Adoption FAQs: Getting Started

To read part one of Drew’s story, you can go here.

Adoption can be a scary and overwhelming endeavor. At every turn, there’s a seemingly insurmountable obstacle: the paperwork, the red tape, the money, the waiting. And everyone knows someone who’s had that nightmarish adoption experience. These stories only solidify the misinformed notion that adoption is an impossible task beyond consideration. My hope is that by answering the following questions, some of these myths will be dispelled, and more of us would be encouraged to adopt.

Through it all, I want to be careful not to minimize the challenges of the adoption process. It is hard. It is costly. It is risky at times.

But it’s worth it.

My wife and I are right in the middle of adopting a precious baby girl from Guatemala. It has been an amazing, stretching journey, full of ups and our downs. As a result, we have become passionate evangelists of adoption (a.k.a. adoptivangelists). We believe that adoption is a beautiful opportunity to seek justice by caring for some of the most ignored and neglected children in our world.

Is God calling me to adopt?

I’ve written in depth on God’s heart for the orphan here. Of course, adoption is not for everyone. But the biblical mandate for orphan care is clear and so often neglected by families. Rather than assuming that adoption is not for you, allow me to offer a different approach. Assume that you are called to adopt until God gives you the red light. Scriptures abound on God’s heart for the orphan and His call upon the Church to care for orphans. In spite of this clear mandate, many Christians gloss over such passages without giving adoption a serious thought. This is unfortunate, considering Paul’s frequent use of the term “adoption” to beautifully explain our entrance into God’s redemptive family (Rom. 8:15, 23; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5). Adoption certainly isn’t easy, and it’s not the Utopian experience that some make it out to be, but God’s Church is called to take care of the least among us. We are called to welcome little children into our families.

Do I have enough money?

Initially, you probably won’t have all the necessary funds to complete an adoption. Sticker shock in adoption is common. Domestic adoptions tend to be cheaper (ranging from $3,000-$10,000, or in some cases, free!), and international adoptions are more expensive ($10,000-$30,000). The total cost for our Guatemalan adoption will end up being around $30,000. I’m a pastor. My wife is in school. We have a tank of a toddler boy to clothe and feed. Do the math. We don’t have that kind of money. Most people don’t.

However, there are little known resources designed to help defray the costs. Many employers have adoption grants in their benefits plan. The U.S. Federal Government offers tax credit of up to $10,000 once an adoption is complete, to reimburse a family’s adoption expenses. There are non-profit organizations who give grants to adoptive families in need of assistance. Life International and Shaohannah’s Hope are just two examples. If adopting internationally, many airlines offer significantly discounted airfares for adoption-related travel.

Miraculously, God has provided just enough funds at each step of the process. We’ve cut it close at various deadlines in this process, but we’ve never had to stall the process due to a lack of funds. This provision has taught us a valuable lesson: If God distinctly calls you to do something, and you are obedient, humble and faithful in answering that call, He will provide.

What type of adoption should I pursue?

The type of adoption you choose depends on your life circumstances and unique burden for orphans. If you have a particular burden for orphans in your own country, pursue a domestic adoption. There are a few different types of domestic routes you could go. One route would be to adopt through your county/state’s department of child/family services. Often these are referred to as “foster to adopt” adoptions, as children are adopted through the foster care system. There are also private agencies that facilitate domestic adoptions, and these can be arranged in a number of ways. Some are “open,” meaning that the birth-mother remains somewhat involved in the process of selecting an adoptive family. Others are close and completely confidential.

International adoptions vary by country. If you live in the United States, some countries are closed to U.S. residents due to diplomatic conflict. Some countries will only allow international adoptions to married couples. Some will only allow adoptions to couples who can medically prove infertility. Some have age requirements and weight requirements (not kidding). Each country is unique, but international adoption offers you an opportunity to build your family in a way that reflects God’s family: diverse, multi-cultural and unified by the love of Christ.

Yet another narrowly pursued route is special needs/AIDS adoptions. Children with physical and mental special needs are so often passed over in the adoption process, and in many third world countries, are tragically neglected. The AIDS pandemic in Africa has orphaned millions of children, many of whom received the HIV virus from their deceased parents. There is a desperate need for families to lovingly adopt children with these special needs.

When asked which type of adoption I would recommend, I always answer: “Any and all.” Any opportunity to place an orphaned child in a loving family brings glory to God.

How should I choose an agency?

Do your homework. Once you’ve determined what type of adoption to pursue, thoroughly research agencies that facilitate your specific type of adoption. This can be the most overwhelming part of the process. Every adoption agency has a snazzy, professional website full of pictures of adorable little kids. It’s up to you to determine if behind the cute photographs is an agency that knows what it’s doing.

In choosing your agency, there are a number of things to consider:

    1. How experienced is this agency at the specific type of adoption you want to pursue?

    2. Does this agency really facilitate this type of adoption? Or are they merely a middle-man for another agency?

    3. Do I have any first-hand recommendations of this agency?

Is it really that much paperwork?

More than you could ever imagine. Though each adoption is very different, they all can be assured of one fact: an entire forest will sacrifice itself for the sake of your adoption. For our adoption, we first had to complete a home study, which is a series of forms and appointments with a trained social worker in your area. The home study essentially tells the U.S. government and your adoption agency (and, if applicable, the country from which you are adopting) that you are physically, financially and emotionally fit to adopt. We also had numerous government forms, fire inspections, doctors’ visits, financial worksheets, multiple background checks and countless agency forms. You get the idea. Through it all, you must continually remind yourselves that at the end of this seemingly endless paper trail is a beautiful child of God waiting to be loved and cherished by you.

Where can I get more information?

Check out the following websites

www.howtoadopt.org

www.voiceoftheorphan.org

www.successfuladoption.com

Also, read some books on adoption. But I’m warning you: Once you begin reading and researching, you’re likely to be swept up into one of the most amazing, miraculous and difficult journeys of your life. But I’m telling you … It’s worth it.

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