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Adoption: A step-by-step guide

Molly Cerreta Smith loves writing about all things mommy, parenting, food, health and travel. When she's not staring into the face of her Mac, she loves to hike, read, do messy crafts with her kids and compete in BBQ competitions with he...

How to adopt a child

Much like pregnancy, the adoption process can be an overwhelming, stressful and incredibly joyful experience. In both scenarios, the end result is the same: a child will come into your life and change your world forever - in the best way possible! If you are considering adoption, there is so much to learn. Here, two adoption experts offer their advice on a step-by-step guide through the adoption process. But remember, much like pregnancy, each adoption process is different. If you are considering adoption, you will benefit greatly by seeking guidance along the way.

Step 4: The adoption program

Next, the agency compiles a report of the home study, and then submits it to a judge for approval. On average across the U.S., this can take about 12 weeks, according to Rourke. Once approved, a family can go into any type of adoption program (domestic, interstate or international). The processes then vary for each of the programs.

International adoptions
If you wish to adopt a child from another country, another home study is required. There is additional paperwork — called the dossier — and requirements via the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) so the child can obtain a Visa to enter the country. "The agency then sends the paperwork to the chosen country to be approved," says Rourke. "If the paperwork is approved, the family is matched and given a court date so that the country can officially determine that the child is the family's now." Some countries require one to three visits.

Domestic adoptions
For a domestic adoption, which involves adopting a child born in the United States from parents who are citizens of the United States, a profile of the family is put together and the agency presents it to the birth mom along with several others from which she can choose. "Most times the moms want to meet the new family," she said. This is considered an "open" adoption, which also includes visitation and correspondence via letters and pictures, but does not necessitate meeting. If the birth mom does not want to meet the family or have any contact with the child, it is considered a "closed adoption".

Interstate adoptions
Interstate adoption translates to adoption out of other state agencies, including foster children. A home study is also done with this type of adoption and potential parents are required to take a MAPS training class, a 10-week course to help families learn about what to expect from the adoption. Families can actually go on websites and chose the children they are interested in, but ultimately the agency matches a child with the family based on what it deems to be best scenario for all parties involved.

Step 5: The hard part -- Waiting

When it comes to having a baby, nine months is long enough to wait, let alone years! But the adoption process can often take somewhere between nine months to three years, depending on the type of process you select.

Pertman prefers not to generalize a time line, since each adoption process is so different. He advises potential adoptive parents to look at adopting like a pregnancy. "It doesn't always take nine months and a day," he says. "Getting pregnant can also take years."

Step 6: Congratulations! Bringing your child home

The final – and best! – step in adopting is the day you bring your child home. Rest assured that no matter how long it takes, when you meet your child, "you'll be so deliriously happy that you won't know what to do. It's your kid — you fall in love," Pertman says.

For more information on adopting

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