When I started looking and asking for the top pieces of advice for hopeful adoptive parents, I thought I would be overwhelmed with suggestions. And I did get a lot of responses, but they were able to be molded down to a few categories. When you begin the adoption process, it feels like such a daunting, unsurpassable journey that any bit of information out there feels like a lifeline. So here are a few things to consider as you move along. Thanks to the adoptive parents, advocates, and agencies that threw out their answers to me so I could condense them and pass them along.
1. Trust Yourself. If a situation does not feel right, don’t force it. As guilty as you may feel to say no or to walk away, it is okay to walk away from a potential match. If there are red flags and serious issues, that baby was not meant to be yours. Your baby will come to you. Give it time.
2. Be your own advocate. Do not stay on the sidelines waiting for your agency or someone else to do all of the work for you. Let others know of your intentions. They may know an expectant mom and can connect you to her. Ask your agency what you can do to promote your family. The more people who know of your hopes and dreams, the more support you will receive.
3. Read and educate yourself. Gather as much information as you can about adoption. Start reading parenting books. Find a pediatrician you feel comfortable with. Read about subjects that complicate a pregnancy or may compromise an infant, such as drug exposure, prematurity, alcohol exposure. Look into baby gear and car seat installation. The more you know, the more educated a decision you can make when a situation is presented.
4. Be Open. This one seems to be key. People say that the right child will find their way to you. The more open you are, the more possibilities there will be for you to be presented with. Sometimes hopeful adoptive parents start the adoption process with one idea in mind and as the journey unfolds, they realize that there are more ways that they could love a child and become more open to age, race, exposure, and disabilities. Always be honest with yourself though. If you are really not comfortable with certain aspects, then do not compromise your feelings. But if you start out thinking that you want to adopt an infant and then a situation arises with an older child, look deep within yourself. Is this YOUR child?
5. Try other agencies. Ask if you can branch out. If you aren’t happy with how things are going, speak up. If one agency doesn’t go into the region you want for International Adoption, find one that does. Seek other avenues if necessary. And ultimately, if an agency is not listening to you, returning your calls or emails, or communicating with you at all, it may be time to look for a new agency.
6. Discuss the level of openness you are comfortable with engaging in. Talk to other adoptive parents who have closed, semi-open, or open adoptions to see how they work and what will work for you and your family. Are you willing to follow through with what you agree to doing? In most states there are no laws that make an adoptive family keep their promises to a birth family. It’s a walk of faith. If you say you will exchange pictures and updates, be sure you are willing to follow through. Expectant parents depend on your honesty and integrity in this area.
7. A lot of agencies also spoke about the need to create an outstanding profile. This is the first glimpse that an expectant parent has to see your personality, your lifestyle, your idea of home. If your profile is one that reaches out and grabs attention, this is a valuable asset. There are online companies that can help you create one, or your agency may have an advertising department that can create one for you or walk you through making your own.
Although all of these tips hold great information, the best piece of advice is to enjoy the ride. Adoption creates many emotions. We bring to the table our histories on why we are muddling through adoption paperwork, the home study, the fears, the questions. And expectant families are doing the same things. Ultimately what is important is not us, but the child that will be brought into a home full of love, laughter, and family. From all sides of the triad. Adoption is a roller coaster of events and feelings. Enjoy every high and reach out to get through the lows. And always remember, you do not walk this road alone.
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