Cory and I have learned so much about adoption over the past few years, but perhaps the biggest lesson that we’d share with
others is this: Start Early. Even if you’re absolutely sure you aren’t ready to be a parent for several years, there’s plenty that you can be learning and planning for in the meantime.
Choosing an adoption agency can take a while, depending on your family and your values. Some agencies won’t work with single people, same-sex couples, non-Christian folks, or people who aren’t infertile. (Don’t get me started.) Agencies vary in the services that they offer, and the cost of those services. It’s possible that the best agency for you isn’t in your city or even your state. Check out your options sooner rather than later.
Most adoption agencies have open houses or programs that you can attend to learn more about the adoption process. Attend a few! This is a great way to learn not just about the nuts and bolts of adoption in your state, but also about individual agencies. I guarantee you: no one is going to make you take a kid home with you from one of these sessions.
Adopting from foster care typically requires you to take special classes through an adoption agency or county. Many states and agencies require families adopting from foster care to also be licensed foster families, which means everything from taking CPR and other extra classes to ensuring that your home can meet certain requirements.
International adoption is its own can of worms. Just as every state has its own set of rules for adopting families, each country may have its own regulations. Some countries have a more streamlined process for international adoption than others, and some don’t do international adoptions at all. Anything you research now may have changed by the time you’re ready to adopt, but it’s good to look into the various rules and regulations so you’ll at least have an understanding of the process and common requirements for those seeking to adopt.
You may have support for adoption that you didn’t even realize! Larger companies may offer adoption benefits to employees. For example, Wells Fargo provides up to $5,000 in reimbursements for adoption-related expenses, The Home Depot offers counseling and reimbursements, and Jockey offers employees $10,000 in reimbursements per child per year. If you’re job-hunting, you may want to give companies that support employees who adopt a second look. If your workplace doesn’t currently offer adoption benefits, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has resources to help you make your company more adoption-friendly.
You may have noticed that those workplace benefits are reimbursements. There’s also a generous adoption tax credit offered by the IRS. However, families often still have to pay money upfront for adoption costs, which is something else to plan for.
Some other things to consider if you would like to adopt someday:
- Are you moving into a new house in the next few years? Check out foster care licensing requirements for your state and have them in mind when you’re house-hunting.
- Buying new furniture for your guest room? Consider “flexible” options, like two twin beds that you can group together as a king size bed for now, and separate later.
- Does your family hunt and own firearms? Ask for a gun safe for an upcoming birthday or holiday. (Actually, that’s a good idea if you plan to ever have any kids in your home. It’s a requirement if you want to adopt or even mentor through many agencies.)
- Are you in college? Think of using an elective to take a course on child development, counseling, or social work.
- Do you know anyone in your area who has fostered or adopted? Ask them about their experiences, and what advice they have to offer.
- Do you like the idea of adopting from foster care, but have heard spotty things about “foster children”? Volunteer through an agency or as a GAL/CASA. You’ll get to help children in foster care directly and get a better feel for what they endure.
…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. All of this may sound daunting, but that’s more of a reason to plan ahead so you can tackle it a little at a time. Just remember that the more legwork and research you do now, the more time you’ll have to focus on actually becoming a parent when you’re ready.