The world of adoption can be intimidating. There are dozens of choices to be made by all who are involved. Expectant parents are dealing with the uncertainty of an unexpected pregnancy; hopeful adoptive parents are eagerly preparing for a child that could arrive any day (or not at all). As one begins to research the process and all that it entails, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged. Rather than expecting the worst and flying blind, learn the basics of what adoption entails and what you can expect from the process before and after placement. These simple expectations can help you feel peace of mind as you begin your journey of adoption in NY. 

1. Placement

As an expectant parent who is considering adoption in NY, you may be facing an array of challenges and decisions to be conquered in a short amount of time. This is overwhelming and discombobulating to anyone who is undergoing these experiences for the first time. You are not alone, though. There are others who have been in a similar situation you find yourself in now. Between adoption agencies, support groups, and personal relationships, you can navigate any hardship you face throughout a pregnancy that is heading toward the road of adoption. One of the first steps to take when you are starting to consider your options is who you will work with to make educated decisions and create your adoption plan.

During this time, you can feel confident in knowing that an accredited adoption professional will respect your wishes and needs throughout the placement process. In preparation for the day of the birth, an adoption agency or professional will help you to create a plan complete with financial needs discussed throughout the pregnancy, parent-matching services, and counseling throughout and after the placement process. Details such as the birth plan and post-adoption plan will be sorted out beforehand so that you will feel prepared. Remember, no matter what stage of pregnancy you are at, or if you have already given birth, it is never too late to make an adoption plan.

Immediately following the birth of your child, you will have an appointed amount of time to spend with him or her before signing the adoption paperwork. You’ll then sign the paperwork to relinquish parental rights over the child, and the appointed adoptive parents will continue the process until finalization. The adoptive family will go before a judge to complete the adoption process; post-placement visits will be performed by the adoption agency or other professional to ensure that the match is successful. Once this process is complete, you will officially hold the title of birth parent.

2. Childhood

Once the adoption is finalized and placement is complete, the story doesn’t end. You will always be a birth mother. Your child will always have a past that relied on her adoption. And the adoptive parents will forever be a part of an ever-growing adoption community. As the baby you placed for adoption grows, takes her first steps, learns to talk, and starts discovering the world, she will also begin to discover what life as an adoptee would entail. Put simply, the course of her life was shaped by a carefully considered decision and a ruling from a judge. But the life-long search for identity, belonging, and security will begin from day one. Depending on your chosen adoption plan preplacement, your involvement in your child’s upbringing will vary.

Open adoptions allow for a specified amount of contact within the adoption triad (the adoptee, the adoptive parents, and the biological parents). Open adoptions have been known to secure beneficial bonds within the adoption triad. Depending on the agreement made between the biological and adoptive parents before placement, the openness of this type of adoption relationship will vary. While some biological parents only wish for a phone call on birthdays and holidays, others will agree with the adoptive parents to have a more frequent presence in the child’s life.

A closed adoption arrangement cuts ties between biological and adoptive families after the placement. Typically, when a closed adoption is requested by a biological parent, identifying information is not shared between the two parties. Even though some information may be shared throughout the placement process, the contact is no longer permitted after the adoption is finalized. While this approach is less common, it is the best option for some biological parents, adopted children, and adoptive parents. Total separation can help biological parents heal and pursue a life independent of the child they placed. Adoptive parents can benefit from securing bonds with an adopted child. Most importantly though, the physical and emotional safety of the child can be protected in a closed adoption depending on the existing circumstances.

3. Adolescence 

As a child who was adopted grows, he or she will begin to make discoveries about identity and belonging in the world. A teenage adoptee can experience confusing emotions as he or she begins to ask the questions “Where did I come from?” and “Where do I belong?” As his or her future begins to approach, the answers to these questions will influence the path taken toward the future. When moments of confusion, doubt, or frustration arise—depending on the type of adoption—the adoptee’s parents can help answer those tough questions. At times like this, both adoptive and biological parents can be great resources for love and support.

When adoption becomes a point of self-contention in a young person’s life, it is important to remember that adoption is not a defining part of life. Adoption changes someone’s life course in that it influences one’s surroundings, it affects the caretakers of an adopted person, and it impacts the way someone may approach and function in the world. While these things may hold great weight in someone’s upbringing, it does not in any way affect who he or she is and what can be accomplished by that person. An adoption doesn’t define a parent, a birth parent, or a child who was adopted. As an adopted person grows into an understanding of his identity and direction in life, that understanding will be imperative. His potential for success, happiness, and normalcy is no different than the next person’s.

4. Adulthood

As your adoptee ages into adulthood, he will begin to experience even bigger milestones and accomplishments. He may graduate from high school, pursue more education, begin a career, start a family, or travel the world. As the door to the future opens to adulthood, the thrill of freedom and independence will be a guide to the rest of his life. Whether that takes him to a university or the suburbs, he will carry his adoption story—his roots—onto the next chapter of life in whatever capacity is chosen. Perhaps the adoptee will become an advocate for adoption, he could simply choose to share his adoption story with a select group of trusted and loved individuals, or it could be that the adoptee will pursue a new adoption journey toward reunion, foster parenting, or adopting a child of his own.

As the child you placed for adoption grows into adulthood, you too will have grown in life and experience. Perhaps you now have a career, family, or both. You probably have people in your life who were not there when you placed your child for adoption. But, when the time is right, you share your story with those people and build an even stronger support system of love and understanding around you.

5. Reunion 

In cases of closed adoption, when the adoptee becomes an adult, different members of the adoption triad may start to consider reunion. At the end of the day, though, both the adoptee and the biological family member must consent to a reunion. The love and support of both the adoptive family and the biological family will be so important throughout the reunion process and reconnecting if appropriate or possible. While some reunions start and end with a brief meeting over lunch, others blossom into a lifetime relationship. Showing respect for everyone’s boundaries will foster healthier relationships long-term.

Biological parents and family members can prepare themselves and their families for a reunion with healthy expectations. Communication is key. If a biological parent marries post-placement, then communicating with that spouse can help ensure that there are no loose ends when it comes to reunion. While placing a baby for adoption doesn’t define who you are, it will always have a lasting impact on your life. There is no pressure to reunite or open your life to a child that was placed for adoption if you are not comfortable with it. Reevaluate your position on reunion throughout your life and seek professional help if you find yourself conflicted with your decision.

Adoptive families who are pursuing reunion also need open communication within the family. Parents, siblings, and even extended family members should be prepared with healthy expectations for what a reunion could mean. Adoptive parents should be ensured that reunion isn’t a betrayal or comment on that parent’s love for the child. Extended family members should speak with the adoptee about his or her adoption journey and vision. This preparation will help everyone feel secure in the adoption process knowing that the adoptee’s relationships and need for a reunion do not affect his or her love for adoptive family members—but it is about the adoptee seeking closure, essential medical information, or satisfaction of a lifetime of curiosities.

6. Community 

The adoption community opens its doors to those considering adoption in NY, pursuing adoption, adopting, adopted, and previously associated in any way with adoption. Every individual who has ever been touched by adoption in any way knows that there is a struggle to achieve a brighter future and a forever family when circumstances are less than ideal. Unplanned pregnancy and infertility have stopped so many from finding that hope. Adoption connects these individuals in their challenges and their successes. Even though each adoption journey is unique, there are certain challenges that only another birth mother, adoptive parent, or adoptee would understand universally.

Both in-person and online support groups can be a great resource of support throughout an adoption journey. To find a support group that meets regularly, reach out to your local adoption agency to inquire about their resources. Online support groups can be found with a simple Facebook or Google search. Online support groups are sometimes preferred by individuals and families in areas where meeting in person isn’t possible or convenient. A support group online can have a constant feed of resources, dialogue, and connection to other birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees from all over the world.

Securing support and a community is essential in someone’s adoption journey. Support groups, friends, family, and other loved ones can lift you during the tough times. They can be there to hold your hand when challenges arise and cheer you on as you face each trial. They say it takes a village to raise a child. The same goes when it comes to adoption. It takes a village to support a birth mother, a birth father, a hopeful adoptive parent, and an adoptee.

Setting realistic expectations for your adoption journey is an important part of starting the process. While it may feel overwhelming to make the first leap into the world of adoption, remember that there is help to be had every step of the way. Stay positive and hopeful as you start to make decisions regarding your future and your child’s future. You can be assured that throughout the placement, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and a possible reunion, you can be supported by a community of like-minded and experienced people who are ready to help you. Adoption is not for the faint of heart. There is tragedy that comes with the miracle of life and adoption, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost for a happy future—for everyone. Whether you are an expectant parent, birth parent, hopeful adoptive parent, adoptive family member, or adoptee, there are plenty of resources and happy moments ahead as you embark on your adoption journey.