Adopting In Oregon

Everything you need to know about the Domestic Adoption Process in Oregon.

The Process: Start Here

When you enter in the adoption process it can seem pretty nebulous. When you are knee deep in the adoption process it seems overwhelming.

And even when you are told exactly what to do, it can seem confusing. That's why I'm here to tell you (at the very least) what to expect.

I know that when I began, I read everything I could about the process and what to expect. Those were good books but lacked the actual details and specifics that I was looking for.

At first I thought I was the only person who didn't understand this process, or that it seemed to be changing all the time.

Then, after attending an "Adoptive Parents Waiting To Adopt" Support Group, I found out that I wasn't alone.

My way of contributing to your adoption experience is to write out mine. My intention with this website is to provide you with instructions and suggestions that you can use wherever you currently are in the Adoption process.

I am laying the foundation using the exact same language that the process (or system) uses in order to help you through the steps of adoption.

It's important because these are the questions that took me awhile to understand. I'm poignant, straight-forward and don't mince words when it comes to the process of adoption. It's confusing... it's frustrating... and yes, like they tell you in the orientation, you WILL want to give up.

But the reward is unmatched. And it's hard for a reason.

It's hard because rarely things that are amazing drop in your lap for no apparent reason. It takes work and dedication to bring a child into your life. It's a lasting bond that no matter how hard it seems, I guarantee you it will be worth in in the end.

Even though it's a ton of energy, the pay-off is far greater than what you put out.

Start at the Introduction and learn the reasons why I wrote this. Newbies, masters and everyone in between should read this section because it sets the context for this writing.

The Elephant In The Room – Look... I just want to adopt a kid! I mean, I'm helping the world out, right? I'm going to start off with some straight answers for terms and things you've heard within the circles of adoption. It's not a secret society, but to the outsider it might seem like it. These are the terms and people that you need to know in order for this process to make sense.

Knowing Your Network – Feeling alone? You're Not! Who can support you in your quest for a child? You'd be amazed at who will support you and chances are it's an unlikely source.

Meet the Players – What's the difference between a Clinician and a Caseworker? What is a Committee? Who is going to represent your family the best? This is a list of folks and terms that you will hear throughout the adoption process. Use this page to understand how to maximize the folks who are (literally) given to you.

Presenting Your Family – How will the folks who choose families know that we're awesome? How to put your best foot forward... the exact steps to make your family look good to the caseworker of an adoptive child you want to be a part of your family.

Finding Your Child – How to see what children are available and get to know them. Learn the "secret code" that State case-workers talk and what it really means when it comes to the needs of the child you are adopting.

Readying For Rejection – But she was perfect for us! How to deal with not getting the child you want. There is little that can describe this feeling. I wrote this section to share some things that we as a family felt when we were not chosen for a child.

While I do go into great detail, there may be things that I missed. This isn't a disclaimer, it's more of a mention that the adoption process is always "subject to change". I've done my best to stick with the basics and what we've experienced as a family and like most things, you will have you own unique experience... Which I look forward to hearing about.

You can write me at the email below this page (at the bottom) and sign-up for my Newsletter list. Those are great ways to communicate directly to me and provide feedback about this site or your own experiences in the Adoption process.

Adoption is like anything else in life: Until you've gone through the experience yourself you won't know the feelings and the joys that go along with it. Plus, on top of that, those feelings are unique to you and your family's situation.

But from someone who has done it before, let me tell you this:

You will get excited: you'll see a child and instantly imagine them integrated into your daily routine. You will plan their room, their "playdates" and how you are going to introduce them to your extended family.

You will feel really low: you will be rejected for a child due to things completely out of your control. It will feel very frustrating when a group of people whom you've never met (and will never meet) decides the if a child will be part of your family.

The Adoption Process is an exercise in what is possible.

So, the begs the question: Why did I write this?

Well, first and foremost I want to share my experiences with you because you will learn something from them.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, I address questions that I had when considering adoption. While I felt like we had world-class Clinicians during the entire process, there were still questions that would come up during the process that I needed answered. There were feelings that I hadn't dealt with in years that came up and I felt like there was very little "practical" information available to me.

Really this isn't to suggest that adoption is right for you nor did I write this to dissuade you from adoption, rather this is the "missing manual" that I wish I had along the way.

While I certainly can't foretell your future, I can assist you with knowing what is coming next and what to prepare for.

Before you go any further, though, it's important to get one question out of the way.

It's a question that doesn't have a right or wrong answer, nor is it a question that anyone but you can answer.

That question is: Why are you adopting?

Like I said, there is no right or wrong answer... however if you have a powerful enough WHY, you can accomplish any goal and the HOW will present itself.

This is also an answer that might change over time, especially if you have biological children at home already or you get a job offer across the country.

While the adoption process could potentially take YEARS, the fact remains that life goes on.

And that's the "beautiful madness" about Domestic adoption: It's always changing.

But if your WHY stays the same, you and your spouse stick to the "the plan" and be in constant communication with each other, you will succeed at becoming the loving adoptive parents that you are.

On the next page, you are going to Meet the Players of the Adoption Game and Know Your Network...

In the meantime, I want to get a question out of the way. It's a very important one and it's something that needs to be addressed before you go any further.

The Elephant In The Room

When we started the adoption process, which included things like trainings, weekends attending conferences and attending support meetings, there was language that was used that I didn't understand.

It was the term they used for adoption called "Special Needs" adoption.

The first picture that pops into my mind is a child in a wheel-chair or who can't walk straight.

And while physical challenges are present in the adoption process, they are only as present as in the rest of the world.

Don't let my naivety fool you... I wasn't the only person in the room thinking this way.

The reality is that any child who is up for adoption is "Special Needs".

And after being in this process for years I can say that any child who is in a Foster Home or Orphanage has been through some serious trauma in their lives. Many of the children who are up for adoption have suffered challenges that as adults we'll never face.

At first, I used to get angry.

I was angry that someone who was supposed to be a "mature" adult would do these horrible things to children, or allowed awful thigns to occur in front of children.

I was mad that someone would expose kids to drugs or pornography. Or even worse, physically abuse a child.

I learned quickly on that many things in the adoption process are simply out of your control.

This includes all the negative life experiences that the child faced before they were taken into the system.

Said another way (framed a little more positively), it's the particular combination of things in the process occurring that will unite you and your adoptive child together.

I suggest that you come to grips with this now... if you are someone who needs to be in absolute control of their lives the domestic adoption process might not be for you.

I'm not trying to discourage you or tell you to give up, I'm merely stating the fact that domestic adoption, like any other sort of adoption, takes a tremendous amount of time and patience. You will need to surrender to things that you might not have had to in the past. You need to trust your Clinician and you need to trust the child's Caseworker.

Ultimately, you need to trust that the system works. And it does.

The Action

When it comes to presenting your family to the adoption committee, you are represented by your caseworker.

This means that no matter how good your "family letter", your "family book" or your optional website that you create looks, the caseworker must know you in and out. (I'll get to the letters, book and website in a minute – those are very important too).

During the training you are probably told that you will be putting together a Home Study.

This Home Study is a crucial thing because it's what the caseworker (of the child you want to adopt) is going to look at. Yes, this Home Study represents your family.

This is the one that everyone who has filled this out sorta grins about because it's grueling. It's a long set of questions that may, on the surface seem pretty redundant, but that dive deep into your past, your partners past and really tell everything about you.

A basic overview of the presentation process works like this:

You and your Clinician complete your home study.

In my experience, it was completing this massive form with my wife and discussing it with our Caseworker when it was completed.

This might include getting more specific on several different types of questions and adding context around particular areas.

And this questionnaire leaves nothing unturned: Finances, past Marriages or Divorces, other Children and previous employment history. When I say that it looks at everything, I mean it: It Looks At EVERYTHING.

You then check out the website and see the children that are available to adopt. Based on what you listed in your home study (the type of child that will be the best fit for your family), you can then apply for them by simply writing your Clinician and requesting for them to submit your Home Study.

An added bonus is to create a family letter. In our case, this letter was printed and mailed to the Caseworker.

Because we were always putting in for new kids, I created a single Photoshop Template that I used.

This isn't to say that each child got the same family letter. In fact we'd look for things to do to tweak it so that it applied directly to the child that we were applying for. For example, if it said that "Johnny's favorite color is Blue", I'd make the background different shades of blue. We even had a child that requested her family "be a city famly because the country is dirty", so I wrote about that in her family letter.

Click Here to see our Family Letter in a JPG form. This will open in a new tab or window.

One really good way to present your family is to setup a family website. It's not required, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

This way you can really "stand out" from being simply a home-study or a family letter.

We did our family website about mid-way through the process and I kinda wish we'd have done it sooner. I feel like it represents us a little better and gives some context about our daily lives, which is what the committee wants to know about.

Ours was a simple WordPress blog that I hosted with a handful of other sites I'd setup in the past.

Each member of the family has their own page and we even included one for our cats.

We talked about things we like to do, like going camping, to the beach and how we celebrate holidays.

We also had a page which talked about our daily routines, like walking to school and doing homework. I felt that this was the most important page.

Like I said before, the idea of a family website is to present your family in YOUR way.

Where To Look Online For Your Child

So, after you know the players in this adoption game and you know how you are going to present your family, what about the kids?

I mean, after all, it's this what it's all about?

Oregon has a website called the "Oregon Adoption Resource Exchange" and you will often hear the acronym "OARE" associate with this.

The website is located at http://www.oare-kids.org/ and is locked down to a unique Username and Password that is provided to you at the completion of your Home Study.

The site itself is relatively easy to navigate.

Once you are logged in, click on "Meet Waiting Children" up on top and you'll be taken to a page that shows the Oregon children that are up for adoption.

If you see a child you want to learn more about.

Here you'll see a couple pictures of them, their date of birth and their status.

The "status" isn't always a straight-forward thing, but I'll get to that in a minute.

The paragraphs that describe the child are called the "narrative". These are written by caseworks who work on behalf of the child and are the child's "greatest hits". In other words, the Caseworker uses the narrative to describe the child's situation in the nicest way possible... and even then it's not always "G" rated.

This isn't meant to be a personal commentary, because really it's not an easy thing to do.

So, for example, if a child is challenges with sitting still, meaning that they are a wild child that never sits down, the caseworker will say that they are full of energy. If a child likes to remain in their room all the time and refuses to come directly to a stranger they might say that the child is socially challenged.

Anyway, you get the picture.

And the reality is this: No child ASKED to be put up for adoption. Something traumatic occurred that has caused this child to be put into the system... and no matter how judgmental it sounds, the fact remains that they had nothing to do with it.

Oh yeah, about the "Status" I mentioned earlier.

The OARE website keeps the status of each child publicly available. This is important to mention because it's a way to keep up on where the child is in the adoption process.

By definition, a child in the Adoption process is in one of three states:

On Hold: Worker is not accepting homestudies at this time.

Active: Child is available for adoption.

Inactive: Child is unavailable for adoption.

You can find the current status of any child in their online profile.

Readying For Rejection

You can be told time and time again how hot a stove is or how deep the ocean rocks drop off, but until you burn your finger or get sucked under by a riptide, you won't really know that feeling.

This is the same thing as being prepared for the rejection of your adoption.

Until you've been through the entire process, you won't know what it feels like.

Everyone who has gone though adoption has felt this to a certain degree... some more than others.

You have everything in place: You've poured over your family book and even arranged the room in the house for this little guy or girl that you envision in your family.

You spend WEEKS thinking about how you are going to introduce them to your family, you walk by a display at the Kids Gap and you see their "cyber face" in those clothes.

Even the best laid plans don't prepare you for the rejection of not being selected at committee.

Your caseworker will come to you with "constructive feedback" about what the Committee has said. In some instances, it's things that you cannot change, like how old you are how long you've been married. In some cases, it's something totally within your power, like going to therapy with your Mother whom you may have had a rocky relationship with when you were growing up.

And just like anything else in life, those just become lumps that you need to take. Some things are simply out of your control.

The real trick, and this is genuine advice from someone who has "been there", don't become callous. No matter what feedback you get or how many times a committee rejects you, it will work out in the end. Don't give up! If you've made it this far, you have the strength and determination to be a fantastic and caring parent.

The fact of the matter remains that there is no clear-cut or definitive path when it comes to committees.

What you CAN do is be honest and transparent, be in communication with your caseworker (your family representative) and be creative in your process, meaning do accurate family letters, put up a website and really put yourself out there.

The People

There are a handful of players in this "game of adoption" that you are playing.

Some of these folks you will have direct interaction with and some you won't be adding to the yearly Christmas Card list, but ALL of them are important.

Here is a list of the folks who are going to assist you along the way. I've intentionally used the terminology that the system uses so that you can know exactly what role each person plays.

They are: Your Clinician... this is the person assigned to you by the adoption agency that will assist you throughout the process. Make this person your best friend. Find out his or her birthday, add them to the Christmas card list and always be in communication with them. Share with them, be intimate and straight-forward. Your Clinician represents you to a Committee and they should know everything about you and your family.

The next person who is important is Your Caseworker. The Caseworker for this context is the person who is working with the system who is on the lookout for the best family to meet the child's needs. You will want to make this person your best friend, but chances are you will never meet them. If you do end up talking to them, chances are it will be on the phone and it will be brief. The Caseworker represents the Child.

The Foster Parents... The foster parents are typically where the child is living at the time they went up for adoption. Foster parents usually have a bunch of kids and are only a temporary stay for the child. Foster parents are great because they have the "real world, boots on the ground" perspective that just can't be matched by a case-study or s series of papers written about the child. If you are chosen to go to Committee, chances are you will have a chance to talk to the Foster Parents. If you do talk to them, prepare specific questions and take notes, you will need to know this if you are chosen to adopt this child.

It all leads down to a Committee. Committees are different each time and the Committee is ultimately who decides which family is going to be best for a child. Committees may have people like Judges, Caseworkers or Attorneys that represent the children. Then, typically, YOUR Caseworker gets up in front of them and tells you how cool you are and how great of a parent you would be to this child. Yes, your adoption ultimately resides in the hands of a group of folks you have not and will never meet. The better your Clinician knows you, the better he or she can represent you to the Committee.

Now that you know the players, you need to acknowledge your network.

Know Your Network

When in the adoption process, it's important to know your Network.

Wha? I thought a network was something that had to do with Televisions or computers.

Well, your "network" is an extension of your "culture", so, put a little more simply, the folks in your life whom you wish to be around.

Like most things, it's going to be people who support you.

For the most part your network are folks who align with your philosophy, ideals and generally think in a similar way that you do.

So, what defines your network? In other words, what are the things that you find commonly with folks who create the "culture" in your life?

A good example of this is that my wife and I go to the gym. We've met a handful of folks there and have fused connections with them based in the realm of Health, Wellness and Fitness, specifically around exercise. One way that the gym (in general) supports families is that they have a "kids club". My daughter loves it there. She gets to interact with other children and at the same time my wife and I get to take classes together.

Your network also might be someone in your immediate family that lives in your area, like your sister or brother, parents or a family friend.

One thing that was valuable to our family was going to "Waiting to Adopt" Support groups. This usually has folks who are in the same situation you are.

Like I said before, your network also includes folks in your family, friends and neighbors that are a part of the eco-system of your life.

It really all boils down to having a relationship with someone who has something in common to you. The real trick is to align your culture with your network as your support system.

This will give you the most stability and support that it can, both physically and mentally.

So, why is this so important and why would I spend so much time talking about support systems?

That's a great question and it's got a simple answer: Adoption is taxing.

It's hard to prepare your life for a child and it's even harder to deal with the disappointment that comes when you aren't selected to be the child's forever home. In fact it's so tough that I have a whole section about this in the readying for rejection section of this website.

Having the right support system in place can make a world of difference. One really great book that you can just hand over to your support peeps is called In On It, and it does a great job explaining some of the trials and tribulations of the Adoption process to an outsider.

Now that you know the players, you need to start thinking about how to present your family.

The Homecoming

Quick Disclaimer: What follows was unique to my family. Your situation may be totally different depending on where your child’s Foster home is, how old the child is and the general circumstances around your adoption.

We had a months worth of visits in a town that was about 150 miles from us.

It was a gradual build, consisting of a few hours visits the first week and eventually overnight visits starting the second week.

When it came to the ‘practical’ questions like: “What about work?” and “What about child care for your bio kid?”, the stark reality is that we just pulled it together. It all depended on the situation. For example, with work we have some Vacation time accrued and I used that. For our daughter we depended on the Support team around us (grandparents, friends from school and grown-up brothers and sisters).

Truth be told, we were blinded by the fact that this was becoming a reality before our eyes… and suddenly things like “what color bedspread should we have?” or “should we paint the room blue” were suddenly forgotten.

The visits mostly coordinated with the foster mom because our Son’s caseworker and our caseworker we’re taking most of the month of December off work, for the holidays and such.

Our son had been in the foster system for a little over a year and a half, so he was already being closely watched by the state and CASA (Court Appointed State Attorney) – plus he had a past case of medical issues that required several doctor visits and follow-up check-ups.

After two weeks we had our first overnight visit.

He wasn’t super comfortable at first and often spoke about his Foster home and the other kids in that house.

The next weekend we went back to his city and took him home for three days and two nights.

It was a slow and eventual build, but at the end of the month he was going to live with us permanently.

Eventually he came to live with us. By the time it came to have him full time he’d already been exposed to most of our family routine and felt comfortable in his bedroom.

It was around the time that he came to live with us that we learned that we going to be Foster Parents until we were able to adopt him. This was, at a minimum, going to be a 6 month period.

During the foster family period both caseworkers had to routinely come over and check out the house, hang out with our family and just do a general checkin of how things we’re going.

At first there were the typical bumps and bruises that you would expect. I need heck, if I was taken away from my house I would know what to expect either!

Oregon is known for their stellar “disruption rates”, meaning that when an adoptive child is placed into a home for adoption they STAY there.

And now I know why.

I had faith in the system, and the system paid off.

Get in touch

Got any questions or see something that needs to be updated? Feel free to reach out.