When I was in the homestudy process, my social worker asked me to describe how I thought my foster and adoptive journey might go. When I finished describing this hypothetical scenario, she smiled and said, “That’s great, hon. But you know it never happens like that.” Except it did. My daughter’s adoption was about as quick and straightforward as adoption from foster care can be. She moved in and things progressed quickly in her case. Six months later, we finalized her adoption and proved all the folks who said “It never happens like that” wrong.
The journey to my son’s adoption was very, very different. Here are four things I wish I’d known when adopting for the second time:
Adoption timelines can vary a lot.
My experience is with adoption from foster care. In my state, a child has to live in a pre-adoptive home for six months before their adoption can be finalized. In a few cases (including my daughter’s), that means the time between placement and finalization can be as short as six months. But adoption timelines can vary a lot. My son lived with me for close to two and a half years (that felt very, very long) before his adoption was finalized. In some cases, the time between placement and adoption can be even longer than that.
Attachment and bonding look different with different kids.
Sometimes attachment between a child and an adoptive parent feels easy, quick and natural. Sometimes it requires time, effort, shared experiences and professional help. Lots of adoptive parents find their experience somewhere in between. Attachment can be affected by the age and personality of the child and also by the emotional state of the parent. After my daughter’s adoption, I though the process of bonding with another child would feel familiar (after all, I had done it before). It truly did not. I love both of my children more than life, but the process of bonding with them felt very different.
Open adoptions with different birth families can be tricky.
Both of my children have ongoing contact with members of their birth families. Due to a variety of factors, this means that one child sees these birth family members much more often than the other child does. If I’m honest, this is really hard. It seems unfair and brings up feelings of grief and loss in one child and feelings of guilt in the other. Ultimately, I believe that maintaining positive, safe relationships with birth family members is important enough that I can’t deny one child the opportunity because the other child doesn’t have it. But this is an ongoing balancing act that took me a bit by surprise.
It’s worth it. Always.
No matter how short or long the timeline between placement and finalization, your children are worth it. No matter how natural or challenging the attachment process feels, your children are worth it. No matter how tricky different levels of openness in adoption can be, your children are worth it. Your second adoption will look different from your first. And that’s ok. Because adoption is worth it. Your kids are worth it.