When making the big decision to adopt, prospective parents have to consider a number of factors, including whether they’d like to raise their adopted child according to any religion or faith in particular. If you were raised in a Jewish household or are actively practicing Judaism, for example, you may be interested in adopting a child from a Jewish birth mother, or raising an adopted child Jewish, regardless of their background. Either way, if you have any questions about Jewish adoption, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve gone ahead and collated the most searched for information when it comes to this type of adoption.
Judaism’s stance on adoption
Given that Judaism is a religion so steeped in tradition, you may be wondering whether adoption is permitted at all. Good news: not only is adoption allowed under Judaism, it’s actually encouraged. Though the Torah and rabbinic references only mention the adoption of orphans, many living according to the Jewish faith have accepted the practice as part of their religion.
The Jewish adoption process
In general, the Jewish adoption process itself — in terms of finding an agency, submitting an application, etc. — is basically the same as it is for people of other faiths. And like any type of adoption, you’re going to need to do some research first, considering things like whether you want an open or closed adoption, whether you’re willing to start off fostering a child, whether you want to adopt domestically or internationally, and what type of agency is right for you. In this case, you may want to choose an agency that specializes in facilitating Jewish adoptions, like the Jewish Children’s Adoption Network, or simply discuss your religious background and preferences with secular agencies, and most will work with you on this part of the placement process. If you’re not sure where to start, contact your local branch of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services and ask for their recommendation.
The cost Jewish adoption is much like it is for other types of adoption and can range from a few thousand to $50,000, or more. Those costs cover legal fees, home study, advertising, miscellaneous document fees, counseling, and any other expenses that might come up. That is an exorbitant amount of money and may be the biggest deterrent for prospective parents. Luckily, local Jewish organizations and non profits like HelpUsAdopt.org give out grants of up to $15,000 for deserving prospective parents, regardless of their ethnicity, religious affiliation, marital status, and sexual orientation.
What is a home study?
Whether it’s Jewish, Christian, open, or closed adoption, home studies are an important part in nearly all types of adoption. Going into it knowing exactly what will be expected of you and how you can prepare will help with a successful completion. Unlike how they’re represented in movies and TV shows, a home study is more than just a quick interview with a social worker in your living room.
In addition to home visits and interviews, a home study requires the adoptive parents to supply health and income documentation, undergo background checks for anyone over the age of 16 in the household, draft autobiographical statements painting their life story, and provide reference letters from three to four family members or friends that demonstrate why they would make the perfect candidates for adoption.
If the birth parents are Jewish
If you’ve decided to have an open adoption, let your agency know about your preference to raise your child in the Jewish faith. This way, if there is a birth parent looking to place their child with a Jewish family, you’ll have a better chance of finding a match. Barbara Blank at My Jewish Learning says it’s a good idea to get documentation from the birth parents regarding the child’s Jewish lineage, so they’re able to maintain proof later in life, if they need it.
If the adoptive parents are Jewish
If a Jewish family adopts a child that is not Jewish — or if they’re unsure of their lineage — they will have to have the child go through the conversion process. The specific methods, though (like circumcision), depend on the discretion of the family’s denomination, Blank explains. And if a child is converted without their consent, they’ll have the option to either affirm or deny their conversion once they reach the age of bar or bat mitzvah.
Along the same lines, according to Considering Adoption, Jewish families who adopt children should keep the following things in mind:
- Different Jewish communities have different opinions on the adoption of non-Jewish children. Be prepared to explain to others that, even if your child is not of Jewish descent, he or she will be raised with the Jewish faith and values.
- Interfaith families are becoming increasingly common, and religious practices vary from home to home. When you are advertising, be sure to give an accurate view of the ways religion is recognized and practiced in your family.
- The process of converting a child to Judaism may be different depending on age. For guidance on this topic, speak to your rabbi or Jewish adoption professional.
The bottom line is that if you’re looking to grow your family, there are ways to make a Jewish adoption happen, but as with any other type of adoption, time, patience, and understanding are needed throughout the process.