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4 common misconceptions about adoption

November is national adoption awareness month. Across America, more than 100 million people have been personally involved in adoption or know someone who has, according to the National Council for Adoption.

Whether you've adopted a child, are considering adopting or are exploring adoption services during pregnancy, this important topic hits home in a big way. Adoption provides a tremendous opportunity for families to grow beyond the bounds of blood ties. It gives children of all ages a new life with a loving family.

Despite the prevalence of adoption, misconceptions about it still abound. Below are some important facts to know if you're considering adoption as either a birth or adoptive parent.

1. It doesn't have to take forever. The adoption process does take time. But it all depends on your situation. Kinship (relative and stepparent) adoptions generally proceed at a swifter pace than agency adoptions. For nonrelative adoptions, there are essentially two timeframes to consider: waiting for placement and finalizing the adoption after placement. For parents looking to adopt, the fewer requirements you have, the less time you'll have to wait. According to the National Adoption Center, average wait times for healthy Caucasian babies range from two to seven years. By contrast, the wait time for older children, siblings and children with disabilities may be only a few months. After the initial placement, finalizing the adoption typically takes three months to a year.

2. You don't have to be wealthy to adopt. Yes, adoption can be notoriously expensive - but not always. You don't need to have thousands of dollars lying around in your rainy day fund to consider adopting a child. There are many ways to secure financial assistance for adoption. For example, government subsidies may be available for children in foster care or those with special needs. Private fundraisers can be an effective way to raise money. And, increasingly, many employers offer adoption assistance programs. Adoption tax credits can also help offset the financial burden.

3. You don't have to adopt abroad. Plenty of children close to home are awaiting adoption. In Minnesota alone, more than 700 children are in need of immediate placement. International law recognizes that it's generally preferable to have children adopted within their own countries. Domestic adoptions typically take less time and are much less complicated than international adoptions. They also avoid the risk of human trafficking that has plagued adoptions from undeveloped nations in the past.

4. The adoption doesn't have to be secret. In times past, adoptions were almost always anonymous. Now, open adoptions are commonplace. You can structure the adoption in a way that fits your situation and values - for example, allowing regular contact with the birth parents or giving the child the right to make that decision down the road. While not ideal in every situation, open adoptions can offer psychological benefits for the child and birth parents alike. They also provide transparency when it comes to family history and medical conditions.

As you can see, adoption isn't a cookie-cutter process. Each adoption is as unique as the family behind it.

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