Adoption Self Help Manual
What Kind of Child?
The Most Important Decision
You are at a crossroads.
Now, comes the most important decision you will have to make. That decision is: What kind of child do we want to adopt?
Do we want only a Caucasian (white) baby? Can we accept the idea of a "foreign looking" child? Must the child we adopt be an infant or newborn? Can we accept a bi-racial child?
Must the birth mother have the same religious background as us? Will we be able to love a child who is physically handicapped or who has other special needs?
No one can answer these questions for you. You must wrestle with them and come up with your own answers. Your decisions will critically affect how you proceed from here. And you must realize that the more restrictions you create, the fewer available children there are.
On the other hand, don't panic and decide you'll take any child that comes along first. If you are offered a child you will have trouble accepting and loving, you're probably making a big mistake to accept the opportunity. Flexibility is fine. But don't stretch your limits.
Even in situations where a family has been extremely specific about the type of child they wanted, right down to whether the child should be a boy or girl, they have achieved success.
Using the questions I've already given you plus the other techniques described in this manual, you'll be able to greatly increase the number of children available to you. No matter how specific your demands, using agency or private referral sources, you may be able to adopt the child you want. Perhaps even in less than a year.
But please understand. The adoptive parents who achieve quick results, especially with very specific requirements, are unusual people. They are the ones who think about little else other than the adoption of a child. They are the ones who take time off from their jobs so they can spend hours telephoning and writing letters to potential sources. They are the one who seem to have no limit to the time and energy they are willing to devote to accomplish their goal.
Every step of the way in the adoption process, you will run into people who give you bad news. They will tell you how difficult it is. They will point out how long everything will take. They will swear to you that what you want is impossible to achieve.
As long as you are willing and ready to make every possible effort, you'll succeed. As long as you don't do anything illegal, you will win.
Contact all the agencies. Contact every source. Chase down every lead. Don't give up. Be sure that everyone you come into contact with knows you want to adopt a child. Don't get discouraged!
Follow the Seven Commandments of Adoption you learned earlier and you will achieve your goal of becoming a family.
Types of Children
When you start calling adoption agencies, one of the first questions they will want answered is, "What type of child do you have in mind?"
They are used to thinking in categories, so you need to know what they mean before you can answer.
The categories they are referring to are these: Domestic or International, Caucasian, Black, bi-racial, Native American Indian or some other racial/cultural minority, newborn or older child, and healthy or special needs children.
Most of these categories are fairly easy to understand. There are four, however, that need a bit more explanation.
Bi-Racial and Trans-Racial Adoptions
When I say "bi-racial," I am talking about a child whose natural birth parents are of different races. The child is born of a white father and an Asian mother, for example, is a bi-racial child. However, bi-racial to most of the agencies generally means one parent is Caucasian and the other parent is African American.
Agencies will often speak of a "trans-racial" adoption. This is not the same. A "trans-racial" adoption is one where the baby is one race and the adopting parents are another race. A Caucasian couple seeking an African American child is an example of a trans-racial adoption. It is also a trans-racial adoption if a Caucasian family adopts a Korean child.
Trans-racial adoptions stir up a lot of debate. Some agencies believe that this type of adoption can be good for anyone. They actively promote trans-racial adoptions. Other agencies feel exactly the opposite. They feel that such placements are not appropriate and won't permit them under any circumstances.
Many states have policies pertaining to matching race and/or religion of a child with that of the adopting family. Other states have no such policies. Check your state's requirements carefully so you don't find yourself violating any laws.
Some states go so far as to say that the initial efforts must be made to match the ethnic and/or racial background of the child with that of the adoptive family. But they will allow other placement options if no "same-race" or "same religion" match can be found.
Other states specifically ban discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, culture or ethnic background.
In some states, there appears to be more African American and bi-racial babies available for adoption than there are Caucasian babies. While the waiting period for a Caucasian child may be years, the waiting period for an African American or bi-racial child may be in terms of months.
For that reason alone, many Caucasian adopting parents consider a trans-racial adoption.
There are those who feel the entire idea of trans-racial adoptions is undesirable. They believe that trans-racial adoption is the equivalent of "cultural genocide." Thus, they are severely critical of agencies or social workers who place children into trans-racial situations.
Whatever your feelings are on these issues, whether you agree or not, my purpose in telling you all this is not to pass judgment on anyone, just to make you better informed.
A foreign-born child is defined as any child born outside the United States, of parents, neither of whom is a U.S. citizen. While children born in England, France and Germany of non-U.S. parents are certainly foreign-born, agencies usually mean children born in Russia, former Soviet Union countries, China, Asia, or "Third World" and developing countries.
I will discuss this more fully in the chapter on International Adoptions.
Special Needs Children
Special needs refers to children who may be difficult to place. What kinds of things make a child difficult to place?
Age. Emotional or physical handicap. Racial or ethnic minorities. Being a part of a group of brothers/sisters.
When an agency uses the term "special needs" child, they are talking about older children, mostly ages 5 through 18. Or, sibling groups – brothers or sisters who need homes together. Then, too, they may mean disabled or physically, emotionally or mentally handicapped children. Or African American or bi-racial children.
Are you willing to consider adopting a child with special needs? If so, then one of the first things you must consider is the type of "specialness" involved.
- Special needs children with medical problems include those with problems like: epilepsy, hearing defects, vision problems, heart defects, paralysis, or other birth defects.
- Special needs children with intellectual problems include those who may be mentally retarded or who have severe learning disabilities.
- Special needs children with emotional problems include those who have been deprived, abused, or neglected.
Next, you must carefully evaluate how severe these problems are and how bringing such a child into your world will affect you and your spouse. But don't forget the other members in your family. If you already have children, for instance, don't fail to consider how they are going to react if you introduce a special needs child into their lives.
What about insurance policies? Will you have medical insurance to cover the needs of a medically impaired adopted child? Don't assume you will. Be sure and check.
Because their needs are so great, and because there are no easy solutions for special needs children, there are a limited number of programs available for assistance. There are programs where you may be able to get some of the extra help that you will need if you open your life to a special needs child.
There are state, regional and national adoption exchanges that can assist in matching prospective adopting families with special needs children. Very often, these exchanges have photographs and descriptions of these children. If you are interested, ask your state authorities about this information.
Private and public agencies also place special needs children. Ask about their programs.
The social workers at agencies which place special needs children are usually aware of these programs, but again, don't assume anything. Check community resources and see what is available for children with special needs.
There are special federal programs that provide funds to the states through special subsidies under the Social Security Administration. The states, in turn, provide subsidies or special services to those families who adopt special needs children.
The special federal programs you will want to know about fall under Title 4-E, the Foster Care and Adoption Subsidy Program. There is a one-time cost reimbursement subsidy, for instance, that you might find beneficial in adopting a special needs child. There are many other programs as well. You will find them when you begin to explore these aspects of the Federal Program:
- Social Security Act 42 U.S.C. 608
- The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Reform Act of 1978, 42 U.S.C. 511
- The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, 42 U.S.C 620
I would like to give you more details here, but the federal programs change frequently. Rather than give you advice which may become outdated before this manual reaches you, let me suggest you write or call the Program Operations Division, United States Children's Bureau, Administration for Child, Youth and Families; Washington, D.C.
By now you may be a little overwhelmed by all this information you have to know. Perhaps you are getting alarmed by all the details involved.
That's quite understandable.
There is no way you are going to learn in a few hours what has taken me thirty years to learn.
But the beauty of all this is that you don't have to learn everything I know in order to get the results you seek.
This manual will help. Keep reading. DON'T GIVE UP!