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A bouncing baby boy or giggling toddler girl can bring love
and life to a household. For childless couples hoping to have a family,
adoption or surrogacy can be their best options. The process of starting a
family this way can be immensely rewarding, but there are also many challenges.
"One of the biggest things prospective parents should consider when seeking
a child through adoption or surrogacy is that it's usually a very, very long
process from start to finish," says Christina Steinorth, a
California-based psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life. "It could be 18 months before you have a
child, but often it's much longer—sometimes two years or more—before you'll be
able to bring your child home with you."
It is best to prepare yourself for a long waiting period, as well as for the
costs that each option entails. Make an honest evaluation of your family's
needs. Once you determine that adoption or surrogacy is indeed the right course
of action for everyone involved, prepare for the life-changing journey to come.
The process can be lengthy and challenging, but Steinworth says it’s ultimately
"worth the wait."
“One of the biggest things prospective parents should
consider when seeking a child through adoption or surrogacy is that it's
usually a very, very long process from start to finish.” –Christina Steinorth,
California-based psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life
The Surrogacy Option
While the ultimate objective for anyone considering adoption
or surrogacy is to bring a child into the family, some parents agree that
surrogacy is the better option for them.
"Some individuals feel very strongly about having a child that is
genetically [a] part of them," says Steinorth. "When this is the case,
surrogacy is a good choice because, when it's possible, either the mother or
father can be genetically linked to the child." Or, in some cases, both.
But a desire for a genetic link isn't the only reason more parents are choosing
surrogacy. The increase in demand can also be attributed to the desire prospective
parents have to monitor the child's prenatal care and medical history, says
Durand Cook, a California-based attorney who specializes in adoption and
"Parents not only want a healthy newborn infant, but [they also] want an
infant that is carried by a woman with an exceptionally clean health history,
who has had prenatal care from day one, with no substance abuse herself or in
her family,” Cook says. “And of course, with no mental health challenges,"
The beginning steps in pursuing the surrogacy option are threefold. The first
step is to hire an agency to assist in locating, screening and working with an
appropriate surrogate mother. The second step involves getting the surrogate
mother cleared medically and psychologically, while simultaneously establishing
a legal contract, Cook says. The final step involves transferring embryos to
the surrogate's uterus and confirming the pregnancy.
One factor to consider regarding surrogacy is the cost. "The cost of
surrogacy arrangements vary greatly, depending on the component parts needed
and the amount of time and medical attention needed to achieve a
pregnancy," Cook says, estimating that the costs for surrogacy range from
$40,000 to $140,000.
Private or Public Adoption
For those parents who simply yearn for a child—genetically
related or not—private or public adoption can be both a compassionate and
enriching experience. In fact, many parents choose adoption precisely so that
they might provide a better family life not only for themselves, but also for
the adopted child whose need, after all, is apparent.
But as with surrogacy, researching the different possibilities and evaluating
the best fit for your family are both good places to begin.
"Parents need to fully research their options and their beliefs about key
issues before they start the process," Steinorth says. "The more
fully prepared they are and the better educated they are about the different
types of adoptions available to them, the better they'll be able to make the
choice that works for them."
Both public and private adoptions have their own processes. A public adoption
involves working with a state or county government agency to acquire legal
custody of a child in foster care, while a private adoption will have a
licensed, private agency working with you to facilitate a domestic or
Depending on the agency, parents seeking adoption may need to work with a
social worker to complete background checks and a home-study; that is, an
assessment of your home's quality and safety in regard to a child. In many
cases, you may also be required to attend an adoption preparation class.
Something else to think about is the idea of open adoption. Many times, in both
public and private adoptions, parents can choose to stay in contact with the
biological parents or provide updates about the adopted child, says Steinorth. It
is a good idea to meet with an attorney who can draw up a contract that all
parties can agree on.
In many cases, the costs of both public and private adoptions are considerably
lower than those of surrogacy. While private adoption costs range between
$10,000 and $35,000, couples interested in public or foster care adoption may
experience lower fees, ranging from nothing to $2,500, according to Anthony
Rodriguez, communications manager at the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption,
based in Columbus, Ohio.
You can also apply for federal grants, loans, employee benefits and military
reimbursements to cut some or all of the costs associated with adoption.
One of the biggest issues facing parents in both adoption
and surrogacy is the possibility of the process falling through and leaving
them without the child they had hoped for, Steinorth says. "This could be
emotionally devastating, because after months—and sometimes years—of hoping,
trying and in many cases spending quite a hefty sum of money, parents may not
end up with a child after all."
Steinorth recommends regular family discussions to ensure everyone feels
supported and that you remember to take those important "me" moments
to refresh your mind and body. Support and personal breaks are important
because the uncertainty and waiting can take a toll on prospective parents.
Communication is also essential when it comes to important decisions, like how
parents plan to address the topic of surrogacy or adoption with their child.
This is something that needs to be determined ahead of time, Steinorth says.
When a child doesn't look like his parents, eventually the question of why is
likely to arise. It's best, therefore, for the parents to have already talked
about this and reached an agreement on how to answer.
Parents who are adopting a child from another country should also discuss the
possibility of culture clash. A child taken from one culture and dropped into a
new one can be overwhelmed and confused. He may find it difficult to adjust at
first and want to bring in aspects of his own culture for comfort.
"Adoptive parents should explore their own feelings about how they want to
handle this type of circumstance when and if it arises," Steinorth says.
In the end, your best approach to the process of adoption or surrogacy is to
enter into it with an open mind and a realistic attitude, thoroughly weighing
all aspects of each option.
One Quick Note on Foreign Adoption
When choosing to adopt internationally, it's crucial to work
with a reputable agency and investigate the requirements, says Steinorth.
China, for example, restricts obese parents from adopting a
child from its country, while Ukraine has age limits on parents wishing to
adopt, disallowing those who are 48 and up, Steinorth says.
Prepare for the home-study to slow the process a little as well. Most foreign
adoptions require that prospective parents provide evaluations from personal
references, undergo a background check and an inspection of their home, and
meet with a licensed mental health professional who will interview them about
their parenting styles and attitudes.
"Every country is different," Steinorth says, "so it's important
to do your homework up front and learn what will work for you."