Considering adoption? These St. Louis family resources can help

If you’re thinking about expanding your family through adoption, getting started might seem a little overwhelming. There’s a ton of information out there, but few resources offer specifics for the St. Louis area. Long before the actual adoption process, adoptive parents also have a number of important decisions to make and steps to take. If you’re starting your adoption journey, then consider these recommendations from local experts.

1) Ask yourself some important questions first.

Sharon Mink, who runs Missouri adoption agency Family Connections LLC, says it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it the right time?
  • Do you have the right space, physically, mentally and financially?
  • If you have children already, how would adoption impact the children at home?
  • Is your extended family on board?
  • How will you afford this?
  • If you’re considering transracial adoption, how will your community, school, and neighbors support it?
  • Are there any unresolved infertility issues? 
  • Have you taken the time to grieve?

That last question is particularly critical, Mink explains. Because most adoptive parents struggle with infertility, many adoption resources agree that adoptive parents should be sure that adoption is the path they want to take, thereby closing the door to in vitro fertilization or surrogacy. Mink advises prospective parents take time to grieve not having a biological child before beginning the adoption process. Once you’ve thoroughly considered and answered the questions above, then Mink says it’s time to start looking at adoption options.

2) Decide what type of adoption you want to pursue.

According to Lutheran Family & Children’s Services of Missouri, understanding the different types of adoptions is foundational to starting the adoption journey.

  • In private adoption, the birth mother places her child for adoption through an agency because she wants to have a say in what happens to the child and what type of relationship she’ll have, or choose not to have, with the adoptive parents. Adoptive parents also have a say in their relationship with the birth mother. In a private domestic adoption, an infant is placed with adoptive parents of the birth mother’s choosing through an agency soon after the baby is born.
  • Independent adoption is when prospective parents connect with a birth mother outside of an adoption agency. 
  • Embryo adoption occurs when prospective parents adopt embryos created during another couple’s in vitro fertilization in a clinic or hospital. Couples who do IVF often create more embryos than they’ll use and sometimes opt to donate leftover embryos to a couple wishing to adopt.
  • Intercountry/international adoption is the process of adopting a child from outside of the country. 
  • Foster care is designed to provide a temporary, safe home setting for children who are in the custody of the state of Missouri. The goal is to reunite children with their birth family.

In deciding what type of adoption to pursue, Mink suggests considering these questions:

  • What age of child do you want to adopt?
  • Do you want to adopt outside of your race?
  • How open do you want the adoption to be?

Some agencies require an open adoption, or one in which the birth mother receives letters from the adoptive parents at least yearly until the child’s 18th birthday. 

3) Research adoption agencies.

There are few things to note when looking into adoption agencies in St. Louis. Most often, experts agree that adoption fees are determined on an income-based sliding scale, and those fees don’t cover factors such as home studies, background checks, and fingerprinting, so be sure to look into those when researching adoption agencies.

There are often requirements for adoptive parents, outside of what the state of Missouri requires, such as having been married for a certain number of years, being under a certain age, and having an adequate income to support the family. Be sure you know each agency’s requirements by looking at their websites. Most adoption agencies encourage potential adoptive parents to give them a call and ask questions during the research phase.

Here are a few sample questions to ask when calling adoption agencies, according to Amy Newell with Lutheran Family Services: 

  • Who will take care of the birth mother? How?
  • How many placements are you doing a year?
  • How many inquiries are you receiving from expecting parents throughout the year?
  • What kind of requirements do you have for adoptive parents?
  • How much will fees cost at your agency? 
  • What do those fees cover?

Local Adoption Agencies

Below are agencies that offer private domestic infant agency adoption and are located in St. Louis. Many offer other services for area families as well: 

Lutheran Family Services

  • Lutheran Family Services is a statewide adoption agency that originated after the Civil War, in 1868, and has been connecting children with adoptive parents ever since. It offers support for birth mothers and adoptive families. Extensive resources are available to birth mothers, such as its maternal mental health program for birth mothers, as well as free pregnancy testing at each of its offices. LFS tends to match birth mothers and adoptive parents later in the pregnancy, usually in the eighth month, to avoid some of the emotional risks. “Our program is set up so that families don’t lose fees,” says adoption services program manager Amy Newell. “So if by chance the family is matched with an expectant mom, and when she delivers, she chooses to parent, our families will not lose fees. The fees that they have paid to us will roll into their next matching situation… Adoption is so full of trauma loss and grief on both sides, but especially during that placement time. Our birth parent workers are really taking care of that birth mother, the emotions that she’s going through and the loss that she’s experiencing. So adoption is not all rainbows and sunshine, by any means. There’s a lot of loss involved.” For adopted children, LFS also has services to help find and reconnect with birth families. Requirements for adoptive parents can be found here.
  • Phone: 866-326-LFCS
  • Email: 
  • Locations: St. Louis Office, Southeast Office, Southwest Office, Mid-Missouri Office, Hilltop Child & Family Development Center, Kansas City Office

Christian Family Services

  • Since 1973, Christian Family Services has been operating as a licensed, nonprofit agency in Missouri and Illinois. It has separate social workers for pregnant birth mothers and adoptive families, as well as counselors, pregnancy support specialists, and support staff. CFS primarily places domestically born infants, and the program is “birth parent-driven,” meaning that birth parents choose the adoptive family. According to its website, most placements occur between five months and two years after home study completion. CFS in large part arranges open adoptions, but it also offers semi-open and closed adoptions; the degree of openness is determined by both sets of parents. The list of requirements, fees, and services for adoptive parents can be found here.
  • Phone: Missouri: 314-968-2216, Illinois: 618-397-7678
  • Address: 7955 Big Bend, Webster Groves

Good Shepherd Children and Family Services, a ministry of Catholic Charities  

  • After a 2007 merger, Good Shepherd was born out of four agencies, whose services date back to 1831. Good Shepherd offers adoption counseling, home studies, placement, assistance, and post-adoptive support. It is governed by the Catholic Archdiocese and does not work with single parents or same-sex couples; you do not have to be Catholic to work with the agency. In addition to serving St. Louis city, Good Shepherd serves counties across Missouri, including St. Charles, Jefferson, Ste. Genevieve, St. Francois, Perry, Washington, Madison, Reynolds, Dent, Iron, Crawford, and Wayne County, according to Joy Quante, director of adoption at Good Shepherd. The agency offers maternity shelters for birth mothers and resources for birth parents who want to continue parenting but are considering adopting because they are in need.
  • Phone: 314-854-5700 
  • Address: 1340 Partridge, St. Louis

Family Connections LLC

  • Founded in 2008, Family Connections is run by licensed clinical social worker Sharon Mink, who has 30 years of social services experience and started Family Connections in St. Louis more than 15 years ago. As an agency of one, Family Connections most often performs home studies and post-placement supervision services. Much of Mink’s business is word-of-mouth, and though she does arrange adoption matching of mostly infants, it’s not as frequent as some of the other local agencies. Because Family Connections is small, it’s relatively nimble and suited to move quickly if there’s a need for emergency placement or services. Mink does work with single and LGBTQ+ parents.
  • Phone: 314-477-4253
  • Address: P.O. Box #191354, St. Louis

4) Prepare for a multi-step process.

Each adoption agency has slightly different processes. Lutheran Family & Children’s Services of Missouri shares what the adoption process looks like in a private domestic infant agency adoption:

  • Apply to an adoption agency.
  • Get a home study evaluation.
  • Get added to the agency’s match list.
  • Make a profile or look book/profile for birth mothers.
  • Birth mother views albums.
  • Birth mother chooses adoptive parents.
  • Adoptive parents view matches.
  • Adoptive parents say yes to a match.
  • Birth parents and adoptive parents have a match meeting.
  • Baby arrives.
  • Placement and discharge.
  • Birth parent signs consent. 
  • Transfer of custody hearing.
  • Six months of post-placement (minimum three visits).
  • All agency fees are paid.
  • Finalization hearing (after the six months).

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