costs, social worker fees, birth mother expenses, or attorney fees.
Adoption doesn't have to be costly. The fees for adopting a child from foster-care are significantly less, and some people are eligible for financial aid.
"If you want to adopt but finances for private or international adoption are beyond you, consider the children of this country who are the most needy, lingering in foster care," Brodzinsky says. "Most do well in a stable, loving home."
Adoptive parents can get a tax credit for qualified expenses such as court costs, attorney fees, and travel expenses. This may change in the future.
7. Do you have support?
If you have a partner, are you both eager to adopt? If you already have kids, are they prepared for the family to grow? Will your friends and extended family offer support? If not, will you be able to manage without their support?
If, after answering all these questions, you still feel ready to adopt, it’s most likely time to take the next step and contact an adoption agency.