What to Consider When Preparing for Adoption

Choosing adoption as a way to build your family is unique in the sense that at the end of the process the vast majority of people will be successful and emerge as parents, if they persevere. That is not to say that there won’t be ups and downs and challenges along the way. The adoption emotional roller coaster offers moments of despair waiting to hear if you have been selected as a family for a child and joy as you learn that you have been chosen as adoptive parents. There is a lot of paperwork and preparation involved to get you to this place. It takes tenacity, patience, and understanding the process. Here are some important considerations as you prepare to embark on your journey as adoptive parents:

  • Decide whether you want to do a domestic or international adoption. You need to consider whether you want to adopt in the U.S. or choose to adopt a child from another country. Domestic adoption can be done through foster care (foster to adopt), with an adoption attorney, or with an adoption agency. All of these options require different procedures.
  • Keep in mind that if you decide to adopt internationally you are subject to the laws of that country. Know that with an international adoption the information you get about your perspective adoptive child may not be always be complete or accurate. It depends on the country and how that child came to their adoptive agency. If you choose an international adoption the Office of Children’s Issues, United States Department of State can offer help at 888-407-4747 or go to adoption.state.gov. For information on immigration and adoption go to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at 800-375-5283 according to the National Adoption Center @ http://www.adopt.org/types-adoptions
  • Get legal assistance. You want to be certain that all of the legal paperwork associated with your adoption is done correctly so no problems around custody arise in the future. Make sure you choose an attorney who specializes in the type of adoption you wish to pursue.
  • Consider the child you are hoping to adopt. Do you have your heart set on adopting an infant or are you open to adopting an older child? Are you interested in adopting a child with a similar racial and ethnic background as you or are you open to adopting a child with a background that differs from yours? Perhaps you are considering adopting a child with special needs, or a sibling group. The answers to these questions will broaden or limit your options and may impact upon your waiting time.
  • Do you want an open or closed adoption? A closed adoption means you have no information or contact with the birth family. An open adoption literally opens the door to have contact between the adoptive family and the birth family. The nature and frequency of that contact needs to be shaped by the involved parties.
  • Prepare for an adoption home study. The home study is a critical part of the adoption process. The adoption agency wants to have all the information they can about a perspective adoptive family. Their goal is to ensure that the child will be placed in a loving, nurturing, and safe home. They will ask you to explain your reasons and goals for your adoption. You must demonstrate your home is child friendly.
  • Preparing an adoption portfolio. An adoption portfolio is one of the most important aspects of the adoption process. This is the information about you and your family that a birth parent will review to choose an adoptive family for their child. It includes information about your family, why you want a child, and what type of parenting and life you want to offer that child when given the opportunity. You will share your values, beliefs, and things you love and like about yourself and your life. This is also true of a partner if you have one. People use photographs, videos, and all kinds of creative ideas to enhance their adoption portfolios.

I wanted to address the emotions associated with preparing for adoption. It is important to learn as much as you can about the child’s life prior to your adoption. It will help you to better understand your new son or daughter. Even though the adoption is something you have been desperately wanting sometimes it takes time for the child to bond with you and feel safe, comfortable, and loved. Even young babies are being separated from the only people and routine they have known. You all need some time to get to know each other. It is an ongoing process. Do everything you can to help the child adjust to their new home and family.

For children that are older ask about sending them something special to help prepare them for their adoption. Create an age appropriate book with pictures of you and your family, your home, and any other messages you want to share about looking forward to meeting them and welcoming them into your family. If you have other children you need to prepare them for a new sibling. Share as much information as you can and make it age appropriate. Assure them as best you can that your love and your relationship with them is an important priority for you. If they have any concerns encourage them to express them so you know what they are and can address them.

Children that are old enough to know they will not remain, or be reunited with their birth family may have feelings of anger, loss, and grief that may be expressed towards you in challenging ways. Be as patient and understanding as you can. Consult the experts you are working with when additional help is needed. Don’t expect yourself to immediately be the perfect parent. Nobody can do that.

For those of you that are considering adoption after failed infertility treatments, miscarriage, or the death of a child keep this in mind. Allow yourself time to heal and grieve before you start on this new family building journey. If you don’t the addition of an adoptive child may be more difficult and you may unintentionally place unrealistic expectations on that child and yourself.

Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW has been a licensed clinical social worker for over 40 years. Ms. Waichler authored “Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire” which won 4 major book awards including best book of the year from Mom’s Choice and NAPPA. Her new book, “Role Reversal How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents is an Indie Best Book and Indie Excellence Book Finalist for best book of the year. Her website is http://iriswaichler.com/

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