An adoptee has at least two different parents in his or her lifetime. There are the parents who are biologically related to the adoptee and those who take legal responsibility for the child after he or she is born. Parents who are placed with an adoptee become the child's adoptive parents.
The legal requirements to adopt a child differ from state to state and country to country and there may even be additional preferences or biases that differ between birth mothers, case workers and agencies. For the most part, a traditional adopter is married and healthy. However, there is an increasing number of non-traditional adopters finding placements that would have been near-impossible in the past. Adopters like this include those who are single, gay or lesbian, disabled or older than a typical adopter. These adopters, generally become parents through international placements or public adoption of older children in the U.S.
To adopt a child can be one of the greatest decisions an individual or couple makes. Regardless of the circumstances that brought one to choose the lifestyle of an adoptive household, being prepared is important and something that case workers or counselors will be evaluating during the home study required of every prospective adopter.
The relationship between adoptive and birth parents may vary between adoption arrangements, however, there are a few universal boundaries created for the sake of helping an adoptee understand and cope with his or her adopted identity. For example, using positive language to discern between the two parental units' roles in the child's life is incredibly important and can greatly influence an adoptee's perception of his or her roots and current living situation. Referring to a child's biological parents as birth parents instead of his or her "real parents" is a good start. Adoptive parents may also want to avoid giving the child the idea he or she was "gave up" or "put up" for adoption. The phrase "placed" is preferred. Talking about negative details that may be known about an adoptee's birth mother or father or stating that the birth father was unknown at the time of adoption can be hurtful and make the child feel unwanted, despite being adopted and in a loving home.
Being an adoptive parent doesn't, however, mean one has to walk on egg shells at all times but there are certainly an awareness and sensitivity expected of these family dynamics.