How do I/we adopt?
From a legal perspective, adoption involves a court determining that a family is appropriate to become the new legal family for a child, and, based on the information in a "home study" authorizing a placement, issuing an adoption decree, and authorizing the issuance of a new birth certificate, creating the legal fiction that the adoptive family gave birth to the adopted child. Generally, adoption involves the use of an attorney or an agency. All states license public and private agencies (which doesn't necessarily mean the state guarantees that they are ethical or competent!) and some states allow attorneys to do what is often referred to as a "private placement". We will make no recommendations of individuals or organizations, but suggest you ask any agency or attorney for referrals, contact your Better Business Bureau, etc. before you choose someone in your area. In all cases a home study must be done, legally because the court will require it, but in practical terms it is also designed to help the prospective adoptive family deal with issues surrounding adoption and help them decide on what child might be best for them..
What types of children are available?
There are many types of children available for adoption. Some estimates suggest there are 75 to 100 families for every healthy newborn available in the United States, which is why many people consider foreign adoption, the adoption of infants and children with disabilities (physical, emotional, mental), older children and minority children. Your home study should help you decide which options make sense for you.
What are the qualifications to adopt?
We are frequently called by people who tell us that an agency told them that their combined ages made them too old to adopt, or that they didn't meet some other criterion, so they gave up. The fact is that there are absolutely no uniform criteria for adoption in the United States. Each agency decided on its own criteria, usually based on the type of child it typically has to place. Because the JCAN has a wide range of children referred to it, and because we have no particular prejudices about who makes a good adoptive parent, we are open to register any interested family (that includes singles parents), but we can only refer families that match what an agency or attorney has asked us for in a particular case. When starting to adopt, check around to find an agency or attorney who will work with you!
What does it cost?
Unfortunately, there are costs involved in adoption. Because states vary in what they allow adoptive families to pay to a biological mother, agency, and attorney, the adoption of a healthy infant may range from a few thousand dollars to $50,000. The adoption of a child with special needs may involve some fees, but most or even all of it may be reimbursable or tax deductible, and there may be regular subsidies to help the adoptive parents cover any special expenses involved in the care of their child.
How do I adopt a child from a foreign county?Foreign countries do have age limits, religious requirements, etc., while bringing a child in to the United States from a country requires approval of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. We suggest you find an agency that has experience with foreign adoption from the country you are interested in, and, again, suggest you follow up on referrals the agency gives you.
Why does the JCAN discourage foreign adoption?
We don't really want to discourage foreign adoption. We want people who are pursuing foreign adoption to be realistic about the type of children that are available. Rarely are they "healthy infants" Generally they are slightly older infants or children, who have often spent time in an orphanage (with the possible medical and psychological sequelae of institutionalization), may have been exposed to drugs or alcohol (depending on the country of origin), may have been abandoned because of medical problems. Many wonderful children in foreign countries are in desperate need of adoptive families, and one of them might be right for you, but there are many tens of thousands of children with special needs in the United States, children who will not cost many thousands of dollars to adopt, and who may actually come with an adoption assistance subsidy, Medicaid, etc. If you are willing to consider a child at risk for special needs by adopting abroad, please consider a "domestic" child with special needs, as well.
Can a single person adopt?
Certainly. While many agencies and some countries will only work with married couples, others are happy to work with singles. The JCAN will gladly register single parents in our database.
Why does the JCAN encourge "open" adoption?
Based on our personal experiences with adoption, but, more importantly, having spoken to many adults who were adopted as children, it is clear to us that (a)both the adoptive family and adopted child can often gain much important information from the birth family, which can sometimes be of significance to the health and welfare of the child, (b)the ongoing relationship that the adoptive and birth families have, often gives validity to the adoption, enhances the self-esteem of the adoptee, and allows all members of the triad to feel that the adoption was the best possible decision for all involved.
The concept of closed adoption arose at the beginning of this century because people felt there was shame in being born out of wedlock, and it continued because it was advantageous to attorneys and agencies to hold all the cards in an adoption. We have spoken to numerous biological parents who were promised 20 or 30 years ago that their baby would be placed in a Jewish home, and they now discovered that that did not happen. In an open adoption, the agency could not have disregarded their wishes in that fashion!
What does the JCAN think of adoption searches?
We get regular calls from people looking for their sibling, child, etc, placed 30 years ago into a Jewish home, or for their birth parent(s). It seems sad to us that someone should have to search for their family member as if it were a crime!! Not every search results in everyone finding what they hoped to, but it almost always allows people to move on from their fantasies of what might have been, and deal with the reality of what is. We hear of many birth parents being told that after placing their child, they can forget about him/her, and move on. In our experience, birth parents never forget their child, and sometimes it is hard to move on. An open adoption, of course, can help. Many people have grieved for decades, and opening a closed adoption can allow them to finally have the closure they need.
Do you see adoption as a positive experience?
In an ideal world, children would all grow up with loving, competent, caring biological parents, and no couple would have to deal with infertility. But, we don't live in an ideal world, and there are parents who just can't parent (for any of hundreds of reasons) and there are people who can't have all the biological children they want. Two imperfect situations that are obviously destined for a pragmatic solution! Adoption is not always easy, and it has built within it some inherent pain, but, all things considered, it is a very positive experience.
When should you tell a child that he/she is adopted?
Adoption should be a normal topic of discussion in the adoptive family. It is never useful to pretend that an adopted child is not adopted, and it is best for adoption to be treated as a normal way in which families are made. Some people celebrate the anniversary of a child's placement or of the date of finalization; others don't. But, all adoptive families should be involved with other adoptive families (there are support groups where you live) and be sure to speak occasionally (or often) of adoption as the wonderful way in which part of the family was formed.
What do you tell your spouse if he says "I don't know if I can raise a child genetically not mine"?
More often than not this is something we hear from a woman who is desperate to have a child, while her husband is content to remain childless, and doesn't feel comfortable parenting "someone else's child". Our best response is to offer to talk to the husband, but more importantly point out our perspective on raising an adopted child: It seems to us that adoption is very much like marriage. Most men seem to find it no problem loving a wife to whom they have no genetic connection. Should there, then, be a problem loving a child to whom there is no genetic connection?
What are the advantages of adopting a child with special needs.
Kids don't really come with guarantees. And while most "healthy newborns" really are, we often hear about the surprises people have had with kids who turned out to have unsuspected conditions. Sometimes we even suspect that an agency or attorney knew about potential problems and kept them quiet for fear of having the adoption fail (and they may have had a financial incentive!). With kids with special needs, it is generally pretty obvious why they are being placed; they usually have married parents, and are at much smaller risk for HIV exposure, drug and alcohol exposure, etc. Further, their adoptions are much less expensive; they may even come with a subsidy! And, there are lots more of them than there are kids without any special needs, with fewer families "fighting" for them.
How far down am I on your waiting list?
Well, we don't really have a waiting list. We have a database of over 1300 family units interested in adoption. They live all over the United States, Canada, Europe and Israel, have different interests in the type of child they are considering for adoption; have different levels of Jewish affiliation; etc. So, when we are asked, for example, for a conservative, professional couple between the ages of 25 and 35, in the Northeast, but not New England, who have no children, for a child at risk for emotional disabilities, it narrows down pretty quickly to a couple of dozen families; when we call them, several inevitably tell us that they have already adopted, but didn't tell us, or that they are already working on a good possibility, etc, so they aren't ready right now. This generally narrows things down to a handful of families which we can refer to the agency and/or birth family for their decision.
Why didn't you call me about child X that was in your newsletter?
See above. More often than not, the information you gave us on your registration form just didn't match. Maybe you've changed what you would consider, and didn't tell us to make a change in you data. Please feel free to update us if your options have expanded or contracted.