As part of our new "Ask an Expert" series on Instagram, our community of dads and dads-to-be sent us their questions on adoption in the United States. Molly Rampe Thomas, founder of Choice Network, answered them.
Will I face discrimination as a gay man if I want to adopt?
The fact that you have to ask this question in 2019, is so incredibly infuriating, but it's a good one. Doing your research is important. I actually did a blog post on this for Gays with Kids. Also, the Human Rights Campaign has a list of approved agencies, so I think that it always a legit place to start.
In the end, discrimination is still real as you know, but finding a team of people who care about you matters – and that is possible!
What is more costly: adoption or surrogacy?
Good question. The national average for domestic infant adoption is $43,000. My families pay anywhere from $30,000-$45,000. I am not an expert on surrogacy but have heard the average cost can be anywhere from $90,000-$130,000 (editor's note: check out our surrogacy guide). I think the difference more is that with adoption, as long as you can handle the ups and downs, you will end up with a child. Surrogacy success rates are much lower (though there are benefits – #not trying to be a hater). Also, adopting through the foster care system is almost always close to free. I encourage families to at least open their heart to research that option too (I would hate myself if I did not add that!).
What is the best place to begin? We're talking about it but haven't started.
I believe the best place to begin is by talking to other gay families who have adopted. Find a community of people who you trust to be there from beginning to end. Gays with Kids is an awesome place to start, and if you want a more personal introduction to other families, I am happy to connect you. Secondly, go to organizations you trust for referrals. Here locally, every LGBTQ serving organization sends families my way. Also nationally, as I have already stated, HRC has a list of approved agencies. Then from there, check out any referrals made and solidify your decision when you see they are screaming inclusivity.
How much is adoption?
The price can vary, but the national average for families wanting to adopt an infant is $43,000. With my agency, it is $30,000-$45,000. There are grants and funding opportunities available as well as tax credits. And, as I always make sure to mention, adopting through the foster care system is free.
What is the process like for adopting a baby?
With most agencies you start with an initial meeting. After that you are able to begin the homestudy process. The homestudy usually consists of a set of documents, trainings, and interviews. The documents needed can include things like background checks, reference letters, medical statements, financial docs, home inspections, etc. Once the homestudy is complete, you build your profile (we do ours online, because I think printed anything is old school). After the profile goes live, you begin the "wait" which can take anywhere from a day to 2+ years. After a pregnant person chooses you, the wait is over and you are considered matched. After you are matched, you create a plan for placement that includes a legal plan, hospital / birthing plan, and openness plan to prepare for the baby being born. Once the baby is born, there is normally a waiting time (anywhere from 24 hours to 3 days or more) until official placement can happen (though the baby almost always goes home with you from the hospital). After official placement happens, you enter the time where post placement supervision occurs. This includes visits from your agency to make sure the placement is going well (which it will be). Once the post placement period is over, finalization happens and the adoption is complete. I am realizing this could be a full blog post! Homestudy, wait, match, placement, post placement and finalization – are the normal steps to getting your babe.
How do we get the process started? It feels overwhelming
Start by talking with other gay families who have adopted. Have real conversations about the super low and super high moments. From there, use them and other organizations you trust to recommend adoption agencies. Each agency is a little different, so each process is a little different. But researching well is important and then from there just knowing - with all of your heart - that you have chosen the right people to lead you matters. If they are good, they will instantly ease your worries and make the process feel less overwhelming.
What are the costs related to an adoption?
Costs include agency and attorney fees as well as legal, medical, and living expense fees for the pregnant person. All of these fees can vary. For example, you may pay no medical expenses if your match has state insurance or you may have to pay co-pays. You also could pay no living expenses (depending on their need and what the state allows) or could pay a high amount of living expenses.
Where do you start? What are the first steps?
I think it is an awesome first step to start here! A community of people you trust to ask questions. Next, choose an inclusive agency. You can do that by recommendations from your community or through HRC or just be researching on your own and finding one that feels right for you. After that, you meet with the agency and begin your process. Here is a link to the process for our families, just so you can get an idea of what it might look like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qD4cKl_xqk8&feature=youtu.be
Can non-citizen residents adopt in the US?
Yes, it is possible for non-U.S citizens to adopt. In most cases, it is still done under domestic state adoption laws. Thanks for asking this!
Is the process still pretty hard to get "approved"? And does it still take years?
I would say no. Foster care and international adoption is harder to get approved than domestic infant adoption. With my agency, we move as fast as our families do. I think this is a great question for the agency you choose though too.
What is done / available to make adoption more affordable for middle class families?
Loans, grants and fundraising are avenues many families use. The adoption tax credit has been a life saver for so many as well. Again, adopting through the foster care system is almost always free. So I encourage families to start their research there first. You may rule it out quickly, but you might be surprised and happy you even considered it!
What is the most common issue that comes up during a homestudy?
The dreaded homestudy – actually in the end, isn't normally as dreadful as expected. For me, I sometimes have issues with families getting documents in. There are very few reasons people would fail the home study though. If someone has been convicted of felony child abuse or neglect, drugs or alcohol abuse, or domestic violence – they would most likely not be able to adopt.
Are there strict income requirements with adoption?
Specific agencies may have income requirements, which would be something you could ask as you are interviewing agencies, but I would say generally there are no income requirements.
Is it generally required to have a couple adoption (vs a single dad)?
Heck no! The pregnant people we serve love our single dads. I don't know the rates nationally, but for us – single dads are placed at the same rate as couples.