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My Turn: Embrace the Adoption Journey

Sheri A. and Brian Mullikin with their children (from left to right) Connor, Ben, Elia, Seth and Luke | Photo: William Brethauer/Mask Productions

Are you contemplating adopting, but have no idea where to start? You’re not alone. In 2007, I was a litigator in a large law firm and knew nothing about adoption. My husband and I wanted another child, but I couldn’t fathom the possibility of more fertility treatments, so we decided to pursue adoption to expand our family. Today, my adoption experience has helped me successfully guide hundreds of families through the adoption process.

International adoptions tend to be a more straightforward process. Start with choosing the country you want to adopt from. You can quickly narrow down your options by examining each country’s restrictions on the age, health, financial and marital status of adopting parents, as well as travel requirements, wait times and the likely age and health of the child.

Choose an adoption agency that works with that country. After tons of paperwork and a completed home study, you will be matched with a child. Unlike children adopted from the United States, you may not receive much family, social or medical history, if any. Review the information you do receive carefully and consider consulting with a physician if you have concerns.

Keep in mind that even after you arrive home with your forever child, the adoption may not be considered final in the United States. If so, you must retain an attorney here to refinalize it for you to secure your child’s citizenship.

But even if it is final, I strongly recommend that you readopt your child to provide an additional layer of protection should the foreign country later invalidate the adoption due to a change in laws or corruption. Readoption will also provide you with a U.S. adoption decree which can be easily replaced if lost or destroyed, and which will be more readily accepted as proof of adoption rather than a translation of a foreign decree.

Domestic infant adoptions of U.S. children can be done through an adoption agency or privately with the assistance of attorneys. If you choose to work with an agency, the agency will do most of the work for you except you may need to retain an attorney to finalize the adoption. Consider, however, consulting an attorney before signing the agency’s contract or an agreement with the child’s biological parents to maintain contact after the adoption is finalized.

Private adoptions will require you to take a more active role, but in the end, it can save you money. Locating an expectant mom considering an adoption plan will be your responsibility, but your attorney can provide guidance. Don’t be shy. Tell everyone you know that you want to adopt and enlist help to get the word out. That is exactly how we connected with our son’s birth parents here in Maryland.

Use social media and the internet. Join some private adoption groups on Facebook to learn strategies that worked for others. Be prepared to have direct contact with your adopted child’s parents both before and after the adoption. I know that may sound scary. It was to me, but I assure you that in most cases, it will be a wonderful experience for both you and your child.

Whether you pursue an international or domestic adoption, selecting your adoption professional will be one of the most important decisions you will make. Be sure to choose a licensed agency or attorney with a solid track record of adoptive placements completed in a timely and ethical manner. Connect with other adoptive parents via social media or otherwise to get their insight and recommendations. Wherever your adoption journey leads, a competent adoption professional will guide you through it and hopefully to your forever child. T

Sheri A. Mullikin is an adoptive mother and Maryland adoption and estate planning lawyer who has practiced law in Maryland since 1999. While her offices are based in Mount Airy, she provides adoption services to clients in Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery and Washington counties and throughout the state of Maryland.