What to ask
Questions that experts suggest exploring during the adoption process, and where to find the answers:
Q. What am I getting into?
A. Read books and Web sites, talk to adoptive families and support groups and attend local informational meetings.
Q. What kind of child do I want?
A. Assess the broadest adoption categories: U.S.-born children, foreign-born children and special needs children, who may be older or physically, mentally or emotionally disabled. Waiting times vary for each.
Q. What kind of adoption do I want?
A. Agency adoptions can be done through local public agencies or licensed private agencies. Non-agency adoptions most times involve using a lawyer or an adoption facilitator. At times, open adoptions -- where the birth family retains some contact with the adoptive family -- can be worked out, often with a lawyer's help.
If you are adopting state-to-state, the adoption must comply with both states' laws. International adoptions also are complex, and immigration laws must be closely followed.
Also, certain agencies have specific age, marital status or religious requirements for adoptive parents.
Q. What about foster care?
A. In foster-to-adopt programs, foster parents are asked first to adopt a child when he or she becomes available. Some professionals say this is an easier way to adopt a child.
Q. What does home study entail?
A. Home studies typically include taking classes; being interviewed about your personal history; an inspection of your home; proving stable income, identity and legal status; providing employment history; a physician's statement and references; and a criminal records check.
Q. How can I find out about the child's background?
A. If dealing with an agency, ask the caseworker for notes or files on the child. Also, ask specific questions about the child's time in foster care; events during the birth mother's pregnancy; the child's medical history; how well the child reacts to stress; the child's ability to form attachments; his or her positive characteristics; and if there have been any adjustment problems in the past.
Sources: National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, www.calib.com/naic; Ohio Adoption Guidebook, www.state.oh.us/odhs/oapl/booklet.htm; Adoption Support Network, www.childofmydreams.com.