And that thought process proves exactly how uneducated the majority of people are about adoption. Anyone who could use the phrase "just adopt" has never researched what goes into an adoption.
It's true, there are children all over the world who need homes. And hundreds of thousands of amazing families open up their hearts and households to these kids every year. But I don't think that any of those families would say they "just adopted." They didn't drive to a local law firm and pick a child out of a catalog.
Adoption is an intense, often complicated, extremely expensive and immensely rewarding process. It is not for the weak-willed or unsure. It's not a substitution for having your own baby. Adoption is its own choice. It's a brave, loving choice and it should never be considered as a back-up plan.
Here's a little more about the process and how families can make the correct decision for themselves and their future children.
You have a lot of homework to do before anything else. You need to start researching the types of adoptions, how long the process takes and if you can afford it. An average adoption costs between $25,000 and $35,000 dollars. The amounts can vary depending on the country you're adopting from and whether you're using an agency, a lawyer or going through the foster system. Thankfully, there are a lot of comprehensive adoption websites that can guide you through the process and help you connect with other families, so that you can talk to people who have made this decision before. A good general first source is The Online Adoption Guide.
Before contacting an adoption agency or lawyer, there are a lot of variables for hoping-to-be-parents to consider. Hopefully in your research, you've learned about the differences between domestic and international adoptions, not just in cost, but also time-lines, requirements and travel. You have to figure out if you prefer an open or closed adoption. I would suggest weighing the pros and cons for newborn adoptions as opposed to adopting a waiting child. And more than ever, parents need to educate themselves about special needs and figure out what they are capable of dealing with. That may sound heartless, but the truth is that special needs adoption takes a tremendous amount of time and availability (not to mention strength and love) that many couples aren't prepared for. Is one of the parents willing to take time off from work to take care of their new child's demanding lifestyle? Are you committed to making this relationship work? The very worst thing that could happen would be to adopt a special needs child without being prepared to care for that little one the way her or she needs.
The best advice I can give is not to rush the decision-making process. Take all the time you need and move into this next step confident and excited about being a parent.
Find an adoption agency
Or an adoption lawyer. Be thorough in researching the available options in your area. Ask to talk with families who used the agency or attorney. More than anything, try to find someone who you can be honest and comfortable with. But be prepared, the adoption agency needs to make sure that you're a perfect fit as well. Here's a free directory of adoption agencies. Don't be afraid to ask plenty of questions, and don't be surprised if they do the same.
Forms, forms, forms.
There will be roughly 8,000 forms to fill out. They will want to know absolutely everything about you and every one you've ever spoken to. Details that don't seem remotely relevant will be discussed in detail. This isn't a bad thing. The agency is trying to protect children. And even if you start to hate your own signature, it's all worth it.
The Adoption Home Study
States and agencies might vary a bit on the technicalities, but next will be the home visit. This must be performed by a licensed third party. It might seem a little nerve-wracking, but it's just another way to make sure that children are placed in the most stable and loving environments possible. Here's where you will need referral letters from family members and friends, birth certificates, tax forms and marriage certificates. You'll need to prove that your home is ready to have a child.
The good news is that once this home visit is completed successfully, you'll be placed on the waiting list for an adoption. This is the final check to make sure that you're prepared and once you're done, it'll be time to wait for a beautiful addition to your family. Waiting can last anywhere from months to years, depending on the type of adoption you're looking for.
Meet your little one!
Now comes the fun part. Once you've been matched with a child, then you get to meet your little one. For international adoption, this might mean traveling overseas and more paperwork to sign. If it's domestic, you should be able to bring the child home immediately. Obviously this is the most wonderful part of the process.
Once you have your darling new child in your life, there will often been a post-adoption visit from your agency to see how things are going. A judge will finalize your adoption. And in most states, six months after the finalization, an adoption becomes irreversible.
At that point, congratulations!