How Long Does it Take to Adopt a Child?
Factors Influencing the Length of the Adoption Process
If you’re a hopeful adoptive parent or someone considering adoption, you are most likely wondering about the average length of the adoption process. You’ve probably heard a couple horror stories about multi-year wait times, and that’s got you worried. This guide should help.
How long does it take to adopt a child? There’s not a single definitive answer. Every adoption process is unique. Your circumstances, the details of the prospective birth mother’s life and the adoption agency you work with will all come together to create your adoption journey.
That may seem vague. Unfortunately, reality is vague in this area. But, there are some things you can look out for that will impact the length of the adoption process. These are factors relating to the adoption agency you work with. While the agency is only one-third of the equation, it can have an outsized impact on how long it takes to adopt a baby, for better or for worse. That’s why one of your biggest reasons for selecting a particular adoption professional should be how long it will take for you to adopt a child with them.
Understanding the Adoption Process
When most people ask how long it takes to adopt a child, they’re thinking of the dreaded “wait time” before your adoption specialist calls to tell you that an adoption opportunity has come up. We’ll get into detail about that in just a minute. First, you should understand that there are other parts of the process that will affect how long it takes.
Before you become an “active family” waiting for an adoption opportunity, you will have to complete the home study, create an adoptive family profile and work with your adoption specialist to meet any other requirements. This can take several months or more, depending on the agency you work with and how prepared you are to adopt.
Then, after you have accepted an adoption opportunity, there’s still a ways to go. In domestic infant adoptions, you will have to wait until the baby is born, and then another six months (on average) to complete post-placement visits and finalization.
The adoption process takes many steps to complete, and the length of the whole thing, from start to finish, can vary. This is important to understand before discussing the most challenging step in the process.
How Long You’ll Wait to Adopt a Child
Once you become an active family, waiting for that phone call is really hard. You want it to happen as quickly as possible. Here are the four biggest factors in determining your wait time to be selected by a prospective birth mother:
1. Advertising Budget
As an adoptive family, you will work with an agency to create a family profile that is shown to prospective birth mothers. The time between completing your profile and being selected by a prospective birth mother can be the most challenging wait. The way your agency gets your profile out there, which is called “advertising” in adoption, will affect the length of the adoption process.
Advertising is the most important contributing factor in an adoption professional’s average adoption wait times. The more money spent on advertising per adoptive family, the more exposure they will have to prospective birth parents.
Each agency operates differently in this area. American Adoptions places a high value on adoption advertising. We are a national adoption agency, which means we work across the country to find the best adoption opportunity for you. This nationwide scope, combined with our large investment in advertising, tends to create a shorter wait time for our adoptive families.
Other adoption professionals do not work nearly as hard on their advertising efforts. They do this to cut costs and present families with a lower overall cost of adoption. It’s up to each family to decide if that lower cost is worth a much longer average length of time for the adoption process, which is the most likely result with a low advertising budget.
2. Number of Active Adoptive Families
Another factor in determining how long it takes to adopt a child is the number of active adoptive families compared to the total number of adoptions a professional completes annually.
Adoption Professional A has 100 active adoptive families and completes 100 adoptions per year, giving them a ratio of 1:1.
Adoption Professional B has 200 active adoptive families and completes 50 adoptions per year, giving them a ratio of 4:1.
Therefore, Adoption Professional A monitors their completed adoptions with the number of adoptive families they let join, while Adoption Professional B lets in four adoptive families for every one adoption they complete.
From this example, Adoption Professional A would be a better choice for a prospective adoptive family concerned about a long average length of adoption process.
3. Your Adoption Plan
The more flexible a family’s adoption plan, the more exposure they will have with expectant mothers, which will help reduce their adoption process length, on average.
For example, if a family is only open to adopting a Caucasian child, their exposure will be limited to a smaller number of prospective birth mothers. If another family is open to children of Caucasian, Caucasian/Hispanic and Hispanic backgrounds, their adoption professional would be able to show their profile to more women looking for an adoptive family.
If you have certain preferences in your adoption plan, it is important to discuss these with any adoption professional you are interested in, as these preferences could dramatically affect how long it takes to adopt.
4. Understand You Can Only Do So Much
As stated in the previous three principles, there are many steps an adoptive family can take to help limit how long adoption takes. However, all families must understand that no matter what they do, their wait will still be unpredictable.
Birth mothers choose certain adoptive families for numerous reasons, from the way the adoptive father may remind her of her own father, to the fact that the adoptive family already has children and she wants her child to have older siblings. The reasons certain families are chosen ahead of others are unique to each birth mother.
Adoptive families should go into the adoption process knowing that their wait is somewhat unpredictable, even when working with an agency that uses best practices to shorten how long it takes to adopt a child. It’s best to spend your time trying not to worry if their wait takes a little longer than expected.
If you have more questions about how long the adoption process takes, you can call 1-800-ADOPTION at any time to speak with an adoption specialist.
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