November is National Adoption Month. In Massachusetts in 1976, then-Governor Mike Dukakis proclaimed Adoption Week in his state and the idea grew locally and nationally. Eventually, the entire month of November was declared Adoption Month, due to the number of events being held in most states. Today, many local, state, federal, and private organizations celebrate adoption as a way to positively build families.
One way to do this is through domestic adoption. Domestic adoption is the placement of U.S.-born infants for adoption by their birth parents. The infant’s parents legally consent to the adoption with a family they’ve chosen, usually through an adoption agency or adoption attorney.
Once a family has made the decision to adopt an infant, they have to decide if they want to adopt through an agency or a private attorney. Both agencies and attorneys help the adopting families prepare paperwork and fulfill legal requirements. Both will screen prospective birth families and provide counseling for the birth and adoptive families.
A home study is one of those legal requirements that must be completed by an adoptive family. This is an evaluation of the family’s home life and background, done by a social worker. The social worker will help you collect background checks, as well as medical and financial records. They will also interview all family members living in the home, and conduct a home inspection.
Once a home study is approved, prospective families often submit an adoptive family profile to potential birth families, introducing themselves. This can include photos, videos, and a letter to the birth parents. The birth parents will then use this profile to choose a family for their child.
When a prospective family has been chosen by birth parents, they will work together toward a mutual adoption plan. Usually, the birth parents want to communicate with the adoptive parents. It is common that they will want to get to know the adoptive family a little better. These days, openness is more common in adoption, as it helps the birth family feel more comfortable with the choice they’ve made for their child. Agencies and attorneys help mediate the communication.
Once a child is in the care of the adoptive family, they will have a few more tasks to complete for the adoption to be finalized. There will be post-placement visits, to ensure the baby and adoptive family are adjusting well to one another. There will also be a finalization hearing, to make sure post-placement visit were completed and the birth parents’ rights were legally terminated. Once the hearing is complete, the adoptive family will be awarded legal custody of the child.