There are many ways to grow your family, and adoption is a great option. And DFWChild is taking a look at the adoption process with a closer look at foster adoption, international adoption and, below, at domestic adoption. We got an inside look at the steps that come with welcoming your little one in this manner from a mama who has been there and an expert from the Gladney Center for Adoption.
Domestic Adoption, Step By Step
Abby is a busy North Texas mom of four. She and her husband Will always talked about adoption one day, but began by trying to get pregnant naturally. After a few unsuccessful years, they decided to move forward with adoption. “My husband and I were young and had only been married about four years, so that disqualified us from most international programs,” Abby shares. “It was just windows being closed, and Gladney’s domestic program was our open door.”
The couple turned to the Gladney Center—the 130-year-old Fort Worth-based organization that facilitates foster, domestic and international adoptions. And as you would expect, the process of becoming an adoptive parent is thorough.
“Once a family is ready to start their domestic adoption journey, they request Gladney’s free information packet,” explains Jennifer Lanter, Gladney’s vice president of communications and education. “After completing the brief pre-application form, the journey begins.”
The Gladney process includes providing a family photo, attending a group orientation (hosted virtually during the pandemic), filling out the official application paperwork and going through a home study and education. When that is complete and a family is approved, Gladney begins working to match prospective parents with expectant mothers (including placing a family’s profile on parentprofiles.org). The expectant mom typically chooses the adoptive family, unless she prefers Gladney to do so.
When a family is selected, Gladney arranges a face-to-face meeting between all the parents. “This is an opportunity for the expectant family and the prospective adoptive parents to meet and get to know each other,” Lanter explains. “Both sets of parents keep communicating and making plans for the baby’s arrival.”
That includes the hospital plan (whether the adoptive parents be present at the birth, for example) and the post-adoption agreement (answering questions such as whether and how the biological mother will remain in the child’s life).
When baby arrives, the biological parents have at least 48 hours to determine if they want to continue with the adoption plans. Sometimes placement happens directly from the hospital or birthing center; other times, placement may not take place for a month or more for legal reasons. In that window, transitional parents care for the little one. A domestic infant adoption remains in a supervisory period for six months, and then it is finalized by a judge.
An Adoptive Mom’s Experience
Abby and Will were ecstatic to be chosen for a little boy they named Matthew. (“Birth parents seem to prefer married couples most often, but we accept single adults and they are successful in their adoption journey,” notes Lanter.) Mom and Dad took custody of Matthew when he was 2 days old and fell so in love with parenthood that they quickly started the process of adopting another child. But fate had a surprise in store for Abby and Will.
“I became pregnant and gave birth to our second son, Thomas,” she says. “But we knew our adoption journey was not complete.” When Thomas was 9 months old, Abby and Will reopened their adoption file. They were expecting a long wait—then, another surprise. “After just a few short months, we were chosen to adopt our daughter Katie. Our family was complete—we thought.”
That’s right: There was one more surprise waiting for Abby and Will. About a year and a half later, they were told that Katie’s birth mom was expecting another baby. “We were placed with Emily a few months later,” Abby says. Today Matthew is 7, Thomas is 5, Katie is 4 and Emily is 2. All of Will and Abby’s children came home within days of birth.
Domestic Adoption Details
Of course, there are many adoption agencies out there. Lanter says it’s important to connect with the one that is right for you. “Research is the most important step, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming,” she tells us. “Ask the questions that are important to you.”
The vast majority of domestic adoptions (90%) involve newborns. “If the adoptive parents are open to an older child, it could range up to about 2 years old,” Lanter states.
While the joy of welcoming a child is the same, adoption can take longer than having a little one biologically. Typically 18–24 months lapse between the time prospective parents contact their adoption agency and a baby is in their arms. “It depends on how flexible the adoptive parents are regarding the expectant mother’s background. It can happen much faster than 18–24 months,” says Lanter.
And there is the cost to consider. Gladney uses an all-inclusive fee so that adoptive parents know exactly what to expect. Even when a biological mom decides to go ahead and parent the baby after birth, adoptive parents are not assessed an additional fee.
Gladney’s domestic infant adoption fee is $55,000. (For a breakdown of what is included and a comparison to other adoption agencies, click here.) Gladney covers all expectant mother expenses and offers scholarships and help with accessing financial aid.
Still, while the cost is certainly worth every penny, it’s a sizeable investment—and not all parents have those funds readily available. Abby is thankful that her parents immediately got on board. “They knew we were anxious to start a family and that adoption had always been part of our plan,” says Abby. “They also knew that paying for adoption was not in our budget, so they gifted us the necessary expenses to adopt our children.”
It was an amazing gift—but not one that everyone’s relatives are able to provide. “I will never claim to be your go-to girl for financial questions. I leave those questions to my accountant husband,” jokes Abby. “But I really believe that if the desire to adopt is on your heart, and if you are in a place in life to be able to raise a child, you can financially find the means to adopt. I have seen many friends receive donations from friends and family, receive grants from agencies, and fundraise in a variety of ways to raise the money. I don’t think any of them will tell you it was easy, but they have all been successful.”
Lanter describes the issue of finances this way: “Please don’t be discouraged about the cost. Where there is a will, there is a way. There are tons of resources out there designed to help you.”
Emotionally Preparing for Heartbreak
Finally, adoptive parents have to be prepared for the emotions that come with the process. There may be worry that the birth mother will change her mind and they would lose a baby in whom they are emotionally invested. There may be stress about the application as well as the home visit. Parents may think they won’t have the time for the extensive approval process.
We’ll let Abby address those concerns:
“Those things are risks and challenges associated with adopting, but they all better prepare you for the challenges you will face as a parent. The application process allows you to really reflect on why you want to adopt and what kind of parent you want to be. The training prepares you for the myriad of challenges you and your child could face from year 1 to year 20.
“Without a doubt, my husband and I faced heartbreak during the adoption process. I won’t sugarcoat the pain we felt during those times, but we had to trust they were just roadblocks leading us to our children. Looking at our family now, it is evident that our children were created specifically for our family.
“Remember, the choice to place a child for adoption is a choice made out of pure love. A birth mother wants the best life possible for her child, and she is trusting that you can provide that. Your application and the time you put into the process is just proof that you are willing to give your time, your dedication, and your love to a child.”
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