Adoption- where to begin?

As a first disclaimer: This has nothing to do with me. I’m not adopting, nor looking to. That being said, my friends may be. They’re a married couple living in the suburbs of Chicago, and, while trying to produce their own children, are finding that it may not be an option. Thus, they want to find out all the information they can about adoption. An off-hand mention of some insane monetary figure was given to them, and I’m wondering if it was, perhaps, exagerated, or if there are various ways to go through the adoption process, some more expensive than others? Also, what does one look for when looking into adoption programs? Any information, personal experiences, or links, would be greatly appreciated.

I’m surprised no one has answered this yet!
Even though I haven’t adopted firsthand yet, I know a bit about the topic from doing research for my own future plans to adopt, so I’ll try to get the ball rolling.
Yes, that person who told them it’s always insanely expensive was not giving them the full story. The really expensive adoptions you hear about are when people go overseas to adopt a young infant. You don’t have to do things that way.
In many cases, you can adopt a child domestically for much less money…especially if you go through the foster care system. If you’re willing to consider a “special needs” child, it is much faster and much less expensive (in some cases, I believe the adoptive parents are even paid a stipend to support the child when they adopt special needs children).
Some people might picture “special needs” as meaning only serious disabilities, but in fact a child may be labeled “special needs” for other factors that make them a little harder to place for adoption (like being older than an infant, having siblings that need to be adopted with them…or even simply being Hispanic or African-American since there is a shortage of non-white adoptive parents currently). So, I think your friends should think about what sort of child they would be interested in adopting, and definitely take the time to do a lot of research into this topic. has some good info about the topic, not surprisingly. :slight_smile:

Another very big topic they need to think about is how involved they want the birthmother to be in the child’s life. Nowadays, there is a movement towards “Open Adoption”, in which the birthmother and the adoptive parents stay in touch in some form or another (sometimes just letters passed back and forth through the agency; in other cases it involves face to face meetings…it’s the choice of the two families as to how much contact they’re comfortable with). Some people feel that open adoption is better for the child. It’s definitely something your friends should investigate to help them decide what kind of adoption they want to pursue. Good luck to them!

Here are some licensed adoption agencies in Illinois.

Just as a general question, would it be possible to choose which kid the parents will adopt? For example, let’s say the Sheckstress and I put down we are willing to adopt a special needs child, hoping for Hispanic or African-American. Instead, we are offered a child who has a mental or physical handicap, which we are not prepared to care for. Would we then have some sort of right of refusal to hold out for somebody more along the lines of what we wanted, or do we have a “Take it or leave it” situation?

Hispanic and African-American aren’t “special needs”.

Special needs means sick or handicapped (physically, emotionally, mentally).

Want a dictionary? This Hispanic woman will refrain from throwing it at you!

I am no expert but am pretty sure no agency can “make” you take a child you don’t want- and why would they want to place a child in a household where they are not wanted?

From the site posted earlier, it mentions that the meaning of the phrase “special needs” has been expanded somewhat:

When you’re given a referral to a actual child, of course you can accept or reject the referral.

Most adoption agencies will have some sort of “open house” meetings where they invite all to come in so they can explain how it all works. Just start calling agencies and find out when to show up.
My wife and I decided to adopt internationally, and we went through International Children’s Alliance and adopted two children from Russia.

We have adopted 4 kids from China. Depending on what your friends want to do, that may be an option for them.

Why China?

  1. No birth parents to deal with. The kids in the Child Welfare institutes have been abandoned. Their parents cannot be located. The day you adopt her, she’s YOURS.
  2. Girls. VeryCoolSpouse and I have done better with girls (we have 4 bio-kids. 2 boys, 2 girls) and specifically wanted to adopt a girl.
  3. Health. Special needs aside (6 of our 8 kids are special needs) the healthiest available kids in the world are from China. Sure you can get healthy kids from anywhere, but the average is higher in China.
  4. Predictability. It’s very cut-and-dried. You fill out these forms, you pay those fees. Some months later you have a kid. The wait time varies, but has never been less than 8 months or more than 20. The schedule for domestic adoptions can vary radically, and other international adoptions can be chancy. (My experience with other adoptions is 0, so take that with a grain of salt.)

What’s the cost?
Depending on the agency you choose, somewhere between $17,000 and $25,000. That’s mostly made up of government fees (US and China), Agency fees, and travel costs. If you pay taxes, you can get a tax refund of up to $10,000 for the year in which you adopt. That’s a refund, not a deduction; if your tax bill is over $10K, you get $10K back.

Note that the Chinese government requires that at least 1 parent travel to China to pick up the child. For us, that’s a bonus, as we enjoy traveling to other countries.

How do I get started?
Send for information packets from some agencies. They’ll give you an idea of fees, procedures, times, etc.

If you’re considering adoption from China, start at CCAI.

If I can help further, I’d be happy to.

I apologize if my comment on “special needs” and race caused you any offense, Nava. I definitely didn’t intend to be offensive. I was just trying to demonstrate that “special needs” is a term that American adoption agencies use for a wide range of situations. I would not be surprised if it’s different in Europe.
I think the main reason they categorize children from other races that way is because some adoptive parents might not be comfortable talking about race issues or know what to do/where to go to expose the child to their heritage/culture of origin, so perhaps it makes it a little harder to find the right home for a child of a different background. I definitely agree that it’s not a disability to be from another race!

My wife and I adopted through DCFS (we lived in the Chicago suburbs). We had talked with a few adoption agencies and a couple agencies wouldn’t discuss costs until we would provide them with our income! Others made it sound not like we were adopting but more like we were buying a kid. We also talked with a lawyer about private adoption and the costs were really out of hand. Plus the chance of the mother changing her mind scared us. We also looked at foreign adoptions but we had heard horror stories of poor or non-existent pre-natal care or neglect in the orphanages.

Finally we talked with an acquaintance that had gone through the foster care system. We found out that once you are a licensed foster parent with the state of Illinois that DCFS will provide for all legal expenses, including the adoption fees. We were able to specify the child’s race. We would have had no problem with a child of a different race but DCFS is extremely reluctant to permit interracial adoptions, plus we lived in a very conservative blue collar neighborhood at the time, so we told them white, Hispanic or white/Hispanic mix. We also set an age limit (0 to two years) because it is easier to work with the psychological issues of younger foster children than older ones (we know lots of early childhood specialists who gave us good info). We also told them we were only doing foster care to adopt, not as a short term placement (we had a lot of miscarriages and we didn’t want to become attached to a child only to have them taken away).

We also learned that you can choose which foster agency you wish to go through. Because we are a white couple we were told to go with an agency in a predominantly black neighborhood. DCFS rotates through the various agencies when new children come into the system and if a white child came in from a neighborhood that was predominantly black then we would be higher up on the placement list.

During the year after we received our license we got a handful of calls. Most were for short term placements but some were for siblings (we couldn’t handle more than one additional child at that point) or special needs (we were not financially able to handle those needs at that point either).

Finally, one day my wife received a call from the agency telling us that they had a 12 week old white girl who had been taken away from her mother. The birth mother had four previous children all taken away and adopted by non-family members so the odds were in our favor of this being permanent.

It took almost two years (that was incredibly fast for DCFS) to finalize it but she legally became ours in 2001.

We knew that we had found her and she had found us. She needed us and we needed her. From the moment when I saw that little bald head I knew she was part of our family forever. Through the red tape, visitations with the birth mother, court cases, developmental assessments, we knew somehow that she would be ours forever.

I realize that some of the information I provided above makes me sound picky or materialistic. Please keep in mind that we were looking at what my wife, son and I could handle emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually. We made our decisions based on our strengths and weaknesses. My wife and I have already said that when the kids are older we will do it again for a special needs child because we will be better able to handle the harder aspects. The love is always there but the ability isn’t.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I would be glad to help.

My wife and I are using CCAI as our agency. Unfortunately, their latest information seems to show that the wait time from log-in to match has increased; what used to take 9-12 months first crept up to 12-15 months, and now takes 18 months or more. So, our wait will apparently be even longer than we’d banked on.

We also decided on China in large part for the robustness of the system; among countries that permit foreign adoption, China is among the oldest, so they’ve knocked out most of the bugs. Also, the system doesn’t have the innate corruption you find adopting from, say, Russia (we know someone who has been trying to adopt from Russia, and who has actually been to Russia twice, and both times she was told that the child she was told she’d be adopting wasn’t there anymore. Seriously, they tell you flat-out to expect to have to bribe people to complete a Russian adoption.).

I wanted to add a note, however, about the tax credit. The adoption tax credit of $10,630 (when last I checked; I understand they’re lobbying to increase it to $15,000) is a per-child limit, not a per-year limit. So, if your tax liability is $7,000 in the year in which your adoption is finalized (for international adoption, you have to wait until finalization; domestic adoptive expenses can be claimed the year they’re paid), you can claim the $7,000 credit in that year and carry forward the remaining $3,630 to the following year. Which means, if you’ve already paid the $7,000 through payroll deductions as most of us do, you’ll be getting all of that money back in a nice big check from Uncle Sam. You can carry the credit forward for up to five years (again, this was the rule when last I checked).

Anyway, more to chew over. One thing they may want to do is contact their local Child Protective Services office, whatever it’s called, and inquire about foster/adopt classes. In order to be foster parents or adopt through CPS, they’ll first have to take a course and be certified. They can find out when the next one is, and taking the class may help them figure out if doing a domestic adoption is the way they want to go. The classes normally cost nothing but time.