Progyny Webinar: Navigating the Different Ways to Adopt

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Progyny is here to support all paths to parenthood. We recognize and value that everyone is at different stages along their journey and that no journey looks the same. This webinar is meant to inform individuals and couples looking to build their family through adoption. The adoption process can be complex, and there are various paths to pursue.

Here you can find a recap of the webinar. This was hosted by Karen Madsen, RN, BSN, Manager and Clinical Educator, Progyny with panelists Pam Hoehler, LCSW-C, Director of Placement Services, Adoptions Together and Maria Villegas, LCSW, Co-Program Manager, Open Adoption and Family Services.

Things to Consider Before Starting the Adoption Process

Before starting the adoption process, there are some questions and factors to consider before really getting started. This part can feel overwhelming, so we broke down some questions to consider and key decisions you’ll need to make. 

Who do you want on your team? What does that support system look like for you? 
This might look different for everyone but building a team to have people in different areas of expertise is never a bad thing. This may include adoption professionals, legal advisors, friends, family, your Patient Care Advocate, and a therapist – they’re all here to help balance and provide support through this process.

Will you choose a public or private agency? What are the differences between the two?
If working with a public/state agency, the child will be removed from the foster care system. This is often a much longer process since birth parents aren’t necessarily planning to put their child up for adoption. In these cases, children are taken from parents for the reasons of being unable to care for their children. 

If working with a private agency, adoptive parents will be paired with infants and children who have been put up for adoption voluntarily by their parent. This can make the process shorter since in most cases, birth parents will not fight the adoption process.

Regardless of the path you choose, if you notice any of the following, you might want to look for a different agency:

  1. If marketing and website language doesn’t align with your own values (ex. how an agency stands on non-traditional families, how they feel about birth parent role in adoption).
  2. Identifying the services provided by the agency – does the organization focus on supporting the child, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents?

Am I emotionally ready to adopt a child? 
Similar to any path to parenthood, adopting a child requires much more than financial stability and the ability to care—you must have the patience, compassion, and communication skills at the ready. Making sure you are open with yourself in terms of providing these for another person is crucial for both the child and your own wellbeing.

The better you know yourself and your triggers, the more prepared you are going to be for whatever your adoption process looks like, as well as the after math of raising a child.

What is the difference between open adoption, closed adoption, and foster care adoption?

  • Open adoption means there’s contact between the birth parents and child.
  • Closed adoption means there’s no contact between the birth parent and child. 
  • Foster care adoption:
    • Voluntary infant adoption: parents are making adoption plans for their child between 0 and 6 months.
    • Foster care adoption: often involuntary, children will have experiences in group homes, foster care (more complex trauma), children are often older (older than 7-8 years old).

Timeline and Cost of Adoption

The timeline and cost of adoption can vary based on your location, the type of adoption you pursue, and the way you pursue it (ex. public vs private agency). Setting expectations for this journey is key in preparing yourself and your own emotional well-being.

Domestic adoption – when adoptive parents, birth parents, and child all live within the US. For domestic adoption, adoptive parents will have to work with an agency, an attorney, and might have to cover the cost of the birth parent’s pregnancy or post-natal care. This can depend on the type of adoption you pursue. Within domestic adoption there is:

  • Public: These children are often fostered before returning to their birth parents.
  • Private: These children are matched by agencies after they are considered “legally free” meaning their parental rights have been terminated. Agencies work with adoptive parents to match parents with children. Working with private agencies can cost between $5,000 and $10,000 and can take one year (or longer) between being approved and being matched.
  • For children who are adopted after foster care, there may be an added layer of trauma or healing that needs to happen. These children are also often older than 7 years old.

Impact of COVID-19 

Many agencies have seen increases in first time prospective parents inquiring about adoption. Overall, the pandemic has made many individuals and couples evaluate their family building plans and this has allowed adoption to become more normalized and accepted.

Green Flags When Looking for an Adoption Agency

Now let’s discuss some of the green flags that couples and individuals should be looking for when considering adoption agencies. Just like finding a doctor you connect with, finding an adoption agency you can establish a strong connection and communication with is important.

When looking for an agency, here are some green flags to look out for: 

  1. Transparency on a website around costs and fees
  2. How agencies feel about open versus closed adoption
  3. If the agency has been accredited by Human Rights Campaign (signals they are welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community)
  4. If lifelong counseling for birth parents (no additional cost) is available
  5. How an agency speaks about the children being adopted, and if they are thinking about the children in a lifelong sense

Common Misconceptions Around Adoption

Now let’s debunk some of the common myths around adoption.

  1. MYTH: I can’t adopt if I’m not married.
    This is false. The basic requirements for someone to adopt is to be financially stable and to be able to meet the needs of a child—there are no requirements about the type of relationship you are in. 
  1. MYTH: Adoption should be kept a secret from the child until they’re old enough to understand.
    This is false. This decision is up to you on how you’d like to handle this. You can start talking to your child about their adoption story as soon as they are in your arms as an infant. That way, as they grow older and have more questions, you will have already set the precedent for talking about their adoption and your family building story. 
  1. MYTH: Birth parents can show up to “take back” their child at anytime
    This is false. The revocation period is the process during which birth parents can terminate an adoption. These periods will be made clear based on the group you are working with. Birth parents cannot just appear out of nowhere and take back their child. Additionally, in open adoptions, the adoptive parents know who the birth parents are, and contact will likely already be in place. 

Q&A

  1. Can you speak a little more about international vs. domestic adoption? How might legal processes come into play?
    • Legal processes are intense, and with COVID, many countries have paused their process. This makes the timeline even more uncertain.
  2. Is it true that if you pursue open adoption, the adoptive parent can cut off contact with the birth mother for no reason? Is this accurate?
    • Families enter a post-adoption contact agreement. This can look like annual pictures, annual messages, and an annual visit. This means parents can’t just stop their post-adoption contact agreement. The only reason a contact might be revoked is if contact between child and birth parent becomes unhealthy.
  3. How do agencies help adoptive parents through adoption disruptions, such as a birth parent pulling out unexpectedly?
    • It is important you and your adoption agency set your expectations about the possibility of your adoption journey becoming disrupted at some point. That is no one’s hope or goal but a reality of the adoption process. For the adoptive parents, it’s crucial to understand that it has nothing to do with you if a birth parent pulls out of the agreement. Trying to remain present in those emotions is important. Agencies are equipped to process these emotions with both the adoptive parents and birth parents, and this can ease the emotional load many parents experience when a birth parent pulls out of an agreement.  

We hope this was helpful and informative and, again, check out additional resources at progyny.com/education. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to education@progyny.com. Progyny is committed to helping you on your family building journey and always here to support you.