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INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION involves a baby or young child, but usually not a newborn. Costs are comparable to domestic private adoption, as there tend to be “hidden” expenses, such as travel to and lodging in the foreign country to visit the agency or pick up your child. There is less of a likelihood of losing that invested money this route. Bethany Christian Services (www.bethany.org), the largest adoption agency in the United States, with an office in Winter Garden, cautions families that different countries have different guidelines. (For example, in Colombia, single women are eligible only to adopt a child over the age of 7. China will not adopt to a person over 55. Taiwan will not adopt to single parents. Children from Haiti cannot go to homes that already have children in them. Some regions in Russia prefer children go to homes with an average annual income of at least $60,000.) Agencies dealing with international adoption often have teams of specialists within these countries — specialists who speak the language, know the customs and are familiar with their local adoption practices — to better assist parents with the process.


When children have been removed from their parents’ care, they are placed in the foster care system and become eligible for a STATE ADOPTION. Children in the state adoption program tend to be older. Sometimes that’s because it’s a sibling group that wants to stay together. One major difference between this journey and the private adoption journey: time. While some families may wait years for a baby through private adoption, because there are so many children waiting in the state system, the public adoption process is usually a nine-month process, start to finish. If you choose to adopt a child with special needs, the process may be quicker. Additionally, state adoptions are free. One disturbing myth that remains prevalent about adopting older children is that they “are flawed or in foster care because of something they did,” Mawoussi says. This is absolutely untrue. “When you adopt an older child,” he points out, “that child remembers. And they tend to be more appreciative.”


the adoptionprocess


Patience and paperwork: The former, you’ll need lots of during the process; the latter, you’ll encounter in droves. In a nutshell, adoption on average can take anywhere from one day to three years. But the average is about 18 months from the time of Home Study to placement. Before you begin the process, be sure to gather lots of info. If you’re going to do a private adoption, research agencies to find one in line with your values. Trust is essential, and it’s paramount that your agency is legally sound. Ask questions, lots of questions, and consider meeting with other parents who have successfully adopted through your chosen agency.


The adoption process itself — no matter the type of adoption you choose — all begins with an orientation and an application. Private agencies often hold seminars and orientations designed to educate potential parents about the ins and outs of the process. You’ll meet other families and agency staff, and have the opportunity to voice concerns and ask questions. After orientation, expect more paperwork (like background checks and agreements). Upon approval, you’ll enter into the Home Study process.


Here’s where your heart rate starts to rage, right? While the Home Study may sound intimidating, it’s what ultimately qualifies you to adopt. (Again, stay strong, and remember, perfection is never a requirement.) Mandatory in all Florida adoptions, the Home Study ensures each and every child goes to a stable, loving, supportive home. At this point, parents pursuing domestic adoption usually get the opportunity to create a Birth Parent Letter or Profile. Think of this as a scrapbook addressed to the birth parents of an unborn child. It’s important to tell them all about you, your family and your home. This is your time to shine. And then the waiting begins. After the Home Study, parents pursuing international adoption often will complete additional documents (many specific to the country from which they’re adopting) and will need to attend additional meetings. The parents then wait. Once a referral is received, parents may wait a bit longer, then travel to their new child’s homeland (and stay as required by that country’s adoption laws before bringing their child home).


Because so much waiting can be involved in private adoptions, one Orlando-based agency, A Chosen Child (www.achosenchild.com), advises expectant parents that it’s not a bad idea to keep busy. Consider this waiting to be congruent with being pregnant … without the morning sickness and exhaustion. The months before adopting may be a great time to start a new hobby, finish an old project or take a trip. Consider entering marriage counseling, taking parenting classes or joining a network of adoptive families. And Wolf advises waiting parents of one more thing: “Do not,” she says, “watch Lifetime.” It will scare the heck out of you.


The Klungseths worked with Connecting Hearts Adoption Services in Windermere (www.heartadopt.com). Their journey began in December 2008, and Stuart was born in March 2009. When Dawn and Jeff first went to see Stuart with his birth mother in the hospital, he was fussing. The birth mother picked up Stuart and said, “I know what you want. You want your mom. Here, Mom.” And she handed him to Dawn. Dawn said that was “the most memorable, most awe-inspiring moment that I will have the rest of my life.”


adoptrek www.adoptrek.org


In March 2010, Dawn Klungseth (pictured above) founded AdopTrek. This nonprofit group helps families throughout the entire adoption process through workshops and events. Dawn knows how important it is to have support and education. In many cases, it helps families to not give up hope.


PLAYGROUND Spring 2011


PLAYGROUND Spring 2011


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DAWN AND JEFF KLUNGSETH STUART, AGE 22 MONTHS (private adoption)


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