Not all mothers meet their babies at birth. For some, connecting with their child is more a labor of effort and love. Celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Meg Ryan, Edie Falco, Calista Flockhart, and Nia Vardalos have put familiar faces on adoption and made it a household word. Hopeful parents have reasons ranging from fertility issues to choice in deciding to adopt domestically. The process involves the placement of American-born children with US-based parents and can be facilitated by an agency, like New York's Spence-Chapin or a private attorney. Firms match birth mothers and adoptive families and usher them through the process while lawyers often work with doctors who have patients interested in handing their children over for someone else to raise.
Qualifications: Once families register with an agency, they go through a home-study process, which involves criminal and medical background checks, a safe home and stable living environment inspection, a financial records review and monitoring of marital status. The family also submits a letter to prospective birth mothers explaining why they want to adopt.
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Timeline: The average domestic adoption takes 12-18 months. The most lengthy part of the process is the home study that can take up to five months. According to Spence-Chapin, single parents tend to wait longer than married couples because birth mothers are the ones making the choice. Once a family has been selected and the baby is born, the families must sign the terms of their agreement before the child is placed. After placement, many states require three to six months of monitoring by a social worker before the process is considered complete.
Costs: Domestic adoptions through an agency range from approximately $12,000 to $30,000. Some use a sliding scale based on the couple's income while others, like Chicago's The Cradle, charge set fees. These costs include everything from registration to the fee paid to the birth mother.
Considerations: Before deciding to adopt, parents should be comfortable with the idea of what it means to be an adoptive family — that their child might not resemble them and that questions will arise throughout their offspring's life. Future moms and dads also need to choose between an open adoption — where birth parents and adoptive parents agree to ongoing contact of some kind throughout the child's life, be it exchanging letters or medical records or a closed adoption, where there is no contact once the baby has been placed.