Most people who approach adoption do so after years of family-building efforts, including draining fertility treatments. When you make the decision to move on to adoption, you want things to go quickly. It can be very disheartening to hear agencies quote an average wait time of two to three years or more, but there are key factors that can help hopeful adoptive parents realize their dream more quickly.
Of course, there are some things that pre-adoptive parents can’t change. The group that I think of as “traditional” couples tend to get selected more quickly. In my practice, their average wait time runs about six months. Demographically speaking, this group consists of young (meaning in their 30s), married, heterosexual, Christian (whether actively so or not) couples. That’s not to say that people who fall outside those parameters can’t adopt quickly. In fact, I see that happen every day among my clients, but that’s the group that most consistently gets selected first.
Those outside that category need to be more proactive. Here are some tips to help you adopt quickly, regardless of which category you fit into.
1. Have reasonable expectations about budget and birth parents’ social/medical histories
Although certainly not the only factor, one of the biggest issues is having unrealistic expectations about birth parents and about the process itself. For instance, people need to have a realistic budget. This varies substantially depending on the type of adoption you’re pursuing and what you’re looking for in an agency and a placement. For those who want to adopt quickly, you often need a budget in the high-$30,000 to the mid-$40,000. There are definitely ways to adopt less expensively than that, but there tends to be a trade-off between cost and wait time because the agencies that invest the most in outreach to potential birth moms will have the most babies to place, but they’ll also have high overhead costs.
Beyond budget, another area where it’s important to have realistic expectations is when it comes to the medical and social histories of the prospective birth parents. I have lots of families come to me who are scared that they’ll have to accept a baby who has been exposed to heavy drug use in utero and is expected to have ongoing special needs. Fortunately, that’s not usually the case, but hopeful adoptive parents do usually need to be accepting of things like cigarette smoking and a few missed doctor appointments.
2. Be flexible wherever you can
The more flexible a family is on their parameters, the more potential opportunities will be available to consider. Being flexible with the race of the baby can make a big difference. Being open to either gender is important as being gender-specific is a far more limiting criterion than most people think. Most people assume it eliminates 50 percent of opportunities but, in practice, it eliminates at least 95 percent because few potential birth mothers know the gender of the baby they are carrying at the time that they select the adoptive parents.
However, it’s important to note that a short wait time isn’t everything. We’re talking about creating a forever family, and the fit has to be right for all parties. I always tell my clients that they should not leap outside their comfort zone. At the same time, they should get educated so that they can explore what the edges of their comfort zone truly are and can make informed choices. Once they do that, they often surprise themselves by realizing that their true comfort zone is often much larger than the “bull’s-eye” in the center upon which they had initially focused.
3. Hire the right team
There are several other factors that help families adopt more quickly. These include having a great personal profile (so that when you are presented, you are more likely to be selected), signing up with multiple agencies at once (so you have lots of opportunities to get that great profile presented) and having an unbiased risk assessment done on each opportunity you consider (so you don’t waste time on risky matches). Just as you wouldn’t have gone through medical treatments without a great team, you shouldn’t go through adoption alone. An adoption consultant helps with all of these items so you don’t have to figure all of it out on your own. Look for an experienced and reputable consultant who can help you select the other members of your adoption team and who will be with you every step of the way.
4. Approach adoption with the right energy and spirit
I always tell my clients that if you view adoption as the next step that you have to do to build a family because everything else has failed (and you sort of expect adoption to fail too), then you’re not ready to pursue adoption. You’ll have a very difficult time with the process. Once you are able to view adoption as the first step of a new path that you know will work, then you’re ready.
This also ties right into pacing. Families who take an unusually long time to complete their home study paperwork or to draft their profile are usually not truly ready to proceed. Whether conscious of it or not, there’s often a psychological barrier keeping them from actively completing the required steps.
Just because a family starts there, doesn’t mean that they’re never ready to proceed. Sometimes they simply recognize that they need a break before moving forward. When they come back to adoption with excitement and vigor, that’s when magic happens. In fact, I just had this situation with my clients Charmell and James. They started and stopped the process three times between 2009 and 2015, but in 2015, they were ready to go. They ended up matching 2 1/2 months after our first (for the third time!) consultation.
Nicole Witt is the owner of The Adoption Consultancy, an unbiased resource serving pre-adoptive families by providing them with the education, information and guidance they need to safely adopt a newborn, usually within three to 12 months. She is also the creator of Beyond Infertility, a community support site and online magazine geared toward families who have gone through infertility. You can visit that website at Beyond Infertility.