Which Adoption Path is Right for You?
Once you’ve decided to grow your family through adoption, PairTree is ready to help.
PairTree provides a comprehensive, full-circle adoption experience that is significantly more affordable and user-friendly than traditional avenues to adoption. Our modern technology platform allows us to tailor the experience and provide continuous guidance to everyone involved – giving expectant moms the most choice and control to find the right family for them, and giving adopting families the most opportunity to make a life-changing connection connection. PairTree helps families save thousands of dollars in fees, cuts wait times for matching expectant mothers and adoptive parents from years to months, and eliminates administrative headaches. All in an effort to create a healthy environment for their families moving forward.
Our mission is to provide you with as much access and as many options as possible, in other words, to modernize your adoption journey. This approach gives you more control to make what can be a complex, expensive and overwhelming process as accessible as possible.
Step 1 – Choose Your Path: Types of Adoption
Before you begin, it’s important to understand your own expectations about adoption. For example, let yourself visualize your future family. Is the age, sex or race of the child important? Are you able to care for a child with special needs? How do you see your relationship with the expectant mother growing? There’s definitely a lot to consider and PairTree is a great resource to help you better understand the different approaches and paths to adoption that are available to you.
Infant. You can adopt an infant in the US during a pregnancy, at birth, or soon after. Expectant mothers choose an adoptive family based on what they feel is important for the baby. If you choose this option, you’ll know the background of the child and will likely meet the birth mother online or in person. PairTree is your partner throughout this process, from getting approved to adopt to finding a match to finalizing your adoption.
Embryo donation. With an embryo donation, you can choose the background of your child and carry your baby like a traditional pregnancy. Embryos are donated by families who have undergone IVF treatments and have more embryos than they planned for. PairTree can help match you with a donor and connect you with professionals to guide you through the process.
Child. There are some children in the foster care system that can be adopted immediately. In these situations, parental rights have been terminated and the children are legally free. This is likely the fastest way for a child to be in your home. You’ll work with the state and/or a foster agency if you choose this option.
Foster. The goal of foster care is to reunify children with their birth families. As a foster parent, you provide a safe, loving, temporary home to a child while the birth parents get the support they need. You’ll work with the state and/or a foster agency if you choose this option.
Think deeply about these options so that you can be clear about what you want. Because this decision will affect every other decision you make.
Problem: Financial status, family structure and life status can limit families’ access to adoption and adoption options.
Our mission: We advance access so that all kinds of families can adopt and reduce fees to make adoption available to more people.
Paths to adoption
There are two methods to adopting in the US: private or foster.
In a private adoption, you work with an adoption agency, attorney and/or adoption platform (vs the state) to connect with an Expectant Mom. You independently select your adoption partner and can use a combination of services, if you choose.
Adoption agencies can be local, national or international, small or large, faith-based or secular. As your contracted adoption partner, your agency will take the lead–assigning you adoption professionals, spearheading your paperwork, and managing the process of matching you with an expectant mother. Fees are generally high, starting at $25K, and wait times can be long, depending on the kind of outreach the agency has with expectant mothers.
An adoption attorney can be a specialist in family law or a credentialed Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction attorney (AAAA, or Quad A, attorney). Your attorney will provide the legal services necessary in any adoption, recommend adoption specialists, and help keep you abreast of state laws regarding matching and marketing. Choosing to work with an attorney gives you more responsibility for managing your adoption process.
PairTree and other adoption platforms use technology to improve the adoption experience and give you more control. All paperwork, including your home study, can be completed and gathered online. You build and post your profile on a secure website for expectant mothers to view and contact you through. Fees average $500/month. Most platforms provide referrals and support through community groups, blogs and videos. Outreach to expectant families tends to be broader and waits shorter. This option is a good choice if you want to be in the driver’s seat during your adoption journey.
Foster care is run at the state level. You will work with the state to either provide a temporary home for a child or adopt a child whose biological parent’s rights have been terminated. Foster care placements have a wide range in age, with the average age of a waiting child around 8 years.
There’s no “right” way to adopt, and what worked for a friend or a family may not work for you. Make sure you understand the different methods of adoption before deciding what course to take.
Problem: Prospective adoptive parents have limited access to the information they need to make their best decisions.
Our mission: We advance transparency by educating adoptive parents and expectant moms on the roles and processes of adoption to elevate the integrity of the whole industry.
Step 2 – The Home Study
The first step you take in any adoption is the home study, which is basically an in-depth interview process for adoptive parents. The study looks at your relationships, background, finances, and medical and work history to help the courts assess whether you can provide a healthy environment for a child. Home studies vary depending on what kind of adoption you’ve chosen.
Although it can take time, the home study is a nurturing opportunity–a chance to articulate why you want to adopt. The process historically includes partnering with a social worker and meeting in-person to answer questions, gather documents, receive referrals, provide financial info, undergo background checks…for the approval to adopt.
PairTree makes the home study process easy.
If you’ve chosen a private, domestic adoption, PairTree can help make your home study process hassle-free. We’ll connect you to a social worker and guide you through the home study online–reducing time, logistics and fees.
Here’s how the PairTree Home Study works:
- Select a home study provider. Choose from our network of licensed social workers in your state. Make sure you have the right chemistry–you’ll be working very closely together, and your provider will get to know you very well. Don’t be afraid to try another social worker if your first choice doesn’t click. You may find your social worker becomes a trusted resource for years to come.
- Tell us all about you (our favorite part). Here’s where you’ll share why you want to be a parent and how your past has brought you here. Our simple online process walks you through the process step by step. You can pause and return at any time.
- Clearances and recommendations. Your friends, your employer and your doctor will be asked to submit recommendations and records for you. We’ll help you obtain the necessary clearances in your state.
- Host a home visit (or two). Your home study professional will visit your home to review your living situation and discuss your vision for your growing family. Think of it as a chance to sit down with a friend who cares deeply about you and your adoption.
- Approval. Once your home study report is completed, approved and filed by your social worker, you become an “active family” and can be connected to expectant mothers.
A PairTree Home Study should take between 4 – 6 weeks to complete. But go at your own pace and take longer if you need to. You will spend some time waiting–to receive documents, or for others to respond. Use that time to get yourself ready for the next step, matching.
Problem: Families expect technology to be part of the adoption process, and are frustrated when it’s not.
Our mission: We advance simplicity in adoption by developing easy-to-use, modern, mobile tools that increase efficiency, improve the experience and ensure proper care for all.
Step 3 – Meet your Match
You’re approved to adopt. Now it’s time to start matching. During this step, you’ll create a personal profile and choose a matching method. PairTree, an adoption agency, or adoption attorney will share your profile with expectant mothers who use that information to determine whether your family meets what they think is best for their child.
Our advice for creating your profile? Be more afraid of being the same than being different. Showcase what’s unique about you, and how that translates into your parenting approach. You’ll stand out and be recognized for the wonderful parent you can be.
The three steps to the matching process:
Step 1: Develop a matching plan.
How do you want the matching process to work? Choose one or more of these options.
If you chose to work with an adoption agency, look for one that provides the most opportunities to connect with expectant mothers. The agency will share your profile and reach out when expectant mothers match with you.
PairTree and other adoption platforms help you connect directly with expectant mothers through your online profile, much like dating sites. While less traditional than working with an agency, self-matching lets you play a more active role and gives you more control over the process. PairTree’s proprietary personality-based matching system maps your personality type to those personality types desired by expectant moms, so you’ll make smarter connections faster.
Adoption consultants are a cost-effective way to build your outreach. Most consultants have relationships with multiple adoption agencies and can increase your exposure to expectant mothers, particularly in those situations passed over by an agency’s existing clients.
Adoption attorneys, necessary in providing the legal services for your adoption, can also utilize their networks to provide screening and matching services.
50% of expectant mothers find matches through social media, so it’s smart to have some sort of social presence. PairTree can help guide you to the most appropriate and efficient placements. And don’t be afraid to use your own network of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to get the word out.
Step 2: Create your marketing materials.
Your first impression on expectant mothers is through your marketing materials.
A strong online profile can be the difference between being noticed and being passed over. PairTree can help you create a rich, meaningful profile that reflects who you are and the kind of parent you’ll be.
Similar to the online profile, a profile book is a presentation of your life in physical form. Agencies, attorneys, and other adoption professionals share the book with expectant mothers to help them choose the family that’s right for them.
As mentioned above, an effective social media strategy is important in today’s world. Choose one of our profile boosting plans to let us do the heavy lifting. If you plan an independent strategy, consult with your attorney to make sure your posts abide by the laws of your state regarding advertising and adoption.
Step 3: Track your material’s effectiveness.
Measure the effectiveness of the marketing strategies you choose to make sure they are helping you get closer to your goal. PairTree provides metrics for online profiles, including how often and from where your profile was viewed. This can help you know when to update or enhance existing information.
Here are some important questions to consider during this time.
Are you (and your partner) open to adopting a child that has or may have special needs (physical, mental/emotional, or drug or alcohol exposure)?
Are you open to adopting multiple children at the same time (twins, sibling groups)?
Are you open to adopting children of a different race than you? If so, how will you encourage/foster a healthy cultural identity?
Problem: Adoption paths are based on a system that is siloed, which limits opportunities.
Our mission: We advance opportunity by creating collaborations across the industry that increase adoption opportunities for all.
Step 4 – Legal Support
Every adoption needs to be approved by the courts in your state (or the state where the baby was born), so trusted legal counsel is super important. The process can take between a few days and a few months, depending on whether you’re adopting from out-of-state.
If you’re self-navigating, you’ll want to retain a lawyer during the matching process. But don’t let that slow you down. PairTree can quickly connect you to the most reputable Family Law and adoption attorneys in your state.
Here are the major legal milestones in private domestic infant adoptions and embryo donations.
Information collection. Prior to officially matching, your attorney will gather essential information from the expectant parent(s). We recommend hiring an attorney once you start to feel comfortable with the birth family.
TPR. Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) is a legal document that gives consent for the adoption and waives the birth family’s rights as parents. It’s generally filed between 24 – 72 hours after the birth (each state determines the time frame).
ICPC. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) applies to adoptive parents who adopt outside of their home state and allows for the legal transport of a child from one state to another. This is typically filed 5 – 14 days after the birth, so you’ll have a bit of a wait before you can take your newborn home. Come prepared to hang out for a bit (check out our list of family-friendly AirBnBs).
Post-placement reports. Your home study provider will conduct 1 – 5 post-placement home visits to ensure you and your child are thriving. The state you adopt from or plan to finalize your adoption in will determine the number of visits.
Finalization. This is your “Gotcha Day”, the day when your child is officially recognized as part of your family. Depending on the state, this typically happens between 3 – 6 months after the birth. Often, the process involves going before a judge and is considered a celebratory day for the adopting family.
Information collection. Just prior to matching, your attorney will coordinate with the embryo donor to gather information, including a detailed medical history and screen for infectious diseases and specific genetic risks.
Embryo donation agreement. This legal contract transfers all rights and responsibilities for any child born from the embryo to you. This contract is filed prior to the embryo transfer.
Medical evaluations. To ensure best conditions for implantation and a successful pregnancy, you’ll undergo a comprehensive medical evaluation and screening.
Transfer. Once matched with a donated embryo, you’ll work with a doctor at a reproductive care center or infertility clinic to schedule the embryo transfer. You’ll be asked to take medications to suppress your ovaries and grow the uterine lining. Once you’re ready, the embryos will be implanted. (Not sure what the legal angle is here)
Problem: Birth moms are 4x more likely to commit suicide or suffer from depression. Adoption is a mental and emotional roller coaster for adoptive parents as well.
Our mission: We advance caring by partnering with healthcare providers to ensure that expectant moms, birth moms, adoptive parents and adoptees get the physical and mental healthcare, where and when they need it, including long-term care for birth mothers.
Step 5 – Post-adoption
Congratulations! You’ve welcomed a beautiful child into your home. We hope it’s been an inspiring journey (and not too exhausting).
Even though you’ve finalized your adoption, you’re likely to still need support—maybe even more as you begin this new life. There are decisions to make and tasks to do, not to mention the questions and challenges that are bound to come up as your child grows.
PairTree is here to help, for as long as you need us. Use the PairTree Dashboard to keep track of important dates and events. And engage in our community to gain and share wisdom from professionals and parents that have been in your shoes.
Here are some of your relationship-focused considerations.
Open or closed adoption?
With an open adoption, the adoptive and birth parents share information and have contact with each other during and after the adoption process. A closed adoption sees no contact between birth parents and the adoptive family.
If you choose an open adoption, you’ll work with the birth mother or family to decide the degree of openness. This includes:
Cadence. How often will you communicate? Weekly? Monthly? Yearly? At key milestones?
Method. Will you communicate through text? Phone calls? Email? FB groups? Scheduled in-person visits? Or through your social worker or caseworker?
Content. Will you share letters? Pictures? Updates?
A Post Adoption Contract Agreement (PACA) can clearly define your relationship and expectations. Work with your attorney to craft the language. It’s a good idea to have one, even if you have a great relationship with the birth family.
Building a community.
Your parenting experience is different from your friends with biological children. Finding a group (or groups) of adoptive parents like yourself who can relate to what you’re going through can be super beneficial, to both you and your child. PairTree’s engaged community and support groups provide a place to share, vent, get answers and get kudos during your adoption journey and beyond.
Adoption camps or playgroups are another good way to connect with families who share your experience. You can search for camps that fit your unique situation, for example, if you’re a single parent, LBGTQ, or have a child with special needs.
And don’t underestimate the power of a good therapist. Find a professional with experience in helping adoptive parents and adoptees, if possible. Your home study provider or social worker can be a good resource.
Never stop learning.
There’s always more to learn about the adoption experience. Read books, seek out speakers, join groups, advocate in your community and school. The more you know, the better parent you can be.
This is particularly important in transracial adoptions. If you’re a parent of a child whose race or culture is different from your own, it’s essential to provide a safe, validating environment in which your child can cultivate and express their unique identity.
Diversify your home and community, doing things like reading bedtime stories featuring characters of your child’s race or culture, and forming meaningful, important relationships with people of color. Incorporate your child’s racial or cultural identity into your everyday life to build connection, empathy and your child’s self-worth and confidence.
Parenting a child with prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs has its own unique challenges. Alcohol and drugs can cause brain damage in a developing fetus, creating issues with executive functioning, sequencing tasks and understanding cause and effect. Establish routines early, to help your child navigate their day. Be consistent. And adopt a learning mindset so you can scaffold them through struggles and challenges.
Here are some of the logistical-focused considerations.
Post-placement home visits.
Your home study provider will do additional home visits once you’ve brought your child home. These visits start 2 – 4 weeks after placement. The number of visits required is determined by your state.
Although the purpose of these visits is to see how you and your child are adjusting to your new life together, don’t worry about being the “perfect parent” or being judged. These visits are like your initial home study visits–opportunities for you to both share your excitement and get advice from a professional who wants your adoption to succeed.
Documents and services.
Your child is now legally yours to love, cherish and care for (congratulations!). Make sure you have the services and legal documents in place to provide everything they need.
Add your child to your health insurance plan and ensure coverage begins once you become the legal parent(s). Your social worker or the PairTree community can help you find pediatricians and other healthcare providers in your area.
An amended birth certificate for your child will be issued once your adoption is finalized. Your attorney will initiate this process. The certificate will have your name (and your partner’s, if applicable) instead of the biological parents’ names, and include your child’s new name, if their name is being changed. You’ll need this amended birth certificate to confirm your child’s age and identity when required.
If the original birth certificate is available, it’s a good idea to keep it. The original birth certificate lists the place and time of birth, the baby’s length and weight, and the biological parents’ names. Some states seal original birth certificates once a child is adopted and may not allow access unless deemed necessary. You can forgo this sometimes lengthy process if you already have the certificate in hand.
Once you have the amended birth certificate, you may want to get your child a Social Security Number (SSN). Although getting a SSN for a newborn is voluntary, it’s necessary if you want to claim your baby as a dependent on your tax return. Your child may also need a SSN if you want to open a savings account in their name or obtain certain government services.
Your adoption journey may be over, but the adventure is just beginning. There’ll be highs and lows, thrills and challenges. And we’ll be here to support you for as long as you need us.