Adoption joins children and parents together into a family unit. For the child, being adopted can be a vital move from a living environment of neglect or abuse to thriving in a loving, supportive home. For couples or single adults, adoption may be the best way to raise a beloved child for the first time or grow a family. But anyone who has looked into adoption knows how complex the process can be.
Adoption specialists advise families looking to adopt, advocate for children in need of permanent homes, and act as mediators between birth parents and adoptive parents.
Adoption specialists need excellent counseling and assessment skills. Because each state has its own licensure requirements for adoption specialists, individuals who are interested in adoption specialist positions need to learn more about the steps they should take before entering the profession.
What Does an Adoption Specialist Do?
The adoption specialist job description includes several core duties. Adoption specialists provide guidance and emotional support during the ups and downs of the adoption process, both domestically and internationally. Birth and adoptive families require different kinds of support. As such, adoption specialists play many roles in this process: educating, counseling, advocating, and mediating between birth and adoptive parents.
Adoption specialists support birth parents in many ways. These include educating parents on what it means to choose adoption, answering questions, helping birth parents create adoption plans, and providing emotional support through each step of the process.
Additionally, adoption specialists guide individuals and couples looking to adopt. They review background checks, provide advice about adoption financing, help prospective families navigate the adoption process, and mediate communication between birth and adoptive families.
Adoption specialists also make post-placement visits to adoptive families to ensure a smooth transition for the child into a new home. These professionals often need to coordinate their work with government agencies (in the case of rehoming) or professional adoption agencies (especially in the case of international adoptions).
The Skills of an Adoption Specialist
Adoption specialists need to be highly skilled communicators. Adoption can be emotionally difficult, as the process can be overwhelming, confusing, and financially challenging for many individuals and families.
Given the many interpersonal roles they need to play, adoption specialists often come from backgrounds in social work, psychology, and sociology.
Core competencies associated with the adoption specialist role include clear communication, analytical thinking, and emotional management. Adoption specialists need to also cultivate a wide array of personal traits to facilitate effective communication among different groups of people. These include an aptitude for expressing compassion and empathy, and the ability to manage interpersonal conflict. Adoption specialists need to be able to adapt quickly to meet changing interpersonal needs.
Education and certification requirements vary by state. Many adoption specialists have backgrounds in social work, sociology, psychology, education, and other degree programs. While it may be possible to get a job as an adoption specialist or counselor with just a bachelor’s degree, some agencies prefer or require candidates with graduate degrees.
Students who already have a bachelor’s or master’s degree and are seeking adoption-specific training can benefit from completing an adoption certification or continuing education program. Organizations such as the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) and Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE) offer specialized training in adoption work for individuals. There are also postgraduate adoption certificate programs offered through select higher education institutions.
By earning a bachelor’s degree in a field such as sociology and an additional credential in adoption, a person can not only develop a breadth of expertise in navigating social systems but also gain focused training in adoption-related subjects like kinship adoption and tools for supporting multicultural families.
Adoption Specialist Salary
Adoption specialist salaries vary in terms of education level, years of experience, and location.
Adoption specialists with one to four years of experience make an average of $40,000 per year, according to PayScale. Professionals with five years or more of experience make an average of $51,807 per year. The salaries are commensurate with the median annual wage for social workers in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Be an Agent of Positive Change
Adoption at its best provides one of the most important functions in our society: bringing families together to raise children. Adoption specialists play a crucial role in supporting all parties in the adoption process and helping children find security and safety in new homes.
A degree in sociology can provide a solid foundation for a meaningful career, such as an adoption specialist. Learn more about Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Sociology program, a degree program that can help you take that next step in becoming an agent of positive change in your community and beyond.
How to Become a Community Specialist
Exploring Services: Human Services vs Social Services
Social Issues in Healthcare: Key Policies and Challenges
American Adoptions, Why Adopt? 23 Reasons to Adopt a Child
Center for Adoption Support and Education, Training for Adoption Competency
Child Welfare Information Gateway, Examples of Postgraduate Adoption Certificate Programs
Children’s Home Society of Virginia, Adoption Benefits: Advantages for Adoptive Parents, Adoptive Children and Your Community
Considering Adoption, What Is an Adoption Specialist?
Houston Chronicle, “How to Become an Adoption Social Worker”
Houston Chronicle, “Training for Adoption Counselors”
North American Council on Adoptable Children, Get Training
PayScale, Average Adoption Specialist Salary