Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Time It Takes To "Go Live"

When you are looking into adoption, one of the things that stands out in the process is time intervals. First, the time interval from the time you start with an agency to the time that you are home study approved and "go live," with your profile book out there and hopefully ready to attract some opportunities (or really, that one very special opportunity that will pan out), and second, the time interval from the time you "go live" to the time that you bring your baby home (and there is very little chance that that could be rescinded). 

Because we are finally at the stage where we are considered Waiting Parents, assuming that our Mi.xbook package has arrived in its neat little bundle of hope at our agency's doorstep today, I can share with you our timeline. Everyone's timeline is different. The agency told us that the average it takes people to go from application to waiting is about 3-6 months, but that it can take longer due to unforeseen circumstances or scheduling things beyond your control. Our timeline put us at about 5.5 months, from start to finish. Someone recently asked why it takes so long, when preparing for going live is basically just filling out paperwork. How long can it possibly take to fill out paperwork (I thought the same thing when looking into the process)? The reality is that the process has many, many moving parts and it's very easy for things to take longer than you expected. 

First things first... I always thought that "home study" meant just the visits (as if there can be a "just" in front of a social worker who is basically a stranger coming to evaluate your life and your home...but who is ultimately on your side and there to help you be successful, even if you are skeptical that this is the case). It is so much more than the visits. The home study process is actually everything that happens from the time your application is approved to the time that your social worker submits that favorable report. The books aren't included, but are necessary in order to have potential birth mothers know who you are and what you are all about and why you would make excellent parents to their unborn child. 

NOTE: This is based on my experience with domestic infant adoption, with my particular agency in NY, in the US. Experiences will vary. 

So, for us, we submitted our application (which turned out to be about 22 pages, good practice for the scads of paperwork needed to complete the process) on February 2nd 2015. It was approved on February 3rd, and we were scheduled for our home study consultation meeting on Thursday, February 12th. So, right out of the gate, there was a little bit of waiting to get in with our assigned Family Advocate and go over all the paperwork and requirements. 

At the Consult meeting, we were given our ginormous manual for Adoptive Parent Education, and a stack of paperwork. Some of which we could go over and sign then and there, submitted, easy peasy. Some of which required going to outside agencies (such as the fingerprinting and the collection of birth certificates, marriage certificates, and divorce decrees). And some of which required other people doing a job in a timely manner -- the four recommendation letters (one family, three non-family), the doctor's appointments, the letter from your therapist if you see such a person stating that you are good to go. It was at this meeting that we received our first setback... before they will assign you a social worker, all your paperwork needs to be in, AND you need to have the 12 hours of home study classes completed. I was sure we could get all our paperwork submitted in a jiffy, but we ran into a snag with the classes. 

The March classes were full. Which meant that the next classes available were in mid-April, in Albany (not Buffalo). This was problematic because it meant a longer drive and more time off from work for Friday, the possibility of getting stuck driving in a snowstorm, and doing this at the height of my busy season for school (April generally means IEP meetings out the wazoo). So we signed up for the May classes, in Buffalo. That meant that it would take us a minimum of 3 months to be eligible for our home study visits from the social worker. Otherwise, we probably would have been done sooner, because I cranked through a lot of our paperwork over February break.

Helpful Tip #1: Know that your paperwork will have different expiration dates, something we didn't learn until May when we took our classes. In actuality, anything that can expire (medical form, background checks) will have a date of when it was submitted. Your home study expires in a year and needs to be re-authorized, but even if your home study is still active, if your medical form was submitted, as in my case, in February, it will expire in February and need to be reupped. Because even if your home study is good, if your medical form is outdated it will cause problems for your placement. For background checks, those can take a while to process -- so you don't want to wait too long to start it (plus you have to get all those 28 years of addresses together). However, that also needs to be updated from the date it was submitted, so be wary of those dates. I might not have sped through all of my stuff so much earlier than the classes had I realized that beforehand. 

For us, we weren't actually too upset. Well, I was at first, but the three month lag meant a few things that were positive: 
- We didn't have to rush through the paperwork and stress ourselves out unduly
- We could take a little break to go from one stressful process to another -- until you are waiting, you are kind of sort of on a bit of a break
- We could make our own schedule of incremental progress and not feel resentful of the process or like it was overwhelming, but still get our stuff submitted in a timely manner. 

So, we got everything in by May 14th, when our classes took place. We may have felt a little smug going in with all our paperwork completed, something that was quickly wiped off our faces when we realized that they would give us homework paperwork. Things that we couldn't just fill out in the hotel Friday night and submit Saturday, things that needed to be taken home and ruminated over and then mailed in. 

Which we did, about a week later, long enough to show that we had thought seriously about very difficult decisions and self-awareness worksheets, but short enough not to slow us down too much. 

Because the next step, after our paperwork was in, (which was mailed on May 23), was to wait for it all to be reviewed and then to be assigned a social worker for the final piece other than the profile book. 

From others' experiences and the agency themselves, we knew that it could take up to a month to be assigned a social worker, and then it could take anywhere from 4-6 weeks to more to have the whole process completed and the report in the hands of our agency. So we waited to start our profile book until the home study visits were underway. 

Helpful Tip #2: Maybe start your profile book earlier... because your home study could go faster than you think, and once that home study report is submitted and approved, YOU ARE CONSIDERED HOME STUDY APPROVED AND YOUR CLOCK STARTS TICKING FOR THAT ONE YEAR. We assumed that the home study wouldn't be done until August, giving us the summer to work on the book. We assumed incorrectly. 

The home study visits went WICKED quickly for us. Here is how quickly it went down, remembering that the past paperwork packet was mailed May 23rd: 

June 4th: Receive call that we are assigned our social worker and to expect a call by the end of the following week. 
June 9th (5 measly days later, on a Tuesday): Receive call from our social worker to schedule, which she promptly does for THAT Saturday, Sunday, and the following weekend (you need three visits, which can be combined... one for you alone, one for your spouse/partner alone, and one for you together that incorporates a home tour. Although it all seems very social worker dependent, because some people didn't have to take the social worker on a tour of the home and the visits were slightly different).
June 11th: receive second call from social worker, stating that she can get all the visits done that weekend between Saturday and Sunday, promptly FREAK OUT because we are so not ready and now don't have a weekend to spend cleaning, plus, you know, THE PROFILE BOOK ISN'T EVEN STARTED YET
June 13th: First set of visits, me alone first then Bryce alone
June 14th: Second set of visits, us together and then the home tour

The following weekend we spent working feverishly on the profile book, and you know how that all went... We were super stressed, because we didn't want a lag between the home study report and the profiles being submitted. Which proved inevitable, because after our social worker called with a few questions that she forgot to ask (like day care plans and our guardian plans)...

June 25th: HOME STUDY REPORT APPROVED AND SUBMITTED. She was a powerhouse who completed it in just over 10 days, and then APOLOGIZED for not submitting it sooner. WHOA. 

Helpful Tip #3: You may not get a copy of your report to review before you are considered approved. We haven't seen ours yet, but our clock started ticking on 6/25. I only know this because another friend in the process warned me to be proactive and call, because they don't always let you know that it's in before it's sent out. Which initially was concerning, but in our case the report doesn't get seen by anyone but the agency, ourselves, the social worker, and the state if they get audited (or they have to submit it, I'm actually not totally clear on that one). So if there are small inconsistencies, I am not going to stress about it, because it won't slow our process down. BUT, it was nice to know that our home study approval date had come and gone...

And then, work work work on the book, which retrospectively I wish we had started earlier, but I also know that working on it when we did meant that I was home for the summer and not stressed from school while working on it, which helped IMMENSELY. 

The last few things in our timeline: 

July 13th: Submitted the profile book draft to our Family Advocate for review (they recommend doing this so that any issues are resolved before printing, like visible license plate numbers, including your last name, or the presence of red solo cups or other visuals that may not be appropriate). 
July 14th: Profile book approved to print! Small tweaks suggested for readability of a particular feature. 
July 17th: Tweaks done, checked and triple checked, ORDER BOOKS, five to the agency and one for our own personal enjoyment. 

And that, THAT is how it took five and a half months to go from application submitted to Waiting Parent. I know people who did it in less than 3 months, but the timing of everything has to be pretty amazing for that to take place. I am still reeling from the amazingness of our home study visits and report being done in such a short time period. 

Now, the next time period average was given at 6-9 months from home study approved status to placement. PLACEMENT, not matching. Matches fall through with much more frequency than placements do. And, keeping in mind that it's an average, so there are stories of 3 months or less before placement, and stories of over a year. Who knows where we will fall... But wherever it does fall, it will be right for the situation that will lead us to FutureBaby, our FutureBaby, and all of this paperwork and waiting will be so, so, SO worth it. 


  1. Everyone that says "you should just adopt" should read this post! And you don't even go into the financial aspect of adopting.

    Come on FutureBaby- you have one awesome set of parents waiting for you!

    1. Thank you! It is a process that can seem simple in theory, but has so much complexity built in to all that paperwork. I agree, I already felt prickly about the "just adopt" advice, but now that I know all that's involved? It's laughable. Oh, and the FINANCES! That's insane...makes tax code sound simple. :-) thanks for the vote of confidence...I hope FutureBaby is listening up!

  2. How exciting! I'm sure the delays can be frustrating, but with something this important I can see how it also could be better to NOT rush through it, because it gives you time to process. And yes, this post definitely approves there's no such thing as "just adopt." But the effort will be worth it!

    1. Oh yes, I think not rushing is key. I definitely have that sense of urgency, but I have to tame it to make sure that everything is right, not just done. I am so looking forward to the results of all this effort!

  3. Congratulations! Well done on getting through the process to where you are now waiting parents. So happy for you both and looking forward to reading how your journey continues to unfold. :)

    1. Thank you! We are excited to see how everything plays out. It seemed both really quick and forever before we got to Waiting Parent status, but it's just right, I think.

  4. Very exciting!! I know it's a long process, but it will be worth it!

    1. Thank you! We are so looking forward to seeing where all this takes us.

  5. What Non Sequitur Chica said.

    I like that you're putting this out there for people who come after you. It will be very helpful. I especially like that you pointed out this: "Matches fall through with much more frequency than placements do."

    Thinking of you!

    1. Thank you! I think because I was so scared of adoption, that it helps to put out the reality versus the fear (although some fear is somewhat founded, but knowing more is always a good way to fight that fear!). I definitely didn't understand the differences between matching and placement before. It's all such a process, and hopefully by sharing it helps it be more accessible and less scary for those contemplating making this leap. I know I'm so glad I did, despite the mountains of paperwork, the delays, the public display of our life. On we go!

  6. Thanks for the breakdown! It's already really different than our process, which in itself is helpful to know. We had to turn in our background check, and references before we could be considered as applicants. The classes for our agency are only offered 3-4 times per year and we are right on the edge of the next one - so two days of class coming up in a couple weeks. So perhaps our 6 month count down has already begun. We are also okay with moving slowly - we really wanted to make these classes as that wait is super long but other than that, the home study will just take as long as it takes...

    1. I find it so interesting how differently the process works for different agencies, different states, different countries. I think I would go nuts with classes only offered that many times per year, if I missed the classes as we did for ours. I'm so excited that your process is underway! I would say yes, the countdown has definitely begun for you. I think going into the home study knowing that it will just be what it is is best... so dependent on your agency and the social worker you get assigned to. Not speeding through the process I think has been really helpful to processing and reflecting on it and feeling ready and at peace to take this momentous step, with all its differences from the pathways to parenthood that we'd exhausted before. I wish you so much luck and peace in your process!

  7. We had our intake interview yesterday and the social worker said we could be live in 60 days if we have our book ready. That seems so super fast; we put a hold on the home study till after the classes this weekend just to not get that rushy feeling... The agency had a huge number of adoptions in the spring and they are low on families wanting to adopt so I think they are putting extra effort into moving through the home study process quickly... Of course, anything could change in the middle of the process so we'll see how it goes. Glad you had a good weekend last weekend.

    1. Oh, wow... 60 days is amazing! I can understand how that feels rushy though. It's so interesting that there's a supply and demand thing going on with the agency. That's a good place to be, to be in a small pool of adopting parents! I hope it moves as quickly as you are comfortable with. Things are moving, and that's super exciting!