INITIAL INTAKE MEETING
When first applying to a public adoption agency, applicants are usually required to attend an intake meeting. At this meeting the agency outlines what procedures are to be followed and approximately what the waiting period will be. Information about children for whom they are currently seeking homes is also provided.
If applicants are still interested in proceeding after this meeting, they are asked to complete a formal application. At this point applicants will begin to realize that the adoption process is intrusive. Applicants are asked questions that are very personal and sometimes difficult to answer - questions that most people have never had to think about. A medical exam is also required, with the results sent to the agency. A police check may be required, and references will be asked for, which will be checked.
Some agencies require at this point that applicants take a pre-homestudy (see below) preparation course. The purpose of this course is to allow applicants to better assess their ability to parent the children available for adoption. It is not unusual for families to withdraw from the process at this point, or delay it while they reconsider whether adoption is really for them.
There may be a waiting period before a social worker is able to do an applicant's homestudy. One of the determining factors in how quickly a homestudy is begun is whether the child or children waiting for a family are the types of children the applicants have indicated a willingness to adopt.
People have very different ideas of what a homestudy is. Some think it's just a matter of filling out forms. Others think it is an inspection process. In reality, it's an educational process that allows the adoption agency to assess an applicant's ability to deal with the issues which adoption raises. It helps prepare applicants for the challenges of parenting an adopted child and help them determine if they are ready.
The homestudy usually begins with interviews done separately and with spouses, if applicants are applying as a couple. Initial interviews usually take place at an agency workers' office. This is followed by at least one home visit, where an agency worker meets with other members of an applicant's family. Additionally, group meetings are often held with other prospective adoptive families.
The entire process may take a short period of time or several months, depending on a variety of factors, including worker caseload. Once completed, a report is written and presented to agency personnel for approval. The decision to accept a family for adoption normally does not rest with one individual.
One thing that is required of all applicants is patience. It may take the better part of a year to be approved for adoption. And if, at any time during the process, applicants decide that adoption is not for them, they are free to withdraw.
CHILDREN'S NEEDS CONSIDERED FIRST
When considering adoption, remember that the purpose of adoption is to find families for children, not children for families. Meeting the needs of children waiting for families is the main priority. Everyone involved in the process is acting in the best interests of the child. Applicants may face disappointment and discouragement – but may also be richly rewarded.
JOINING AN ADOPTION SUPPORT GROUP
Because the process can be emotionally draining and filled with highs and lows, applicants are advised to join an adoption support group. Support groups not only provide emotional support, but also allow applicants to learn from the experience of others. It's also very encouraging to learn that others have successfully adopted children. Finally, meeting the children others have adopted helps put a very real face on the children in need of homes.