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Domestic adoptions: What you need to know

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How to adopt in the U.S.

Adopting a child is a process that seems intimidating to many families wanting to welcome a child into their home. To help you get started, adoption experts and parents share with us tips on how to make domestic adoptions as smooth as possible.

Adoptive Mother and Infant
Teri Henick always knew she wanted to be a mom, but after 3 pregnancy loses, she knew she never wanted to be pregnant again.  "I still so badly wanted to become a mother and adoption was a logical solution for us," explains Henick.  "We were both on board from the start," she says.

Getting prepared mentally

"Both parents have to resolve their infertility issues before adopting," says Henick.  "Adoption does lead to a baby, but it cannot replace a biological child.  The need to grieve the loss of that 'biological child,' and for some couples that can be years of testing and treatments." She goes on to say that it is important for both partners to be interested in adopting, and that one does not "drag the other to the adoption process."

Henick is now a step-mom to 18-year-old Nichole, and mom to daughters (adopted at birth) Gabriella, 4, and Elliana, 3. "We chose domestic adoption because I so badly craved that "newborn" phase," explains Henick.  "I wanted to be there from day one, or as early as possible."

Agency adoption vs. private adoption

Henick says once couples have decided on adopting domestically, they need to decide on whether to go with a private adoption or with an agency.  She cautions prospective parents to make sure the agency they are using is licensed to place babies in the state where they reside because the laws vary from state to state.

This is a lesson the Henick's learned the hard way. "We were matched with a baby boy via an on-line site only to find out that there was no legal way for us to adopt him, because he was in Ohio and NY does not allow the use of facilitators."

Finding the right agency

David Pilgrim, Vice President of Adoption Services for Children's Home Society & Family Services (CHSFS) agrees saying parents need to be certain the agency is licensed in your state of residence and that it is currently covered by liability insurance.

When gathering information from agencies, hold off on signing anything or making a commitment until you've read everything and have answered all of your questions. Reach out to families that have gone through the process to see what types of questions and experiences they had, as well as get referrals for reputable agencies.

What you need to know

CHSFS offers the following as questions to get answered during your search for an agency:

• Are the fees for the agency stated clearly?
• What kind of timing is predicted for your adoption?
• Is the agency's information timely and complete?
• Are they willing to answer all of your questions?
• Is the organization fiscally fit?
• How long has the agency been working with in/with a specific program?
• How many children have they placed from the program you are interested in?
• What kind of preparation and education is offered to adoptive parents?
• What are my options if something goes wrong?

Think about the questions and possible concerns you'll have once your adoption is complete. 

CHSFS offers these additional questions to consider:

• What kind of post placement services will the agency provide?  Will it help with the post placement paperwork?
• Does the agency offer other post placement services such as counseling or long-term follow up?

"Adoption is pretty much a 100% guarantee if you stick with it," adds Henick.  "I truly believe that each child will find the family it was meant for.  I can't imagine my children coming to me any other way.  It all makes sense; the infertility, the waiting, the ups and downs, all leads to that one moment when you hold your child for the first time - nothing compares."

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