Many childless couples in our state turn to adoption to start a family. Adoptions entail many risks for both the adoptive parents and the child, but the process has brought enduring happiness to many people. Before embarking on the road to an adoption, a couple should understand the details of this family law process and the potential for both happiness and intense disappointment.

For couples who are taking their first steps toward an adoption, the adoption process begins with a one- or two-hour orientation that provides an opportunity for the prospective parents to talk with parents who have already successfully adopted a child. These parents will provide an overview of the process. Adoption counselors also participate in the orientation.

Adoption preparation courses are mandatory for any couple considering adoption. The courses provide an opportunity for prospective adoptive parents to assess themselves and their existing family as a home for the adopted child.

After completing the orientation and preparation courses, the adopting couple must permit a home study. The home study is designed to ensure that the adoptive parents can provide a safe and secure home for the adopted child. The study includes a visit by a trained adoption specialist and the submission of references by employers, community organizations and school officials (if the couple has children school).

The information gathered during the home study is submitted to an adoption counselor for review and approval. If the home study is approved, the parents enter the last phase of the process.

If a match is found, the child and the adopting parents will exchange as much information as possible. The parents will usually provide photographs and other information about the home environment. The child will have a short initial visit with the parents, and subsequent and longer visits will follow. After the child and the family appear to have become comfortable with each other, the child will begin to live in the new home. An adoption supervisor will make regular visits to the home to ensure that the placement of the child is working satisfactorily.

After about six months, the adoption counselor will either approve the adoption or recommend rejection. If the adoption is approved, the attorney for the adopting parents will arrange a court hearing to formalize the adoption.