The agency works as an advocate for both the adoptive family and birth parent wanting to choose placement for their child. The agency counsels both the birth parents and adoptive parents before the actual adoption takes place. Most agencies have some sort of training and also an application process.
The cost for using an agency in Oklahoma can be anywhere from $3,500-$25,000. Usually this amount is paid over the course of the adoption with a large amount paid after placement. They are so smart waiting until you have your sweet something in your arms to then ask for the big bucks! And can I tell you, IT'S SO WORTH IT! I have never been more excited to write such a big check...but you've got your bundle of love in your arms and you've experienced one of God's most amazing miracles of adoption! Well talk more about cost later...
The hardest part to starting this process is to choose your agency. A good place to start is the website for the Oklahoma Adoption Coalition linked on the right of our blog. They have a list of placing agencies. I would encourage you to ask around and talk to friends who have adopted that could give you advice. When you are looking online, you can generally tell if the agency has the same agenda as you. Are they a Christian agency or do they share the same beliefs? What do they offer birth parents as far as counseling and support? Is the counseling free? If so, for how long? I got frustrated because one agency said they do offer counseling but it was half price for the birth parent. Another agency said they offer free counseling, but when I asked for how long it was only until 2 months after placement. What? This is something that birth mothers will deal with off and on for years...2 months is an insult (but I guess it's better than half price?)! Make sure that your agency has a good handle on respect of birth parents and that there is no coercing going on to place the child. The agency should never bring up adoption unless the parent is seeking placement or information on placement.
When you are researching agencies think about your new child and family. What are you going to need as far as support in 5-10 years. Does this agency provide any kind of post-adoption care for the family and child? Do they have get togethers, seminars, support groups, classes, camps?
It's so easy when starting this process to focus on placement and feeling the need for it to happen as quickly, care free and cheap as possible... Remember there is a reason that adoption costs money, the agency does a lot of terribly hard work and they need to be paid just like any other hard working individual. The cost in adoption falls on those that can pay and that have resources...the adoptive family. So if you need to think about it this way, keep your focus that you are helping your child's birth parent survive this. This is the most painful thing that a person will go through in their life, choosing placement for their child. It takes a lot of support to survive it.
There can be grants available for funding if that is a problem. Some agencies have those grants available for "hard to place" babies (African American, exposures to drugs, alcohol, etc). Some agencies allow for donations to be made for a specific adopting couple that are tax deductible. Check with your church. Several churches are starting adoption ministries that will help grant money to pay for adoptions. Most any couple you talk to about how they afford adoption will tell you that God made it happen. There are miracles left and right about how God works it out! Take a leap of faith!
Generally speaking, domestic adoption in Oklahoma can be rather quick. Wait time from "ready" to placement can be two weeks to two years. This usually depends on what specifics you have placed on the child you are open to (race, exposures, open/closed adoption, etc.). Most agencies allow for the birth parent to pick the adoptive family. There usually is no "match" like in international adoption.
Most agencies encourage some degree of open adoption. This could be anything from pictures and updates twice a year to visits, phone calls, emails on a monthly basis. Most of the time agencies still encourage some confidentiality, so there aren't visits at homes or baby sitting and such. People always ask me that, so that is why I addressed what "open" can mean! Having an open adoption is not legally binding. The adoption is still complete/final, but there is a written agreement of contact between the birth parent and adoptive parent. Most of the time this agreement fluctuates as the relationship grows and changes. The adoptive parent and the birth parent can choose what they want their adoption to look like as far as openness. I will have to devote a whole post to open adoption...I could go on and on here!
After a child is placed in your home, the birth parent sets a court date to relinquish rights. After this is complete the child is really in legal custody of the agency and the family is more like foster care. For the next 6 months you have home studies, interviews and check ups to make sure the child is safe and thriving in the new family. Once this period has lapsed the agency releases you to legally adopt the child. Now you take your attorney and get a court date set for finalization! The only hard waiting time is from leaving the hospital with your baby to the court date for the birth parents rights. Once this has been completed, you can rest easy praying that you can pass the interviews! Ha!
Hope this has been helpful. Please post any questions or comments so that we can address anything that I have missed!