Whether you’re a birth parent, adoptive parent, or adoptee, many factors in adoption may seem out of your control, including choices made, wait time, placement, finalization, expectations, and the future.
For some birth parents, deciding whether or not to make an adoption plan for an unborn child or older child, possibly into the welfare system, does not always seem like a choice at all, and in some cases may not be. Some birth parents may find their child removed from the home. Others may be in a bad relationship, financially unstable, or feel ill prepared for parenthood and conclude that adoption is in the best interest of the child. This choice also may impact the child’s extended family – grandparents who feel trapped and as if they don’t have a say in the decision.
Similarly, some adoptive parents struggle when it comes to choosing whether or not adoption is an option for their family – for some it’s a first choice, while others may still wish to conceive biologically, via IVF or other means. For others, adoption may seem an impossible choice due to the complexity of the process and high fees related especially to private and international adoptions.
Of course, most adoptees have no say in their adoption plan and ultimately must deal with the decisions made on their behalf.
Birth parents may experience two very different types of waits regarding adoption, the first being the pregnancy itself – a time filled with emotion and uncertainty under the best of circumstances – and subsequently, placement. Then, depending on the adoption plan, some birth parents experience a second wait – a wait to to possibly have a relationship with their birth child again in the future.
Once adoptive parents have researched and pursued adoption, completing the complex system of paperwork, they, too, enter waiting mode – which can often feel like radio silence as they are now at the mercy of whatever avenue they have chosen, the process itself, the officials, and the courts. The wait is often very long and filled with roadblocks.
An adoptee also faces a wait time, be it growing up in the foster care system or in an institutional/orphanage setting. For some children, this wait can take years.
For birth parents, the placement of a child translates to loss – even if the birth parents are proactive and content with their decision.
For adoptive parents, placement is the moment they’ve been waiting for. However, placement is not the end of the road in the adoption process. During this time, in some cases, again depending on the avenue chosen, adoptive parents remain in a holding pattern until the placement is finalized in a court of law.
Upon placement, an adoptee becomes a member of a new family and must deal with the loss of the birth family while gaining a forever family.
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Finalization is when the birth parents sign over rights and the adoptive parents legally become the adoptee’s parents. These hearings typically take place six to twelve months after a child has been placed with an adoptive family. It is the hope of all involved that by this point, everyone in the adoption triad has had enough time to process and agree to the decisions set into motion. During this time, birth parents have the legal right to appeal to the court to reverse their decision to place the child for adoption. For adoptive families, this time period can be especially grueling as they begin to bond and open their hearts to one another.
Birth parents who decide to make an adoption plan for a child hope and dream that their choice will be in the best interest of the child – a loving family, a good home, a better future. In some cases, where a child has been removed from a dangerous situation at home, birth parents may feel helpless or as if they have failed their child and attempt to better their circumstances in the hopes of renewing a relationship at a later time.
Adoptive families – parents and children – now begin their lives together, and in many cases, face challenges they may not have first considered, including the child’s emotional or physical well-being or lack thereof. At the same time, they must work to balance expectations vs. realities. Unlike many popular baby and child advice books geared toward a biological family unit, adoption presents its own set of rules, which can impact the family dynamic and determine a new norm. Adoptees as well must now navigate a new family, new home environment, and in some cases new culture. This is a long-term process and probably an aspect none of the above parties were fully able to consider when choosing adoption or finding their way through the process.
Of course, nobody can control the future. Nobody can foretell what tomorrow may bring–adoption or no adoption. While some people may feel the adoption process is the hardest struggle they’ll ever face as a parent or as a family, others will say it is nothing in comparison to the day-to-day involved in actually raising a family and dealing with all life throws at us throughout our lives. All parties think about what the future may bring so far as challenges facing adopted children, adoptive family relations, and the potential for birth family reunions and how all of this will impact all the players in the adoption triad.
It’s important for all members of the adoption triad to be honest with themselves and freely and openly communicate their feelings, not just throughout the process of adoption, but in the years following. Joining support groups, having open conversations with adoption facilitators, and ensuring children receive the support they will need both at home and within their communities is a strong first step to ensuring a healthy outcome. Focusing on areas of life that we can control and building on those areas – and encouraging adopted children to do the same, while respecting their need to grieve and adjust to a new family – will help to balance the challenges of adoption.
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