Heart to Heart conducts home studies in Utah, Illinois, and Florida. This process is an adoptive pre-placement evaluation ensuring that adoptive families meet agency and state requirements. It involves one or more interviews, reference letters, and other written material such as medical background, financial details, and parenting styles. Home studies completed by Heart to Heart can be forwarded to other adoption agencies the client may choose to work with down the road. Similarly, a current home study performed by another agency may be forwarded to Heart to Heart for review.
Wait time depends on the situation, but in general, the more restrictions an adoptive family has, the longer the wait time. The agency primarily places infants and only occasionally older children. Families waiting for African American babies usually wait 4-6 months. Families waiting for a Caucasian baby wait around 9-12 months. Additionally, families who specify wanting a girl, cannot pay for medical costs, are older, have biological children, or live in a state with complicated processes will have longer wait times. Heart to Heart places with single parents, although the wait time is usually much longer since birth parents often desire to place in a two-parent family. With all of that said, sometimes families are matched and have a placement within days of registering with Heart to Heart!
The majority of children are placed in Utah but the agency can work in additional states as well. The agency will pursue placement in other states but additional legal fees will be incurred due to travel costs and any third-party contracts that may be necessary, either an attorney or agency in the specified state. Adoptive families should note that they can finalize an adoption in Utah through Heart to Heart with an FBI clearance if either the child was born there or an adoptive parent is a resident of Utah.
The agency places adoptions of all kinds: open, semi-open, and closed. The birth mother is the one to make the important decision determining the openness of an adoption. Birth mothers can choose to meet solely with an assigned adoption counselor a couple of times to discuss plans, or meet prospective families in person. However, Heart to Heart maintains that “the more open the relationship the better for all parties.” The agency is available to assist with communication between birth parents and the adoptive family indefinitely post-adoption.
Heart to Heart offers complete, no-obligation support to birth mothers during the adoption process with the placement funding received by adoptive families. Birth mothers receive financial assistance during pregnancy and right after birth in the form of rent (usually in one of the agency’s apartment communities in Utah), transportation, utility bills, phone bills, medical costs, groceries and household supplies, clothing, travel costs, legal fees associated with the adoption, and GED achievement courses. At the Sandy, Utah headquarters, birth mothers can participate in activities and support groups with other expectant mothers and Heart to Heart staff members- they get together multiple times a week for fun and learning. Ultimately, birth mothers are not obligated to go through with an adoption but utmost care is taken to provide them with the temporal and emotional support they need to make the process as smooth as possible. This emotional support includes 24 hour phone support, mental health counseling, and grief counseling available as long as needed after placement. Understanding the breadth and depth of support offered to birth mothers can help prospective adoptive families know where, in large part, the hefty placement fee is going.
In addition to birth mother support, the agency offers adoptive family orientation meetings several times a year at their Utah headquarters as well as online courses on a variety of adoption-related topics. The live orientations give families a chance to talk with birthmoms that are currently placing children for adoption, other adoptive families, and agency staff members.
The agency’s overall fees are extensive, but it helps that they are transparent with adoptive families about everything from the start – no surprises here. Heart to Heart’s placement fee, including all birth parent expenses, ranges from $28,000-40,000. Additional fees include home study (Utah $750, Illinois $2000), home study update (Utah $250-450, Illinois $500), application fee ($350), and post-placement visits (Utah $150 per visit, Illinois $200 per visit), totaling roughly $29,000-43,000, depending on where you live.
Medical and legal fees are not included in this cost, as payment for those fees will go to a third party (hospital and government, respectively). About 60% of birth parents need assistance with medical bills, which will cost between $7,000-10,000. Outside of Utah, any discounts for delivery costs or insurance situations will need to be negotiated with the hospital by the adoptive family. Legal fees usually cost around $6,000.
The placement fee can be paid in parts if desired. When a birth mother chooses an adoptive family for her child and both parties are pleased with each other after a conference call, it is considered a match. At that point, the agency charges half of the overall fee, which helps cover the financial responsibility over the birth mother (including medical needs, rent, transportation, and other needs).
In the case of a failed adoption, where the birth mother does not ultimately decide to place her child with the matched family, the placement fees paid to the agency will generally be rolled over to a new situation within Heart to Heart. However, if a child is placed with adoptive parents and later removed, no fees can be refunded or rolled over.