The Adoption Process: Start Sooner Rather Than Later

A friend of ours, who adopted using the same agency we used, told me if I wanted to adopt again, start as soon as possible. When I reached out to the agency, the social worker said the wait time for an infant adoption was 5 years. Back when we started on the adoption process, we were told it would take about 3 years. I’m not sure if the difference is because we’re trying for a second kid or because there more parents are waiting.
In our experience, part of the need to start early was all the prep work. We were working with an agency, so your experience may vary. We had to go through several background checks and get our house ready for the home study. When I look back at the long checklist, some things weren’t a big deal but they all added up time-wise.

We’re good people, really.

During the adoption process, we had background checks—plural. In addition to FBI fingerprints, we also had to have a background check with the DMV to show that we had clean driving records. It was funny in my case because I don’t drive. I haven’t driven regularly since the 1990s. Then there was the local background check with MPD. Why this had to be done in addition to the FBI check, who knows? Each of these checks required showing up in person, during the workday.
In addition to these background checks, we also needed a letter of recommendation and personal references. I think this was more for the agency than any legal requirement. The letter meant waiting for the person recommending us and saying how we’d be wonderful parents to write and send the letter. There is also the time to spend gently nudging the person to get to the letter writing, especially if they are a “busy” person.
And then there were more kinds of checks. The financial background check proved that we could support a child. We had physicals to prove our health. I need to point out that disability is not a barrier to adoption in the US. And then there was some other information gathering. In of themselves, they weren’t time-consuming at all. But in total, they all added time to the checklist for the adoption process.

It’s super safe at home.

The other time-consuming effort was to pass the home inspection and take the first aid/CPR classes for certification. So in addition to proving we aren’t horrible people, with the background checks, we had to prove that our child would be coming to a safe environment.
Our home was built in the late 19th century and so it is suspected of having lead. We had renovated the house down to the bricks and joists. No matter, that required a lead inspection. Lead is a horrible substance that hurts children’s brain development. So that was another day to take off work to have the inspector check for lead and point out anything that had peeling paint.
There were some home inspections and requirements that I suspect were DC related. We had to have the local fire department check the house for dangers. And we had to have fire extinguishers on each floor. This was a problem for me because the average fire extinguisher is bright red, and doesn’t look attractive. It took a little time to find white fire extinguishers for the living areas. When we had overnight guests I point them out, so if for some strange reason a fire broke out on the 2nd floor, they would know it was there. We also needed to make sure our security gates could be opened without a key. That just took a locksmith with a welding kit to fix.
The easy part of making the house safe was buying all the baby proofing things. We had a gate, the outlet covers, and a bunch of other things that we didn’t wind up using. But we had to show we had them on hand during the adoption process.

There are always more things to do while waiting during the adoption process.

Once we got all the background checks, the home study, the first aid/CPR classes, and all the other little things we had to do, there were more classes and more things to do. The agency we worked with had waiting families classes which took place over several weeks. I believe they were the equivalent of PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education) classes. We were assigned homework and books to read, so more things to do.
The classes we took were useful and necessary. I would recommend looking for a high-quality program for families if it is not a requirement in the adoption process. One of the things that attracted me to the agency we chose, was care for the birth parents, and that attitude was reflected in our classes. The classes calmed some of our fears and concerns surrounding aspects of adoption.
It took us about 3 years from the time we started the adoption process in 2014 to the time our son was placed with us in late 2017. In the middle of that, we had to take care of my mother-in-law, and we had to ask our social worker to pause our adoption wait. Our son was born in the general DC metro area, so it was a domestic adoption. So we did not have to wait for okays from the State Department and another country. We just had to wait on the state of Maryland to let us bring him into the District. Our son was perfect for us and well worth the wait.