Not Your Mom's Adoption: What the Process Looks Like in 2018

Mar 29, 2018 at 4:00 p.m. ET
Image: Getty Images/Design: Ashley Britton/SheKnows

Since the first specialized adoption agencies were established in 1910, there has been a transformation in the adoption process throughout the United States. In my work as an adoption consultant over the past 14 years, I've seen drastic changes; in fact, domestic infant adoption in 2018 is different than it was even just a few years ago.

So if you're thinking of adopting, it's more important than ever to do your research and be prepared — because adoption is not at all the same as when it was when your parents might have considered it or even your older siblings and friends. Here are three major ways in which the process continues to evolve in 2018 and beyond.

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Fewer domestic placements

The number of domestic adoption placements has gone down in recent years for a few reasons — namely, but not limited to, the increased access and ability for expectant moms to terminate a pregnancy and the decreased societal stigma associated with single motherhood. This reduction of domestic adoption numbers has also been exacerbated by the closing of international programs. Today, there are significantly fewer robust international adoption programs than there were even just a few years ago. With the reduction in international adoption options, more and more adoptive-parent hopefuls are pursuing domestic adoption.

As a result of the confluence of these trends, there are now fewer babies being placed for adoption domestically and more hopeful adoptive parents looking to adopt those very few babies. So, naturally, adoption wait times have increased.

These days, it's more important than ever to: 

  • Be proactive in your adoption search

  • Work with multiple placement sources so you see as many opportunities as possible

  • Have a great personal profile so when you are presented to an expectant mom, you have a greater chance of getting selected

Since adoption consultants help with all of those aspects of adoption, more and more hopeful adoptive parents are hiring a consultant to help guide them through the journey. This can leave those who are unable to work with a consultant at a disadvantage in this difficult adoption climate.

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Higher fall-through rates

It's much easier than it used to be for prospective birth moms to get information online and as a result to have a better understanding of their rights. This is a wonderful benefit for all members of the adoption triad, as it’s in no one’s best interest for expectant moms to make uninformed choices. The downside is that the good old internet has also made it easier for those with bad intentions to game the system and financially scam hopeful adoptive parents.

While fall-throughs do not happen nearly as often as many people fear, there are more scams out there today than in years past, simply given the ever-multiplying methods of online interaction. Then, of course, some fall-throughs are due to expectant mothers having a change of heart — perhaps thanks to society being more supportive of single motherhood or any other myriad reasons.

For potential adoptive parents to protect themselves, it’s more important than ever for them to have some sort of unbiased and experienced advocate on their adoption team to help conduct a balanced risk assessment on every opportunity with which they are presented.

Implications of an online presence

What is the first thing you do when you have a question and don’t know the answer? Google it, of course! Expectant moms do the same. When they first start considering adoption, they usually search online for information and may start looking for potential adoptive parents there as well. But beware: Advertising online is high-risk. It’s much easier for a scammer (an "expectant mom" who may not even be pregnant or who may not even have a uterus!) to hide behind a computer as opposed to maintaining an in-person relationship with an adoption agency.

One way to get the benefit of online visibility with little of the risk is to work with adoption agencies and attorneys that do significant online outreach for potential birth moms but who do not post your profile containing your direct contact information. Not only does this relieve you from having to learn all about online advertising, algorithms and data, but it also leaves the responsibility to the agencies to vet any expectant mom who contacts them. Ideally, they’ll do so through in-person interactions prior to any match being made.

More: I Don't Regret Giving My Son for Adoption

If you are considering adoption, it’s important to understand today’s landscape because information and advice you receive from those whose adoption experience is from even just a few years ago may no longer be valid. Although the recent changes may seem to make adoption more challenging, that’s not necessarily the case. As long as you stay informed and approach the process with a knowledgeable, respectful and open-minded perspective, adoption can be a beautiful and successful way to grow your family.

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