According to the Adoption Network Law Center, 135,000 children are adopted in the United States each year, with 428,000 children in foster care. Additionally, more than 60 percent of children in foster care spend two to five years before being adopted.
But before adopting, Barbara Roman, partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland, and Cara Santosuosso, principal at Laubacher & Co. in Rocky River, said potential parents should consider a few things.
Roman and Santosuosso said it’s important to know the type of adoption it would be.
Roman said adoption types include stepparent adoptions, grandparent adoptions, foster care adoptions, infant adoptions and private placements.
Santosuosso added the opioid epidemic has increased adoptions due to parents who are deceased or incapacitated.
The beginning of the adoption process can be like a “marathon,” Santosuosso noted.
“You have to be ready for the home study process, you need letters of recommendation from people in your life and that is reviewed by the probate court,” she explained. “This is kind of a marathon of self-disclosure of financial and medical statements and home studies. Those are the sorts of things at the beginning that seem a little daunting.”
Lawyers play an important role in the adoption process.
“The agencies that are generally involved do a big share of the work, but it’s important to have a lawyer protecting the best interests of the adoptive parents,” Roman stated. “It’s up to the lawyer to see if the interests of the adoptive parents are being met.”
Santosuosso added, “Our main usefulness is to sort of shepherd folks through the process and make it not so scary. A lot of times, this is people’s first introduction to the courts. Having someone who knows which boxes to check and what documents you need and how you go about amassing those, that is a lot of the job.”
Letting birth parents know what they’re “getting into” is another important part of the adoption process, Santosuosso said.
When starting the adoption process, Roman said self-evaluation is key.
“It’s important to explore the reasons why you would be considering adoptions,” she noted. “It is never too soon to start that evaluation process. Getting to a lawyer will at least help organize the issues and steps that need to be taken before you get knee deep into it. It’s important to make sure you’re getting good advice.”
Santosuosso suggested parents start looking into agencies like the Adoption Network of Cleveland or the Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services.
“There are so many children waiting for homes in the county,” she said. “You have to go to classes and get certified to get on the list of possible adoptive parents. It’s figuring out what lane you’re in and what’s available to you. Or, you can call an attorney and we can point you in the right direction based on your situation.”
For Santosuosso, individuals should always include their attorney in any legal matter.
“If your lawyer doesn’t know about it, we can’t help you,” she stated. “Make sure you’re very thorough and transparent with your lawyer. Once you get rolling, it is not as daunting as you think. A good attorney will get you through it and to the end result you want.”
But according to Roman, the most important part of adopting is making sure it’s a good fit.
“It is a lifetime decision, and if it isn’t a good fit, it can’t be reversed easily,” Roman explained. “This can change the family dynamic. Just know you’re adopting for the right reasons and that the child you’re considering adopting fits well in the family. It can sometimes be a rocky path – so what support systems do you have? You don’t have to be a perfect parent. You just need to be committed.”