This is one of the easiest parts of the adoption. Usually there is much more excitement than stress going on as you are finally getting on with your family plan. Here is a list of the things that will occur during this time:
The Intake Meeting: This is the face-to-face meeting between you and the agency. This is when the application is completed and plans are made as to what type of adoption you are looking for.
The Home Study: The purpose of a home study is to educate and prepare the adoptive family for the process of adoption, to gather information from the adoptive parents that will assist in matching them with a child, and to evaluate the “fitness” of the adoptive family. This part of the process begins with a lot of paperwork (which really isn’t that bad). Criminal, Child Protective Services and driving record checks will be conducted. Documents such as birth certificates, social security cards and drivers’ licenses will be gathered. You will need to complete an application and write an autobiography. Three letters of reference from non-relatives will need to be sent to the agency as well and you must have a form completed by your physician attesting to the state of your health. Don’t worry or let this paperwork cause you stress – assistance is available for any questions you may have.
After all of the documentation is on file with the agency, the home visits will be scheduled by the agency social worker. This portion of the process requires that each member of the household be interviewed separately and, when a couple is applying to become adoptive parents, a joint interview is conducted. At least one of these meetings must take place in the home to ensure that it is a safe and appropriate setting for a child. During the interviews you will be covering many topics. Some of them will be related your own upbringing, your relationship with family members, any problems within your marriage you may have had and how you resolved them, and your feelings related to child rearing and discipline.
When all of the requirements for the home study are met, a home certification visit is scheduled. This visit primarily serves to ensure that your home meets the State of Maine licensing standards. It addresses things such as working smoke alarms, safe storage of firearms, poisonous substances and medications, and safe water. It is not an inspection of your housekeeping standards. An acceptable level of cleanliness is necessary but some amount of “clutter” is expected.
The Birthmother Letter and Profile: This letter can be one of the most difficult parts of the process. You are writing a letter to someone you don‘t know, and you want to make it the best letter that you have ever written. You want your letter to stand out from other adoptive family letters. So what do you write? We’re will help you with this and will provide some examples of what others have done. Try to enjoy the family profile process. It really can be fun! You will be gathering pictures of yourselves and your home, your family, friends, animals, things you do, etc, and making a picture story. Again, we will be here to help you put it together.
The First Trimester is now complete. This can take any where from a matter of weeks to a matter of months. It depends on how long it takes you to get your paperwork in and have your interviews with the social worker.
The Second Trimester
This trimester can feel like the longest one. Now you begin to wait for the agency to find you a baby and every time the phone rings, you hope it’s that call. Here are some suggestions for things to do while waiting:
Start putting the nursery together (believe me, you won’t have time or the energy once the baby is here). People may try to discourage you from doing this but that comes from their own fear of adoption. Why should you be denied the pleasure that biological parents have when getting ready for their baby? You are expecting. The only thing you do not know is when your little one will arrive.
Go shopping for baby things. You’ll need t-shirts, receiving blankets, diapers, wipes and a car seat. People usually will not give you a shower until after the baby comes home but you will need some supplies before that. Again, you may not have any time after the baby first arrives to go to shopping for these basics.
Find a pediatrician and meet with them. Many of the pediatricians have certain scheduled times that they meet with expectant parents, and you fit that category. Sometimes it takes some shopping around to find the best doctor for your baby.
Take newborn classes so that you’ll know what to expect. This will be of great help as you become parents of that new little one (who do not come with operating instructions). Often your local hospital will have these classes.
Plan that last “kid free” vacation away and enjoy every minute of it, because after your child arrives, your lives will never be the same. But they’ll be better!
Read, read, and read books on adoption and child rearing. Again, you will not have time after the baby comes.
Educate family and friends on what is going to take place so that there are no surprises with the sometimes hurtful questions that go with the unknown. Many people are genuinely curious about adoption. You are now the pro in this area so you must educate others who are in your life.
Finally, the call has come in and you have been chosen! Now that you look back it really didn’t take that long. Take a deep breath and take some time to celebrate. You are going to be parents!
The Third Trimester
There are birthparents out there and they really have chosen you. This is great news! Now is the time to develop your relationship with these birthparents and take care of the final nuts and bolts details so you can be ready to bring a child home. Even in the best adoption match, there is usually a bump or two in the adoption road. Prepare to be frazzled! Expect to feel fear that things will not go as planned. These are normal emotions. But don’t let go of the hope and faith that have brought you to this point. Here are some very important steps that will occur during this time:
Most adoptive parents have some kind of openness with their match, so you will need to establish a pattern of contact with the birthparents during the pregnancy. You may be doing conference calls with the agency, or calls on your own, or using email or even text message communication with the birthparents. You may set up a time to meet the birthparents in person, and maybe even go to a prenatal appointment. It is really so important to develop a relationship of trust and respect immediately. The agency will be here to help you navigate these new relationships.
Make sure all of your paperwork is in order. If you are doing an out-of- state adoption, make sure that all your paperwork is ready to go on the interstate compact so that you can bring your baby home as quickly as possible. You may want to check this out with your home study agency (or the agency that will be supervising the placement of the baby after you get home).
Start making travel arrangements if necessary.
Pack a bag of things you would like to have at the hospital and keep it by the door. Babies don’t always come on schedule!
Check with your insurance carrier to find out what their policies are regarding adoption. Sometimes they will require written documentation from the agency stating your intent to adopt.
If you are planning to breastfeed, make sure you can get clearance from the doctors and have an AIDS test done on you to present to the hospital.
Find out from the agency what you can expect at the hospital. Some hospitals are very adoption friendly and will go out of their way to welcome you and make you feel comfortable. Other hospitals are more focused on the birthmother and may not give you the kind of access to the baby that you would like. If you know the hospital’s policies on adoption (and each hospital is different), you can adjust your expectations accordingly. Remember above all that the ultimate goal is not a certain kind of hospital experience, but successful placement of the baby with your family.
Call the pediatrician you have selected and let him/her know your adoption due date to set up the first check up or to let them know you would like them to see the baby in the hospital.
Select what type of bottles you want to use and pack the nipples and/ or bottles. Pack those supplies, along with clothing and the other assorted baby items in the baby bag to take to the hospital.
Call everyone you want to let keep informed and let them know that they are on the “call list” when the baby comes. Make that “who to call when the baby arrives” list. If you will be traveling out of the state, it can be helpful to develop a phone tree so you’re not directly responsible for keeping everyone in the loop.
Most importantly, do not let anyone burst your bubble and try to discourage your happiness with horror stories. This is your very special time. It is inappropriate for someone to talk about still births to a mother who is nine months pregnant, and it is inappropriate for people to bring up failed adoption stories to you. Using this kind of response with the “bubble bursters” seems to work well. You have every right to remain “cautiously optimistic” about your adoption.
NOW – go and get a good night’s sleep, as it may be your last for a very long time!