- General Information
- Are You Ready to Adopt? Questions to Consider
- Independent/Open Adoption
- Foster Adoption
- International Adoption
There are many types of adoptions in California. No one type is right for every family or child. As prospective adoptive parents, you will be sorting through large amounts of information and making many choices. You need to determine whether adoption is right for your family at this time, what type of adoption is best for your family, which professionals you feel most comfortable working with and ultimately whether a specific child is going to be your child. Here we offer you some questions to consider in approaching these choices and a short description plus resources for more information on the common roads to adoption in California: independent/open adoption, foster adoption and international adoption.
For information, databases, referrals and free fact sheets on many adoption related topics nationwide, check out the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, PO Box 1182, Washington, DC 20013-1182, (888) 251-0075, http://www.calib.com/naic
For a list of all adoption agencies licensed in California, both public and private, contact the California Department of Social Services, Adoptions Branch, 744 P Street, M.S. 19-69, Sacramento, CA 95814, 916/322-3778. If an organization is not licensed by this department it is not an adoption agency licensed in California. It may be an organization that assists in independent adoptions in which case the laws relating to independent adoptions rather than licensed adoption agencies apply or it may be an agency licensed in another state that would require you to have a homestudy done by an agency licensed in California if you are a California resident.
Many of California's licensed agencies belong to the California Association of Adoption Agencies and may be reached from this site: http://www.california-adoption.org/
For a directory of internet sites especially useful for those who wish to adopt children with special needs see www.adopt.org
For information on employers that help cover adoption costs: Employer’s Guide to Adoption Benefits, available from the National Adoption Center, 1500 Walnut St., STE 701, Philadelphia, PA, 19102, 215/735-9988, www.adopt.org
Are you as ready as you can be to be someone’s parent, possibly right away?
Have you sorted out your desire from other motives such as pity for homeless children, grief over infertility or the desire for a playmate for your current child?
How equally committed to adopting are you and your spouse? Is your relationship strong?
Do you feel that you can love and raise as your own someone else’s biological child?
If you have a birthchild or the possibility of a birthchild, do you think you can love both children equally? Are you prepared to create upheaval in your current child’s live? How much?
How do you feel about opening up your family to the scrutiny (personal and marital history, medical history, financial situation, asking for references from friends and neighbors, telling people you are looking for a child to adopt, etc.) inherent in the adoption process?
Can you be flexible with the amount of time off from work that may be necessary to travel to adopt or to help your child adjust and attach to your family?
What information would you like to have about your child’s biological parents? Is there any information you absolutely require?
How much contact with your child’s biological parents would you feel comfortable with? What are your feelings when you consider the possibility of substantially more or less contact than you consider ideal? In all types of adoptions there is the possibility of changed circumstances that alter the original plan.
How do you feel about adopting a child of a different racial/ethnic background than your own? Have you considered becoming a multicultural, multiracial or multiethnic family?
What differences do you see between adoptive and biological parenting? How can you educate yourself further?
What are your strategies going to be for supporting yourself and your relationship emotionally when there are frustrations, long waits, changes and setbacks or even an unexpected immediate placement in the adoption process?
Books to start with for prospective parents beginning the adoption process: Adopting After Infertility by Pat Johnston and The Adoption Resource Book by Lois Gilman.
Prospective adoptive parents may wish to adopt independently; that is, without the services of an adoption agency. They may use an intermediary such as a lawyer, physician, or adoption facilitator to help them locate a potential birthmother. The birthparents choose the adoptive parents who usually bring the child into their homes as a newborn. Others may choose an identified agency adoption where potential birthparents relinquish their parental rights to the agency with the stipulation that the child be placed with the parents of their choosing. This combines a traditional agency adoption with the openness prevalent in independent adoptions.
All independent adoptions contain some degree of openness. Most birthparents and adoptive parents know each other’s full names and addresses and stay in contact with pictures and letters by regular mail, phone, or e-mail. Some visit on an occasional or even regular basis.
Independent adoptions cost from 10 – 20 K but can vary greatly depending on the specific needs of the birthmother. Does she live out of state? Does she have insurance? Most prospective adoptive parents are able to adopt within 6 – 18 months of beginning their search.
For an easy-to-read overview of the California laws on independent adoption, refer to www.pactadopt.org/adoptive under "What do I need to know about adopting?" PACT, which manages this site, facilitates and supports adoptions of children of color. Refer to www.r2press.com for additional information and resources on open adoption. A must-read book on open adoption is The Open Adoption Experience by Lois Ruskai Melina and Sharon Kaplan Roszia.
Need to Know:
Adoption Facilitator: A person or organization that helps match potential birthparents with prospective adoptive parents and provides support and referral services. They are considered a private service and are not licensed by the state.
Adoption Service Provider (ASP): A state certified licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) with a minimum of 5 years at a state licensed adoption agency. The services of an ASP are required by law. They advise the birthparents of their rights, witness the Adoption Placement Agreement, offer a post-placement interview to the birthparents, and help the birthparents to reclaim their baby, if requested. (Refer to web sites for additional legal information on adoption.)
Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Attorney:
- How much do you charge? Hourly or flat fee? What services does the flat fee include? Do you require a retainer? How much?
- How many adoptions do you handle in a year? What percentage of your practice is adoption-related?
- How many out-of-state adoptions and/or adoptions of Native American children have you handled? (There are special legal considerations in both situations.)
- How many prospective adoptive parents are you serving at this time?
- How do you find prospective birthparents? Newspaper, magazine advertisement, or the yellow pages? Do you help prospective adoptive parents advertise? Extra fee? Do you help compose the adoption letter/ portfolio?
- How many portfolios do you send to each birthmother? How do you choose? Will we know when our portfolio is being sent out or just when a meeting is requested?
- How do you guard against fraud? How can you tell if a potential birthmother is taking drugs or drinking during the pregnancy?
National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (NAIC), PO Box 1182, Washington, DC 20013-1182, 888-251-0075, http://www.calib.com/naic Maintains fact sheets on legal issues of independent adoption (both nationwide and state by state) as well as a wide array of information on adoption.
American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, PO Box 33053, Washington DC 20033-0053, http://www.adoptionattorneys.org Contains a nationwide directory of adoption attorneys who have done at least 50 adoptions including 20 interstate adoptions. Membership is by invitation only. Contains some national adoption statistics and a short glossary of adoption terms.
Academy of California Adoption Lawyers, 16255 Ventura Blvd., Ste. 704, Encino, CA 91436-2312, http://www.acal.org . Explains services provided by adoption attorneys.
Very good FAQ on birthparents rights. Member attorneys have completed 200 adoptions and join by invitation only.
In a foster adopt adoption, the prospective adoptive parents become licensed as foster parents and approved by the agency (either public or private) as prospective adoptive parents. Almost all adoptions through the public agencies are fost adopt. Prospective fost adopt parents usually go through a series of classes explaining fost adopt and parenting, as well as licensing procedures for foster care and a homestudy to approve them as adoptive parents. There may be no costs or very minimal ones.
Children channeled into the fost adopt program are those for whom the opportunity of returning to their birth parents appears to be somewhat limited, but in most cases, the child will not be legally free for adoption at the time of placement in the fost adopt home. The child will start out in the fost adopt home as a foster child, and if parental rights are terminated, then the adoption proceedings will commence. Fost adopt parents may be asked to cooperate with the goal of reunifying the child with the birthparents while being willing to adopt the child if the reunification plan does not work out. In some cases the child may return to birthparents or a birth relative. In a few cases, the child may already be legally free for adoption. For these reasons, it is hard to predict the exact time frame for an adoption through fost adopt.
Some of the reasons for children to be placed in a fost adopt program might be felony child abuse, chronic mental illness of parent, prior failed reunification plans, parents seriously considering relinquishment for adoption, history of substance abuse, abandonment and similar situations. Some of the children are sibling groups. Children in foster care have often had many disruptions in care. Fost adopt keeps children from having to make even more moves from foster home to adoptive home in the event reunification with birthparents does not occur.
In fost adopt placements, there may be little direct cost to the fost adopt parents for the licensing, homestudy and adoption. However, due to the reasons that children enter public care, some of the children in the fost adopt program may have special medical, emotional or educational needs. While the children are in foster care, foster care payments are made to the fost adopt parents and medical care is covered through government programs. Children determined to have special needs are eligible for subsidies usually set up before the adoption is finalized. Prospective fost adopt parents should familiarize themselves with all the resources available.
For a list of all the licensed agencies in California, including both public and private agencies, contact the California Department of Social Services, Adoptions Branch, listed under General Information.
For information on adoption assistance (subsidy):
Understanding AAP...A Parent and Worker Guide, available from Sierra Adoption Services, 916/368-5114
National Adoption Assistance Training Resource and Information Network, c/o NACAC, 970 Raymond Avenue, Suite 106, St. Paul, MN 55114-1149, 651/644-3036,http://www.nacac.org
International adoptions are those in which a U.S. family adopts a child from a foreign country. One adopting parent must be a U.S. citizen. Depending on the rules of the particular country, in some cases the child is brought to the United States and adopted here; in others, the adoption is finalized in the foreign country before the child travels to the United States. Some countries require one or both of the adoptive parents to travel to the foreign country for various lengths of time; some allow the child to be escorted to the United States. In international adoptions, prospective adoptive parents must satisfy the requirements of the state in which they live, the requirements of the United States Immigration and Naturalization service (to obtain a visa for the child) and the requirements of the particular foreign country involved. They must also meet any additional requirements set by their agency if there are any. Although there is a fair amount of paperwork involved, a good agency can help you break it down into manageable chunks. Every year thousands of children from many countries enter the United States for adoption.
Most international adoptions in California involve working with a California private agency licensed for intercountry adoption which either cooperates with the placing source (agency, court system, attorney) in the foreign country or with another U.S. agency licensed in another state which works with the placing source in the foreign country. The agency must be licensed statewide or for the county in which you reside. In some countries, families may adopt independently through their own contacts in that country, but a homestudy by a California private agency licensed for intercountry adoption is still required.
Agencies usually have experience with adoption from a number of countries, but not all agencies work with all countries. If you have a particular country in mind, you can start by contacting several agencies and finding which have experience with that country and whether you meet the foreign country’s basic requirements. If you’re not sure which country, contact several agencies and gather information. Many agencies have informational meetings that cover the basics of the process through that agency and provide information on adopting from many countries. Some of the countries that have allowed significant numbers of international adoptions in the past have been China, Korea, Russia, Romania, Vietnam, India and Guatemala. We recommend that you work with agencies that have significant experience with the country from which you wish to adopt. The particular homestudy process may vary from agency to agency. For example, some have more group meetings and others have primarily individual meetings. However, all must meet the same requirements for the homestudy. Costs do vary and it is important to make sure you are comparing “apples” to “apples”.
The law requires that children coming to the United States from foreign countries for adoption be orphaned, abandoned or have only one living parent. In addition they cannot be older than age 15. The majority of children adopted by U.S. families are under one year of age with the next largest group being those between one and four years. There may be a limited amount of information on a child’s background and medical history due to a particular situation or to the availability of care and diagnosis. Some children may come from orphanages, others from foster care. Prospective parents need to be open to some unknowns. Children who need adoption are most often from Asia, Eastern Europe or Latin America. Many African and most Middle Eastern nations do not allow intercountry adoption. There are no children available for adoption by Americans from Western Europe, Australia, or Canada.
The cost of international adoption which is influenced by the complexities of the process can range from around $10,000 to more than $25,000. The least expensive adoptions occur with countries that do not require the adoptive parents to travel and reside in the country to complete legal formalities.
For a list of all the licensed agencies in California contact the California Department of Social Services, Adoptions Branch, listed in General Information above. Make sure the agency is licensed for intercountry adoptions.
For extensive information on international adoption including an international adoption report updated yearly and a listing of agencies nationwide contact International Concerns Committee for Children, 911 Cypress Dr., Boulder, CO 80303, 303/494-8333
For information on medical issues regarding internationally adopted children: International Adoption Clinic, University of Minnesota Hospital and Clinics, Box 211, UMHC, 420 Delaware St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55405, 612/626-6777; Adoption Medical News, JeriAnn Jenista, MD, ed., available from Adoption Advocates Press, 1921 Ohio St., NE, Palm Bay, FL 32907.