When Denise Buzy-Pucheu and her husband, Cary Correia,
contemplated adopting a child, they were adamant about researching the options
and ultimately decided upon an international adoption. Ten years later, the
Connecticut-based couple has expanded the family to five with 10-year-olds
Ethan and Isabella, adopted from Kazakhstan, and 8-year-old Aeryn Elisabeth,
adopted from China.
“I would say, first and foremost to the newcomer to adoption,
to get all the information you can read,” Buzy-Pucheu says.
If you are considering adoption, it’s important to know what it entails. You
should know how to find an agency, what national and international options there
are and detailed information about the child you hope to welcome into your family.
Public and Private Adoption Options
Both private and public adoption options are available in
the United States. Private adoptions involve working with an adoption agency or
an attorney for a domestic or international adoption, while public adoptions
require working with government agencies and foster care programs.
To find the best option for your family, take the initiative to learn about
procedures and deadlines, says Anthony Rodriguez of the Dave Thomas Foundation
for Adoption in Columbus, Ohio.
“Parents can get information about adopting privately or from foster care
through their county child services agency,” he says. “They will usually have
some sort of regularly scheduled meeting about what’s involved in the process.”
Seeking support from parents who previously adopted children is also helpful
for prospective parents. “It’s also possible that there could be local support
groups around that can share firsthand experiences in all types of adoption, so
searching to see if there are any is a good place to look for information as
well,” Rodriguez says.
As you begin determining your options, Rodriguez recommends contacting your
state’s adoption program for a list of licensed adoption agencies, both public
Evaluate them and make a list of questions about the ages and backgrounds of
the children the agency places, the type of training involved for parents, the
criteria used to match children with families, the average waiting period for a
child, total adoption costs and the specifics of the home study, the process by
which the agency evaluates and educates the prospective adoptive family.
“Prospective adoptive parents need to become very educated
around the needs of the child they are seeking to adopt.” –Lena Wilson,
director at Lutheran Social Services of Michigan
The cost of adoption varies based on the agency and the type of adoption your
family chooses. According to the Thomas Foundation, foster care adoption
through a public agency ranges from nothing to $2,500, while private agency
adoption costs from $5,000 to $40,000. An independent adoption, coordinated
solely between an attorney and the birth parents, can cost $8,000 to $40,000,
and an international adoption can be from $7,000 to $30,000.
The prices for adoptions can vary significantly based on the country the child
is adopted from (international), the difference in fees for agency/birth parent
pay/fees, and medical care associated with private agencies (independent
adoption). There are also differences in state fees, foster care facility fees,
medical care and home study fees for public adoptions.
States often offer medical and social services assistance
that include free medical care, counseling and meal assistance for adoptive
parents. Loans and state and federal grants also can reduce costs. Ask if your
employer offers financial assistance or other benefits. Members of the military
might qualify for grants, loans and financial reimbursement for some adoption
fees. Finally, ask your local child welfare office about programs designed to reduce
the costs of adoption.
Foster Care Adoption
Many couples choose public adoption, which involves working
directly with children in foster care programs. The state or county government
agency has legal custody of these children and is responsible for placing them
in adoptive homes.
When a foster child is adopted, that child moves permanently from one family to
another. “In the process, all parental rights are legally transferred to the
new parents,” Rodriguez says. “This means adoptive parents have the same rights
and responsibilities as parents whose children were born to them, and adopted
children have all the emotional, social, legal and familial benefits of
Adopting from the foster care system is far less expensive than many other
options, says Lena Wilson, director at Lutheran Social Services of Michigan.
“There are no fees associated with the home study, and some of the court fees
required to file the adoption can be waived or paid through reimbursement,” she
says. “State ward adoptees are often eligible to receive Medicaid, and adoptive
families can receive adoption subsidy for an eligible child.”
Many children waiting to be adopted in foster care are school-age children or
sibling groups. “It’s a great way to start a family,” Wilson says. “But
prospective adoptive parents need to become very educated around the needs of
the child they are seeking to adopt and may want to get special training.”
These children need a strong support system, Wilson says. “Children adopted out
of the foster care system have oftentimes suffered numerous losses and don’t
want to be hurt again. They tend to blame themselves for being in foster care
and need a very patient and supportive family.”
Persistence is an important quality to have while going through the public
adoption process, Rodriguez says. “Adoption from foster care may not always be
the easiest process, as some parents can attest to, but it also is rewarding—the
parents agree that the children they were able to adopt from foster care have
changed their lives forever.”
The adoption process prompts prospective parents to think not only about the child they seek but also about their ability to care for an expanding family. Home study helps prospective parents think through the adoption process and examine their qualifications, says Anthony Rodriguez of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in Columbus, Ohio.
“A home study is an in-depth application and interview process with a social worker that involves in-person interviews, reference checks, background checks and home visits,” he says. “The study is not standardized and may vary from state to state and agency to agency.”
The average home study usually takes three to six months to complete.
Many adopting couples choose to venture overseas to expand
their family. When the Correia family began the international adoption journey,
they signed up for Internet boards on international adoption to find reviews of
adoption agencies and the different processes for adopting abroad.
“My advice is to research countries, research care and any orphanages or groups
that offer more support to the child,” says Buzy-Pucheu, who adopted Ethan and
Isabella at 9 months and 6 months, respectively, and Aeryn at 3 years.
The Correias worked closely with a nearby agency. Buzy-Pucheu says she
preferred face-to-face meetings with a local agency to understand the timeline
of the adoption process. With international adoption, one minute the process
seems to speed up while in the next minute you could be on hold for a year or
more, she says.
While they waited, they began to get their finances in order. “Look into grants
and corporate programs, fundraise and make sure you have crisp, clean cash to
take overseas,” she recommended. Using cash reduces delays in the adoption
process. Buzy-Pucheu also recommends that new parents take advantage of any tax
credits for adoption to minimize financial issues.
Keep in mind that there may be more to know and find out about possible adopted
children. “Your child may have issues beyond what was on the medical papers,”
Buzy-Pucheu says. “Institutionalized children are not in the same position as
children who have one or two prime caregivers.”
The Correia family’s first child received treatment for strabismus, commonly
known as crossed eyes, when she arrived home. Their son was diagnosed with
reactive attachment disorder, a condition arising from a lack of early
attachments to caregivers, resulting from his stay at an orphanage; their third
child, from China, has a leg length difference, a medical condition the family
was aware of before the adoption.
“We adopted one special needs child and in actuality, all three of our children
had special needs when they came home,” Buzy-Pucheu says.