6 Reasons “Just Adopt” is Not That Simple

. . . though it would be nice if it were!

Rachel Garlinghouse September 19, 2015
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As the leader of a large adoption support group, the women in my group and I have discussed how family members and friends have exclaimed that we should “just adopt” when having biological children isn’t successful or an option. But the truth is, one cannot just adopt.  It’s not that simple, and here’s why:

1: Adoption can be expensive.

Domestic infant adoptions can cost anywhere from just a few thousand dollars to over $40,000. International adoptions tend to cost more, on average, than domestic infant adoptions. Even foster care adoption, which is almost always free of cost, involves bringing a child into the home who may have special needs, for example, which of course means incurring some medical expenses. The expense is immediate (the adoption) and then ongoing (adding a child or children to a family and providing for that child). Cost is one of the main reasons a person or couple is unable to pursue adoption.

2: Adoption has requirements.

The family may not meet the requirements of certain adoption programs. For example, age requirements, length of marriage requirements, religious requirements, training requirements, and more. Because of the limits set in place, a person or couple may not qualify for certain adoption programs. Single parents, same-sex couples, and unmarried couples may face even more challenges when trying to find an agency to work with them and the right program to pursue. Each state and country can have different requirements.

3: Adoption may not be supported.

When a person or couple considers adoption, there could be resistance or refusal to agree to an adoption plan by family members or friends. Of course, with some time and education, loved ones may grow to love the idea of adoption. However, some family members and friends may not ever change their minds, leaving the person or couple to decide if they wish to proceed with their plans. This is particularly true when transracial adoption, older child adoption, or special needs adoption is on the table.

4: Adoption isn’t a replacement.

Adoption isn’t a replacement for having a biological child. They are different processes and have different results, challenges, and joys. If a person or couple hasn’t dealt with the reasons why they are considering adoption (for example, infertility), this can negatively impact the child they consider adopting. Adoption should be embraced for what it is:  a family-building journey that is unique.

5: Adoption is forever.

Adoption isn’t something to tamper with, meaning it’s not a trial process. Understanding the possible challenges that come with adoption is important before agreeing to adopt. These challenges might include: unknown medical history, navigating an open adoption (ongoing relationship with the child’s biological family), adopting a child who doesn’t racially match you, adopting a child with special needs, etc.  The person or couple who adopts the child needs to be committed to being the child’s forever family.

6: Adoption requires patience and persistence.

Some are able to adopt a child, after beginning their journey, in a matter of weeks or months.  Some have to wait years (even over a decade) to grow their family by adoption. The journey is unpredictable, often rocky, and hardly ever without its challenges. Choosing adoption means being committed to an unknown child and the journey to get you to that child.  Often those considering adoption wonder if they have the strength to endure the journey, and the answer is almost always yes. But it all stems from a commitment to being patient and persistent no matter what road blocks pop up.

Those who tell you to just adopt mean well.  They want to see your dreams of parenting a child come to fruition. With some time, research, and careful consideration, you will be able to determine if adoption is the right path for you. But keep in mind, there is no “just” about it.

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Rachel Garlinghouse

Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of "Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children," "Black Girls Can: An Empowering Story of Yesterdays and Todays," and "Encouragement for the Adoption Journey: 52 Devotions and a Journal" (co-authored with Madeleine Melcher). Rachel's adoption education and experience has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, Huffington Post Live, ABCNews.com, Babble, Scary Mommy, Portrait of Adoption, Slow Mama, I Am Not the Babysitter, and more. Rachel is a mom of three children, adopted domestically and transracially. Learn more about her family's adventures at White Sugar, Brown Sugar or on Twitter @whitebrownsugar.

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