Deaf Adoption 101

So you want to adopt a Deaf/HOH child?

While there is a vast amount of information surrounding adoption-and more specifically, adoption of a Deaf/HOH child-some of the most important things you should be aware of, from the very beginning, are listed below.

After reading through the list below, if you have additional questions or if you experience any trouble accessing any of the links, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. First, I urge you to please read through the entire article-without clicking on any of the links-the first time through. Then go back and begin clicking on the links to gain a better understanding and/or seek additional information about that topic. Trust me when I say, information overload is REAL and it can be overwhelming, especially when it involves adoption.

I am here to serve you in any way I possibly can. If I do not know the answer to your question(s), I will find someone who does. There is no fee charged for this service.

Reminder: Signs for Hope is NOT an adoption agency; Signs for Hope is simply engaged in adoption advocacy of Deaf/HOH children and encouragement for their adoptive families as they seek to provide homes that will allow them to thrive and reach their full potential.

Email me at beckyblloyd@gmail.com or call me 828-691-2581 (call or text). I do not have VP capability yet, but when I do I will post that number for Deaf to call. Please limit calls between the hours of 8AM – 8PM Monday through Saturday, Eastern Time.

Fill out the Signs for Hope Family Profile, so I will know how I can better serve you throughout your adoption process and beyond.

Becky Lloyd
Signs for Hope
Founder & Director

Disclaimer: Signs for Hope can assume no liability from the links provided below in the recommendation of any product, service or organization, nor does this constitute an endorsement. The links are provided simply as a means for information dissemination.


If you do not already know American Sign Language (ASL), start learning ASL immediately.

It is possible the Deaf/HOH child you adopt will have minimal to no language, especially if you adopt from another country.  Unfortunately, some of these children have never been exposed to sign language.  You will not know the full extent of your child’s deafness/hearing loss until you have evaluations done here in the US.  And those evaluations may take several months before you have an accurate assessment of your child’s deafness/hearing loss.  This is valuable time you can begin bonding with your son or daughter through ASL.

Your knowledge of ASL will open up unlimited possibilities the first time you meet your son or daughter face-to-face.  Your understanding of their “visual world” will give you a jump-start in communicating with them which will lead to your teaching them signs even before you travel home.  If they do know some indigenous sign language-their own country’s sign language, but not ASL-you will still be prepared to communicate with them much more quickly because of your own knowledge/skill of ASL.

Signs for Hope agrees with the research and observations that strongly supports and believes that American Sign Language acquisition is paramount for your Deaf/HOH child’s emotional and social well-being and will give them an increased ability to master the English written/read language as their second language. You and your child will become bilingual and bicultural-ASL and English & Deaf and hearing respectively.  Even though your child will probably be behind linguistically, emotionally, and socially, when they first come home, as are most children adopted internationally, they will make great improvements once they have a family who signs with them day in and day out.  And your ability to communicate with your Deaf/HOH child, from the very beginning, will grant you greater opportunities to connect, parent, and train your child successfully.

If you do not already know about the debate surrounding the “communication options” parents of Deaf/HOH children struggle through and their uncertainty of what is best for their own individual child, you will.  You will want to become knowledgeable about each of the communication options and the vast challenges parents of Deaf/HOH children face in raising them.

I have been researching and struggling through this issue, myself, for more than 10 years and I know full well that there are individual success stories involving each of the communication options-or the use of several of these options simultaneously.  Those individual success stories are as individual as each Deaf/HOH child is and the environment surrounding them.  That being said, Signs for Hope will continue to maintain learning ASL as being the first and foremost important aspect for your chosen communication with your adopted Deaf/HOH child(ren) and maintains it is vital for their assimilation into both the hearing and the Deaf worlds.

Research your local area for support services for Deaf/HOH children; Early Intervention Programs, additional state Deaf/HOH services, Public Schools, Schools for the Deaf and Bilingual Bicultural schools, ASL interpreters, pediatric audiologists, other families with Deaf/HOH children, and the Deaf community.  Knowledge of your community’s services for Deaf/HOH children will help you determine what is and what is not available.  One of the best ways to find out what your area has to offer is to talk with other parents of Deaf/HOH children.  Contact the Early Intervention office in your area and ask them to have multiple families raising various ages of Deaf/HOH children to contact you directly

Also, become familiar with the laws and the rights your Deaf/HOH child possesses for their education and for their preferred communication for that education.  The Bill of Rights for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children on the National Association of the Deaf’s (NAD) website lists the states that have implemented these rights and others that are working to establish them.

If your area is not “Deaf-friendly” consider moving to an area that has more services and opportunities for the Deaf/HOH child.  Better Deaf educational opportunities, that fit your child’s specific needs, are typically the motivation for considering this option.  There are families who have researched other educational opportunities for their Deaf/HOH child(ren)-adopted and biological-and  moved across the country to provide what they feel best meets their child(ren)’s needs.  This has proved to be a very positive experience for those families who have done this and they have seen their Deaf/HOH child(ren)’s lives enhanced greatly by their move.  This may not be an option for your family and if that is true, you may need to reconsider adopting a Deaf/HOH child.

If you do not already know someone who is Deaf, find a local church with a Deaf Ministry or the local Deaf Club and introduce yourself.  Allow them to teach you more ASL and cherished aspects about their own Deaf World and Deaf Culture.

If you cannot find Deaf people in your local area, contact me and I will help you search.

Below are two blogs by families who have recently adopted Deaf/HOH children, internationally.  They are very informative journals of their adoptions and of their older adopted children’s progress learning ASL. Included are videos of their children signing.  AWESOME!

http://signstogether.blogspot.com/ The Brown Family

http://ourjourneytoluke.blogspot.com/ The Worrell Family
http://www.growingourfamilyto7.blogspot.com/ New Worrell Family blog for 2012, 2nd Deaf adoption in process

Thriving With Your Deaf Child, is one of the most thorough, up-to-date resources for hearing parents raising their Deaf/HOH child. It will also benefit parents who are themselves Deaf/HOH.   While the focus of this brochure is about early exposure to ASL, as you can see from the two blogs above, it is never too late to give your Deaf/HOH child(ren) ASL.

Daily prayer coupled with ASL and good strong parenting skills will give your adopted Deaf/HOH children the ability to emotionally, socially, and academically reach their full potential.

Check the Signs for Hope page for additional ASL Resources.


Domestic or International (Intercountry) Adoption?

One of the first things you must decide is where you will adopt from, domestically-the United States-or internationally-another country?  The adoption process for each of these differs greatly in almost every aspect: cost, length of time, home studies, legal requirements, and so on.  Do some research and ask God to show you which way to go.  If you ask Him for guidance, He will show you each step of the way.

Domestic adoption basically means that both you and the child(ren) you wish to adopt are living within the USA.  If you both live in the same state it is called a domestic intrastate adoption and if you live in different states it is a domestic interstate adoption. The specifics of the adoption process will depend on the state or states involved and the age and level of cooperation of the birth mother and birth father, if parental rights have not already been terminated.  Interstate adoption-across state lines-can sometimes be very challenging and your agency or attorney will handle the paperwork required to do this.  If you do adopt a child from another state you will have to travel to that state to receive your child(ren) and stay there until you obtain Interstate Approval.

International adoption involves adopting a child from a country other than the one where you live.  For US citizens and citizens of other countries residing in the US, international adoption is subject to the laws of your state of residence, regulations of the US and foreign government, and the requirements of the Hague Convention.

Whether you adopt domestically or internationally you will want to become familiar with your state’s adoption laws.

***Please be aware, trying to locate a single deaf child for adoption in the US is very rare.  Most deaf children, available for adoption through the US Foster Care System, are either part of a hearing sibling group or have severe additional special needs.***


International (Intercountry) Adoption

If you decide to adopt internationally the next decision will be to decide which country you will adopt from.  Check out the US Department of State website to learn about the adoption criteria for each country.  If you are Deaf or HOH, Signs for Hope is researching to determine if there are any countries that might not permit you to adopt.  As soon as this research is complete, it will be posted.  Some countries do require Deaf/HOH parents to only adopt Deaf/HOH children (Ukraine is one of them).

The governing body over international adoptions is The Hague Convention.  The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption is an international agreement between participating countries on best adoption procedures. These procedures have basically two goals in mind:

  • The best interest of children is considered with each intercountry adoption.
  • The prevention of abduction, exploitation, sale, or trafficking of children.

The guidelines and procedures that are set forth in the Hague Convention are also for the protection of birth families, as well as, adoptive families. Part of the Convention’s guidelines ensures that one Central Authority is in place in each country so that adoptive parents get the most accurate information regarding adoption.

Check out currently approved Hague Convention Countries.  All Hague approved countries must use Hague approved adoption agencies to facilitate their adoptions.  As you search for a Hague approved adoption agency, please be aware that if the agency has more than one office within a state or in multiple states, only their main office or headquarters address will be listed.  For example:  Nightlight Christian Adoptions has offices in SC, CO, KY and CA, but their headquarters is in CA, so their offices in SC, CO, and KY are not listed on the above link, only the main office in CA. Visiting a specific adoption agency website will give you a better idea of where their offices are located.

There are three governing bodies providing guidelines for all international adoptions: 1) The Hague Convention, 2) the US Federal government, and 3) the state in which you reside.

How much does international adoption cost?

The cost of adopting internationally differs greatly and depends upon many variables often dictated by the country you adopt from.  In general, the adoption costs for international private agency/independent adoption vary anywhere from $20,000 to $35,000.  Each country sets their own adoption costs and travel expenses will depend upon the travel requirements set by each country. Some countries (China; Philippines) only require a single trip to finish paperwork and bring your child(ren) home, while other countries require multiple trips (Ukraine; Russia, sometimes 3 trips) by the parents before they are allowed to bring their son, daughter, or sibling group home.

Some adoption agencies base their fees on a sliding scale which is influenced by the family’s income. Private international adoptions can also be facilitated by an adoption attorney instead of an adoption agency.   Make sure before you sign any contract or agreement that the adoption agency or adoption attorney has divulged the full cost for the entire adoption process.

The initial fees to start the international adoption application process can range from $2,500 to $5,000.  This covers the homestudy (see # 6) fees and application and agency fees required by the adoption agency.

Please do not allow these numbers to prevent you from adopting.  The total costs of adoption could be compared to the cost of buying a new car.  A car will only last a decade at most, but a child will be yours for a life-time.  This comparison is really not a fair one, as a car and the life of a child, of course, cannot be compared.

There are many ways to fund and reduce the costs of your adoption.  Check out the SfH Adoption Funding page for multiple resources available to help with adoption costs.  The Federal Adoption Tax Credit is still in effect and there are many other creative ways to raise funds for your adoption and to obtain interest-free loans (ABBA Fund).

How long does international adoption take?

International adoption generally takes from 6 – 18 months.  Sometimes the process can take longer.

Are there set income requirements for international adoptions?

Yes, the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) sets the income requirements for families adopting internationally.  Determine your annual income and make sure you have your 1040 tax documents for the past 3 years.  The minimum income required to adopt internationally, by the USCIS, is 125% of the current poverty level.  For military families that minimum level is reduced to 100%.

The following are the 2011 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia:

Size of Family Unit Poverty Guidelines 125 Percent
2 $14,710 $18,387
3 $18,530 $23,162
4 $22,350 $27,937
5 $26,170 $32,712
6 $29,990 $37,487
7 $33,810 $42,262
8 $37,630 $47,037

Examples:  A family of four (dad, mom, and two children) desiring to adopt one additional child (total of 5 family members) the minimum income required to proceed with the application for international adoption is $32,712; for a military family of the same size, $26,170.  A family of two (just dad and mom), desiring to adopt two children (total of 4 family members) the minimum requirement is $27, 937; a military family of the same size, $22,350.

Other countries have their own guidelines for minimum income requirements. For example, China has its own minimum income requirement, stricter than the USCIS requirement. To be considered as an adoptive family by China the family’s annual income must be $10,000 for each family member in the household (including the child(ren) to be adopted); and the value of family assets must be $80,000. The computation of the family’s annual income excludes welfare income, pensions, unemployment insurance, and government subsidies, etc.

Some countries’ requirements can be negotiated and possibly waived when the adoption is labeled “special needs”.  This is done on a case-by-case basis and often is not known until some of the adoption paperwork is completed.  All adoptions of Deaf/HOH children are labeled “special needs”.   Be sure and ask your chosen adoption agency about a possible waiver as soon as you can.

Hague Approved Countries vs. Non-Hague Approved Countries

Deaf/HOH children can be adopted from countries that are not currently Hague Approved.  Adopting from a Hague approved country is certainly more reliable, than adopting from a non-Hague approved country, but the majority of children who are in desperate need of adoption live in countries that are not Hague approved and probably never will be Hague approved.   You can use Hague approved adoption agencies to adopt from non-Hague approved countries.   These agencies have worked hard to satisfy the standards set by the Hague Convention and must retain these standards of accountability to maintain their accreditation, even when facilitating adoptions with non-Hague approved countries.


Domestic Adoption

Adopting domestically through the US Foster Care System might be a good fit for your family.  In most states, foster parents who train to foster children ages birth to 5 are to be willing to adopt the child if reunification with the birth family is not possible (foster-to-adopt).  However, in nearly 50% of all foster care cases the child is reunified with their birth family. This statistic is not directly related to Deaf/HOH children, so that percent could be much lower for them, especially if the family fostering-to-adopt is ASL ready.

How much does domestic adoption cost?

Usually, the state department of human services pays for the adoption legal fees and the Deaf/HOH child receives Medicaid until they reach age 18.  As you can imagine, the cost to adopt domestically from the US is typically much less expensive than adopting internationally, if you adopt through the US Foster Care System.  The fees to adopt through the US Foster Care System can be from no cost at all, up to $2,500.  Domestic private adoptions-adoption not through the US Foster Care System-can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $35,000 based on many variables.

In some cases, depending on the child’s needs, a monthly state subsidy is given to the adoptive family after the adoption.  This subsidy is based on the child’s emotional, developmental, mental and physical needs.  There are many other resources for adoptive families of these children that do not cost the foster adopt family any money.  As the child grows and other needs arise, the subsidy amount can be revised.  For more information, check out Adoption Assistance for Children Adopted from Foster Care.

How long does domestic adoption take?

Domestic adoption can take from up to one year to several years, with the average being about two years.  The paper work required for an interstate adoption-adopting from one state to another-typically takes longer.

Are there set income requirements for domestic adoption?

There are no set government income requirements for domestic adoption in the US, but some adoption agencies set their own requirements.  However, the ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children), as well as, judges expect parents earnings to sufficiently support the child.

***Please be aware, trying to locate a single deaf child for adoption in the US is very rare.  Most deaf children, available for adoption through the US Foster Care System, are either included in a hearing sibling group or have additional severe special needs.***


How/where do you find the Deaf/HOH children?

Domestically

Of the more than 500,000 children in the US Foster Care System more than 100,000 children are “waiting”.   “Waiting” means the child is available for adoption, now.  This is the same term used for Domestic and International adoptions. For children labeled “waiting” parental rights have been terminated and the child(ren) are legally available and waiting to be adopted.  However, if parental rights have not been terminated, states generally aim for reunification of the child(ren) with their birth family.  Keep in mind, that nearly 50% of all foster care cases the child is reunified with their birth family.  So if you decide to adopt domestically and choose the “foster-to-adopt” route (not a “waiting” child), it is possible 50% of the time, the child(ren) could be reunited with their birth family.  Another possible negative aspect of fostering to adopt is that you simply do not get to choose a “perfect” newborn, but then again there are rarely any Deaf/HOH newborns or infants available for adoption here in the states or internationally.

There are currently older (age 3 and above) Deaf/HOH children in the US Foster Care System “waiting” to be adopted.  Sometimes they are in a sibling group with hearing siblings.  Sometimes they have additional “special needs”.  Finding them will take some effort on your part as there is no specific way to search for them through the Internet.

***Recently, Signs for Hope has been granted the ability to search the “waiting” Deaf/HOH children on the AdoptUSKids website using the criteria “deaf” and “hearing loss” on your behalf.  Unless you are already approved to adopt through the US foster care system you cannot register to search with the above criteria.  Please contact me for the legally allowed information about these children in the US Foster Care System “waiting” to be adopted.  Again, most of these children are a brother or sister within a hearing sibling group and must be adopted together.  Remember, the information that can be shared about the Deaf/HOH children “waiting” domestically is very limited until you have been approved to adopt.

To begin the paperwork for domestic adoption-foster-to-adopt or adopt a “waiting” child-contact AdoptUSKids or contact your state’s government agency who represents these children.

Internationally

Most often families deciding to adopt internationally will choose the adoption agency they prefer to work with first and then find their son, daughter, or sibling group represented by that agency.  However, when adopting Deaf/HOH children not all adoption agencies or countries list Deaf/HOH children available for adoption.

The Rainbowkids website has the largest photolisting of Deaf/HOH children. There are multiple adoption agencies who list the children they represent, from multiple countries, on this website.  The majority of Deaf/HOH children listed are from China.  As with most photolistings the children are password protected (for their safety) and you must register to gain access to their information.  Until your initial phase of your required paperwork is completed with the agency that represents your son/daughter or sibling group, you cannot be “locked into” them, making it possible for other families that are “lock in ready” to choose them before you can.

Signs for Hope strives to post current links where some larger photolistings can be accessed, but some agencies and some countries are very careful to protect the photos of these children and for those you must contact an agency specifically to request personal access to their photolistings.  In addition, some adoption agencies require that you commit to their application process before they will allow you access to their photolistings.  Usually, internationally, a child is represented by only one adoption agency at a time.

Nightlight Christian Adoptions has opened a new program specifically aimed at identifying Deaf/HOH children in Ukraine.  As this program grows the possibility of adopting Deaf/HOH children from Ukraine will increase.


The Homestudy

The homestudy is a vital part of your adoption process.  All homestudies are not equal.  Each adoption agency has its own homestudy format.  If you choose an adoption agency not located in your state, you will need to have a homestudy completed by an agency in your state.   You will then have the “placing” agency (the agency not located in your state) and the “homestudy” agency (the agency that is located in your state) working together for your adoption.  Make sure your “placing” agency approves the “homestudy” agency before contracting with them.   Some “placing” agencies have been known not to accept homestudies completed by other agencies/social workers.  Most of the time Hague approved adoption agencies will accept the homestudy from another Hague approved agency, but never assume this to be true.

If you have completed a domestic homestudy, it cannot be used for an international adoption or vice versa.  There are different homestudies for each category of adoptions; domestic, foster care, and international.

The cost of the homestudy varies from state-to-state and agency-to-agency and can range from a few hundred dollars (foster care adoption homestudy) up to $3,000.   A social worker will conduct your homestudy.  From start to finish, the homestudy will take about 2 months to complete and another few months to be reviewed and approved by Immigration, if you are adopting internationally.  Most homestudies include in home visits, by the homestudy agency, as well as, in their office.

Homestudies are typically good for one year.  Should your homestudy expire, but none of your information has changed, ask your agency to prepare an addendum to the original one stating that all the information is still the same.  For additional information about homestudies check here.

Nightlight Christian Adoptions has graciously agreed to provide compensation for ASL interpreter services (through Signs for Hope) for homestudy interviews and parental training for Deaf/HOH parents in the adoption process.  This is not only for families adopting through their offices, but for all families needing ASL interpreter services.  Contact me for more information.

Signs for Hope asks that you approach your adoption agency about their providing the interpreter services needed for your homestudy, interviews, and required parental training before you contact us.  If your adoption agency is willing to provide a skilled interpreter for their required adoption meetings, it is best to allow them to do this for you.  If your agency is unwilling to provide for this service, please contact me and I will work with you and your agency to set up ASL interpreter services.


Pre-Adoptive Training

Last, but certainly not least in importance, is the pre-adoptive parent training you must receive prior to adopting a Deaf/HOH child and beyond.  Signs for Hope is a firm believer that ‘God equips us to do what He calls us to do’, but we must make ourselves available to become equipped.  First and foremost, SfH believes that the best gift parents who are adopting Deaf/HOH children can give them is the gift of language…American Sign Language.  The ability to begin communicating and bonding with your Deaf/HOH child(ren), immediately, is vitally important to your child becoming whole and healthy.

One of the first places to begin receiving some much needed pre-adoptive training is by joining the Deaf/HOH Adopt Yahoo Group. This group is dedicated to families who have adopted Deaf/HOH children (domestically and internationally), families currently in the adoption process, and families who are planning to adopt a Deaf/HOH child sometime in the future.  Discussion thread subjects covera plethora of pertinent topics from those who have experienced the adoption of Deaf/HOH children and questions from those who plan to adopt in the future.  The information shared will benefit and encourage you as you continue through your adoption and beyond.  Sometimes, information about “waiting” Deaf/HOH children is posted to this group, as well.

Second to that is the training you will receive to prepare yourselves and your family for adopting a Deaf/HOH child.  Most Deaf/HOH children are older (older means older than 2 or 3 years of age) when they are adopted. This happens for several reasons; the first is simply because it can take time to diagnosis the child’s hearing loss-especially in foreign countries-and secondly, because orphanages or international adoption organizations do not realize there are families willing to adopt a child who cannot communicate by speaking.  Thirdly, to be honest, there are only a few families willing to commit to adopt a Deaf/HOH child because of the challenges they will face, so some of these children continue to “wait” year after year.

The Hague Convention requires, at least 10 hours of pre-adoption training for your adoption.  There are many ways to satisfy this requirement.  Your adoption agency is a good resource for finding what training is available in your area, but training can also be obtained through the Internet.  If, however, you are Deaf/HOH you will want to do most of your training face-to-face with an interpreter facilitating.  This will allow better understanding and possible opportunities for questions and clarifications.

Sensory issues and attachment issues are some of the most common issues your Deaf/HOH child(ren) will most likely experience. Learning about these issues and how you can help your child deal with them is vitally important.  While not all children face these issues with the same intensity, most children will be challenged by them to some degree.  Because of this, Signs for Hope strongly recommends, in addition to your required 10 hours of training, you attend one of the Empowered to Connect (ETC) conferences with Dr. Karyn Purvis. She has partnered with Show Hope (Dan and Terri Coley) and Tapestry Ministries (Michael and Amy Monroe) to provide this highly empowering conference to help parents and families prepare for your life-long adoption journey.  Show Hope is Deaf friendly and they will provide ASL interpreters for these conferences; however you must register early and request them.  I have attended two of the ETC conferences and the information shared is exactly what you need to know before bringing your Deaf/HOH child(ren) home.  Dr. Purvis also has many videos (sorry no Closed Captioning) for your viewing available at vimeo.com. At the very least, order the book The Connected Child co-authored by Dr. Purvis then download the free Study Guide from the Empowered to Connect website.

For additional pre-and post-adoptive resources check the Signs for Hope Adoption Resources

The above topics are among some of the most requested by parents, early in the process, seeking to adopt Deaf/HOH children.  I hope this information helps to clarify some of the questions you have surrounding adoption and especially adoption of Deaf/HOH children.  Adoption is not an easy process, but neither was our adoption by our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ.  God is fully aware of the challenges you will face throughout the adoption process and your life-long journey of adoption.  He wants you to invite Him to walk this journey with you.  Yes, He is focused on the goal of bringing your child(ren) home, but He has a much bigger picture for you as you trust Him day-by-day to accomplish that goal.  Then He desires for you to continue to trust Him and His plans for you and your adopted Deaf/HOH child(ren) throughout your life.