When we decided to adopt, the next step we had to accomplish was to select an agency. Since this all happened before we started this blog, we kind of forgot to go through the details of this important process! There are many factors in this decision, including domestic vs. international, inter-state or Ohio, religiously affiliated or not, government (county) services or private agency, etc. Each option has pros and cons and one may or may not be right for each person. Here is a short (it could be much longer) list of our options:
International Agency: This is the most publicized type of adoption, but it is getting more and more difficult. Countries often “close their doors” to international adoptions. They may reopen them, but it is anyone’s guess as to when. China, Russia, and Ethiopia are currently the easiest to adopt from. China’s wait is around 31 months while Russia and Ethiopia average between 3-6 months. There are also still many stipulations. China, for instance, has a BMI restriction of 40 to be able to adopt. You must also be between 30 and 50 years old. I’m not sure if it has changed, but they used to not accept anyone with a history of an anxiety disorder or panic attacks (which rules out just about every woman these days)! The children offered through international adoption are also older, around a year old and up. You have to be prepared to travel to that country at least once, sometimes twice, and stay for a lengthy time, usually around two weeks each time. However, on the positive side, the child his legally yours as soon as you leave the courts in that country. The last con about international adoption is the high cost. According to Adoptive Families’ Adoption Guide, international adoption ranges from $20,000 to $40,000+. Most of them are on the higher side. One couple that spoke in our adoptive parenting class told us their story of adopting from Russia. They had to pay in cash when they got there, so they were carrying $10,000 in cash with them! They also told us of the couples that they would meet that would be drug along and be taken for more and more money. That is also a problem in international adoption. Lastly, these are closed adoptions, which means you typically have little to no information about their family and background.
Inter-state Agency: This is where you choose an agency in one state that searches across many different states for your placement. The difficulties here lie in the adoption laws of each state. Each state is slightly different, including such things as how long birth father has to claim parental rights. One couple in our class, while living in Indiana, went with an agency because they encouraged carrying to term vs. abortion. They were then matched with a mother in California. They knew the due date and planned to travel out two weeks prior and get to know her. They were there for the birth and then came home with the baby. You do have to plan for taking care of a newborn away from home, including finding a pediatrician to do those first few checks, and you have to be prepared to travel with a newborn. The costs are similar to ours, but you will incur more costs because of travel. They will do open and closed adoptions. The child must live with you for 6 months before you can finalize and make them legally yours.
Catholic Charities: We happen to know a number of people that went through Catholic Social Services. I have also heard about their terribly long waits! One person waited up to 6 years for their first placement. This is partially because there is a waiting list. They only work with a certain number of couples at a time. Once they place children with those couples, they will move down the list. They also have a stipulation that you have to prove your infertility or have a doctor write a letter saying it would not be in your best interest to go through a pregnancy. We had a friend that made inquiries into the process through them, and never received a response. One benefit is that the costs are much less, closer to $7,500. Adoptions can be open or closed and there is once again a 6 month waiting period before finalization.
Lawyer: There is also the lawyer route. In this instance, you usually know the person you are going to be adopting from, even if through an acquaintance. The lawyer is there to facilitate the adoption and make sure everything is done correctly and legally. The costs incurred through this route are usually much less since you are only paying for the legal advice and fees and your homestudy. Adoptions can by open or closed.
County: Each county has a Children’s Social Services division. When you go through them you usually do what is called “foster to adopt.” You get licensed as a foster parent, are placed with a child that fits your list of attributes that they think will come up for adoption, you foster the child, and then hopefully adopt them. This is the most cost effective option. You are actually paid to take the classes. The homestudy is free. You receive a stipend while fostering a child. Once you do adopt, the fees are minimal. The downside is that foster children are usually older and you never know what you are going to get. These children are there because of abuse or neglect. They come with a lot of baggage.
The Stork: The stork has been out of business for years now, unable to
cope with government restrictions on inter-state commerce, no-fly zones
and heavy licencing fees. 🙂
Private (in-state) Agency: We put this one last because it is what we ultimately chose. An in-state agency is usually smaller and works closely with a few social workers within the state. These adoptions are typically open, but it is up to the birth parents. Since they live in the same state, it is easier to keep up with the openness agreement. Even though you may have to travel, it is usually no more that 4 or 5 hours (depending on your state). A third of these adoptions cost $15,000 or less, much more cost effective than international. These agencies typically work with expectant mothers, meaning the child being placed will be an infant. The child must live with you for at least 6 months before finalization.
Our Choice and Reasons: International adoption was not an option at this time. We wanted to raise our first child from infancy. We also knew we couldn’t afford the extra costs and travel at this time. Scott does not have enough vacation time, and being a teacher, it is very hard to take extra time off and a “maternity” leave. Due to that, we also didn’t want to have to travel out of state. Waiting years didn’t feel like a good option either. That brought us down to two in-state domestic agencies we could choose from. The agency we didn’t choose had a wait list like Catholic Charities. We ultimately chose an agency that is well known throughout Ohio, but is located only 15 minutes from our home. It is run by one person and an assistant, and employs 7 social workers located throughout Ohio. I first heard about them through a co-worker and then we received much more information from other couples that worked with them during our adoptive parenting class. I also drive past the agency regularly on my way to yoga. Most of their adoptions cost between $15,000 and $20,000 depending on legal and medical costs. While this is more than some of the other domestic options, we are guaranteed a relatively short wait and an infant. The average wait for our agency is 6-18 months. While it is already feeling long after a month, that is much better than years on a waiting list. While it took us a while to warm up to the idea of an open adoption, we will most likely get to develop a relationship with the birth mother through this agency and pursue an open adoption, which is believed to be healthier for all parties.
Costs: As you look through these option, you may be blown away by the cost. No matter which way you go, there are a number of options to help you afford the process. There is currently a very generous federal tax credit of around $13,000 per adoption to offset the cost of any of these options. There are also some state tax credits, usually for those adopting through the county. If your child has special needs, there are a number of adoption subsidies. The number of employers that are offering adoption benefits is also growing. Unfortunately, ours are not quite there yet. There are a number of loans available if you search. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is a good resource. We will be taking out a small loan to cover some of the costs while we wait for our tax return, but we feel that is only a small price to pay for such a great gift.