Hi, my name is Jen Mellon and I am the co-founder and president of Trustify. Congratulations! You have made the decision to grow your family through adoption and have completed some of the most stressful steps in the process. You have completed the home study and are likely wondering, “Now what?”
If you have chosen to adopt through intercountry adoption, there are very specific steps you can expect after the completion of your home study. Often, prospective adoptive parents are required to complete at least 10 hours of pre-adoptive training prior to the adoption. Countries of origin may have additional training requirements for parents. Once your adoption service provider (ASP) or licensed home study provider (HSP) has completed your home study, it will be submitted to USCIS with one of two forms. If you are adopting a child from a non-Hague country, you will complete Form I-600A – Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition. Form I-800A – Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country is for child adopted from countries who are a part of the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Convention). A helpful chart which outlines the differences between Convention adoptions and Non-Convention adoptions can be found on the United States Depart of State website. Both forms, along with their filing instructions, can be accessed on the website of USCIS. You will also have to report for fingerprinting.
Once submitted, USCIS evaluates your suitability and eligibility to adopt. If your application is approved, USCIS will notify you and the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country from where you have indicated you wish to adopt. You will receive Form I-797 (for Hague Convention countries) or Form I-171H (for non-Convention adoptions.) After approval is received, you will work with your adoption service provider to obtain a proposed adoption placement or referral. The time waiting for a referral can be the hardest part of the process for parents. This time can take a few months to a year or more after completing the required paperwork; it varies greatly depending on the country and adoption provider with whom you are working. In a few countries, families might be allowed to be directly involved in this step by visiting orphanages and/or viewing photo listings of waiting children.
Once you receive your referral, you have a period of time in which you can consider all of the information available on the child before making your decision to accept. The referral includes information on the child’s health and history (when available) and can vary immensely depending on the country and child.
Once you accept a referral for a specific child, you then file a petition with USCIS before the adoption to have the child be found eligible to immigrate to the US. For some countries, families are required to travel to the child’s country of origin to finalize the adoption in the foreign court. There may be additional actions required by U.S.immigration law, state law, your child’s country of origin, or your adoption provider before or after you bring your child home. Requirements will vary depending on the type of immigrant visa your child received.
Once home, there are additional steps you may need to complete in the process:
- Post-adoption Reports (can vary from country to country)
- Readopting your Child in a U.S. Court (a good idea if your child is not from a Convention country)
- Obtaining a U.S. Birth Certificate.
- Obtaining Proof of your child’s U.S. Citizenship
- Obtaining a Social Security number for your child
The process to adopt a child through a domestic, private adoption can vary greatly state by state. Though often not as complex as the intercountry adoption process, there are still steps to complete after the home study is finished.
A wonderful first step after your home study is complete is to create a profile on Adoption.com Parent Profiles. This profile features your family through narratives, photos, and videos for birth parents to view. A profile can help you stand out to expectant parents. If you’re working with an adoption service provider, they may share your profile through a photo book with the expectant mothers they’re working with. After you have been selected, she will likely want to meet with you in a neutral location (like your agency) with your social worker present. At that meeting, mutual decisions are often made regarding future contact prior to birth.
Once the baby is born and the birth mother signs a permanent entrustment or relinquishment, the baby is discharged from the hospital to the care of the adoption service provider or social worker. They then place the child with the adoptive parents with the birth parents’ consent. The child lives with the adoptive parents while the legal process is finalized and supervisory visits are made by the adoption agency. After the supervision period, the adoptive family proceeds with the finalization of the adoption. Once the adoption is finalized, a revised birth certificate listing the adoptive parents’ names is established in the state’s vital records to complete the adoption process.
After the completion of a home study and background check, the prospective adoptive parents may need to fulfill all state requirements for foster parents. A child will then be placed in their home with the intent that she or he will be adopted. The time it takes to legally finalize an adoption varies, based on each child and the laws in the state in which you are adopting. The article Newbie Foster Care Question: How Long Does it Take to Adopt a Child I’m Fostering? has more information regarding the timelines and procedures regarding adoptions from foster care.
Although the journey can seem long and stressful with many unknowns and unforeseen pivots along the way, it is a path that will change you forever. Building your family through adoption is a life-changing experience. Take each day as it comes and uses the various resources available through support groups, Adoption.com, and your social worker to find peace in the waiting process.