5 Practical Adoption To-Dos You Might Not Know About
June 28, 2021
You’ve got the dream, you’ve started the research, you’ve tackled the tough conversations and, right now, you are feeling so ready to adopt. But before you can skip ahead to the joyous moment when you welcome your new child into your family (🥰), take a quick pause and review some of the important tasks you’ll need to tackle first. We’re not talking about the starry-eyed to-dos, like setting up the perfect bedroom or stocking up on toys and clothes (though, so fun!). Instead, we mean the crucial, practical and oh-I-forgot-about-that items that all adoptive parents need to check off their list to make the whole process successful. Below, we share five things that may not be on your radar, but should be.
Maternity leave, parental leave, family leave: They’re not one in the same, so it’s important to get your head around what your workplace offers ahead of time. “Ideally, you should have this conversation with your employer before you’ve completed your agency application and before your profile is presented to birth parents,” says Nicole Witt, the executive director of The Adoption Consultancy, a Florida-based consulting group. (For those hoping to adopt through foster care, have this chat before your home study is approved.) If you’ve been at your job for a minimum of a year, have clocked at least 1,250 hours, and you’ve got 50 or more coworkers within 75 miles, then the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees that you can take up to 12 weeks of leave for the adoption of a child. And you can kick-start FMLA before the actual adoption for things like court appearances or travel. The snag? It’s all unpaid. “That said, many companies are now offering paid parental leave for both parents, whether you’re welcoming a baby through birth, adoption or surrogacy,” Witt says. In fact, about 40 percent of US companies are currently on board with this practice.
Most adoption agencies require you to get life insurance, but even if it’s not mandatory through your agency, know that getting coverage is the right thing to do. “After all, you want to make sure you’ll be able to financially provide for your child if something were to happen to you or your partner,” Witt says. That means working parents and stay-at-home parents should get coverage. Yes, it’s important to be able to replace the household income, but it’s also crucial to consider that stay-at-homers provide a great deal of support for their families. If you had to hire someone to take on those responsibilities the costs would add up quickly. It might seem overwhelming to choose between the many types of life insurance and zero in on the proper amount of coverage, but it doesn’t have to be. Start with the State Farm Calculate My Life tool to determine how much coverage might be right for you. (Don’t let finances deter you: Life insurance can be more affordable than you think.) Already have life insurance? Great! Be sure to review your coverage and update your beneficiary designation once your new family member arrives.
“It’s okay to hold off securing a pediatrician until after you’ve matched, but since some adoptions can happen last minute, it’s not a bad idea to put out feelers beforehand,” says Witt, who strongly recommends finding someone who’s familiar with adoption. “You want a doctor who knows the right language to use and who treats your specific scenario respectfully,” she says. For instance, if the doctor uses terms like “real parents” or “given up for adoption,” instead of “birth parents” and “placed for adoption,” they’re likely not a good fit. “Also, depending on your situation, you might want a physician who’s comfortable with children with limited medical information or specific needs related to their adoption history,” Witt says. For help finding a doctor, ask folks at your adoption agency for referrals or use the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) find-a-pediatrician search tool, where you can narrow by specialty, like adoption and foster care. Know that your adopted child (no matter their age) must have a comprehensive medical evaluation soon after placement, according to the AAP. (A dental visit is also a must for all children 12 months or older, as well as younger kids with evidence of cavities.) Through it all, don’t forget to add your adopted child to your health insurance. “If your insurance company tells you, ‘we’ll start covering the child once you have legal responsibility for the child,’ don’t worry,” says Witt. “You simply add the child within 30 days of gaining custody and insurance will be retroactive.”
This is important for all new families, but it’s a requirement for adoption. “During the adoption process, agencies will insist that you have a legal guardian or guardians declared in your home study report,” Witt says. In short, you’ll need to clearly state who you want to care for your child—and how—in the event of your death. And while, legally, you don’t need your guardian’s permission to include them in your paperwork, you should probably ask them first. (It’s not a surprise most people want.) At the same time, draw up a will that echoes your wishes. Even if you’re not far along in the process, you can simply use language that ensures all future children would be included in your guardianship designation. “Soon after the adoption is complete, it’s a good idea to revisit your paperwork,” says Witt. “You may have an agreement with the birth parents about things like frequency of contact that you’ll want to include so your guardian can honor that.”
“Going through the adoption process is so overwhelming and sometimes you feel like you’re the only one who has experienced this,” says Witt. “But in truth, lots of people have. Finding them will help not only with emotional support, but also practical support.” (Think: playground meetups, pediatrician suggestions, classes and more.) Ask your adoption agency for help connecting with other local families and tap into The North American Council on Adoptable Children database of adoption-related groups. You can search by state or by the type of group you’re looking for, like pre-adoption support or fellow Latinx or LGBTQ+ adopters.