Getting Background Information Before Adopting a Child

In any type of adoption (agency or independent, domestic or intercountry) involving children of any age, it's important to obtain as much thorough and accurate medical, genetic, and social history information as you can about your prospective child. While adoption always involves a certain level of risk, getting background information before adopting a child can help ease concerns and prevent problems before they occur.

This article covers the reasons why it makes sense to research prospective adoptive children and the general steps for how to do so.

Why You Should Get Background Information Before Adopting

Adoption is forever. Just like conceiving and raising a child of your own, adoption creates a familial relationship that transcends generations; so it makes sense to do everything possible to be fully prepared. These are the main reasons why you should get background information on a prospective child before finalizing an adoption.

It enables you to make an informed decision about accepting a child. When you have complete and accurate knowledge of a child's needs (medical or emotional) prior to placement, you'll be better able to determine whether your family is prepared to care for this child. You're also able to consider whether you have the emotional and financial resources to meet any special needs that may be identified for the child.

It may enable you to access federal or state adoption subsidies available for children with special needs. Adoption subsidies (sometimes called adoption assistance) are available for some children with special needs. Not all children will qualify for adoption subsidies; but getting monthly financial assistance can help pay for medical costs or other ongoing expenses related to a child's special needs.

It provides an opportunity for your child to develop an accurate sense of their own history. Without accurate information, adopted children may develop unrealistic fantasies about their history or may blame themselves for the separation from their birth families. They may feel disconnected from their past or like a piece of themselves is missing and incomplete, particularly if their ethnicity or cultural background is different from that of their adoptive family's. As they grow older, they'll want information critical to their own childbearing decisions.

It provides an opportunity for early diagnosis, treatment, and intervention for developmental problems and conditions. Getting background information before you adopt may help you diagnose and treat any serious or otherwise undiscovered medical conditions more quickly. Knowing whether a child has been tested for a specific disease or condition, and the results of such tests, avoids duplicative testing.

Waiting Children: How to Find Background Information Before Adopting

The type of adoption you're seeking ultimately will determine how you go about getting background information about a particular child. If it's an independent adoption, for instance, you're largely on your own; however, you'll also be able to interact with the birth parents more directly.

If you're working with an agency, you should ask about the types of children they usually place with adoptive families, the ages of children who generally are available for adoption, and the general backgrounds of the children. Keep in mind that each child is an individual with their own potential problems, as well as his or her own strengths, abilities, talents, and charms. Agencies will often share more specific information about each child after your family has completed a home study and expresses an interest in adopting that particular child.

National online adoption directories and photolistings can provide pictures and general descriptions of children around the country who are waiting for families. Because the descriptions in photolistings are so brief, it's important to understand what might be meant by certain phrases. For example, a description such as "very active, impulsive, needs a lot of attention and acts out" may suggest a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Be alert to any phrases that would indicate what it might be like to live with this particular child. After your home study is completed, talking with the child's caseworker and others who know the child, such as a child's former foster parents or teachers, will give you a more complete sense of a particular child.

Need Help Getting Background Information Before Adopting? Call an Attorney

If you're adopting a child, you likely have plenty of tasks ahead of you, such as gathering the appropriate paperwork, working out your finances, selecting an agency, and setting up the home study process. But don't forget the important step of conducting research on your prospective adoptive child. If you need help, consider speaking with a local adoption law attorney first.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified attorney specializing in adoptions.

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