Warning: If you adopt a kid from Africa, you might one day find something like this sweet self-portrait in her backpack and be overcome with gratitude for afros and sweet bows. November is National Adoption Month, and some of you reading this have considered adoption, but it’s slipped your mind. Life gets busy, after all, and sometimes it seems too daunting to even begin. Well, what better time to dust off that idea and seriously consider opening up your home to a child?
Last year, I talked to Rita Soronen, the Executive Director of the Dave Thomas Foundation, about how people should go about adopting. Her response is a helpful, bite-size overview of the process:
A Child is Waiting: A Step By Step Guide to Adoption, a free handbook provided by the Dave Thomas Foundation, helps to clarify the terminology, responds to frequently asked questions, and guides potential adoptive parents through 10 steps to adopt, including:
1. Decide what type of adoption to pursue: do some self-research and understand adoption and your willingness to accept, love, and commit unconditionally and permanently to a child.
2. Learn about the cost to adopt and the resources available to assist with the expenses, including adoption subsidies, tax credits, and employer benefits; adopting from foster care costs very little.
3. Investigate and select an adoption agency: research public and private agencies to understand their processes, policies, and practices.
4. Work with the adoption agency to complete an application and any required paperwork, attend meetings and orientation sessions, network with other adoptive parents and ask questions.
5. Complete a home study and any required adoption-preparation classes; learn as much as you can about the dynamics of adoption, childhood development, and the special issues and experiences of children in foster care.
6. Begin the matching process with a child or sibling group of children, determine what age child you are looking for and how flexible you are in growing your family, learn as much as you can about the child and background of the children with whom you are matched.
7. Prepare for the child’s arrival: Amend health-insurance policies, obtain original birth certificates, secure new Social Security numbers, finalize school enrollment, negotiate adoption subsidies, make your home child-friendly and support children already in the home.
8. Bring the child home: Petition the court to adopt, understand the legal process, and work with the adoption agency.
9. Finalize the adoption in court: Adoption is a legal process and the beginning of your new family — celebrate!
10. Take advantage of post-adoption services and resources, from parent-support groups and professional services to employer-based benefits.
There are many different ways to approach adoption, but beware. It’s a wonderful, challenging, amazing, painful, beautiful adventure. If you go down that route, someday you might open a backpack and see a sweet “self-portrait” smiling back at you. One that looks nothing like you.
And it might just bring a tear to your eye.