When you become adoptive parents, it is a life-changing decision that not only impacts you but also your entire family. If you are trying to determine whether adoption is right for you, it’s good to know the basics of what adoptive parenting entails.
How Are Adoptive Parents Different?
Let’s start with the basics of what an adoptive parent is. From a legal standpoint, an adoptive parent is someone who completes all the necessary steps for adoption and assumes legal responsibility for a child after an adoption is finalized. According to law, they hold the same responsibilities and rights as biological parents. Likewise, adoptees assume all the same rights as biological children.
With that in mind, it’s important to remember that adoptees are unique because they have two sets of parents: adoptive parents and birth parents. Birth parents give a child life and pass on their genetic traits like hair, eye color, skin color, personal characteristics, and abilities. Birth parents can bond with their child before birth and this attachment provides an important foundation for understanding relationships and feeling loved and safe. In many cases, biological parents raise a child and provide the love and care that a child needs, further enhancing their attachment. Biological parents also pass along their ethnicity and culture that can help shape a child’s identity.
On the other hand, adoptees do not share any genetic traits with their adoptive parents and may not get a sense of their ethnicity and culture from them, unless adoptive parents are intentional about providing it. Even then, they may not be able to fully provide the same ethnic or cultural experience as a biological parent.
Adoptees can bond with their adoptive parents, but it may take time before this attachment is formed, depending on the child and the circumstances surrounding their adoption. Because of the severed attachment with their biological parents, an adoptee may experience some difficulty forming a new attachment or feel grief surrounding that loss. Every child is different, therefore every adoptive parenting experience is different when it comes to trauma and loss. As an adoptive parent, it helps to educate yourself on how to help your child deal with loss, trauma, and grief in adoption.
Depending on the level of openness in adoption, a birth parent may or may not have contact with their biological child after the adoption is finalized. Often, the adoptive and birth parents make an informal agreement on how much contact to have throughout a child’s life. If a child’s adoption is closed, they may struggle with questions surrounding their heritage and biological family. Open adoption allows for an ongoing relationship and may provide some of the answers that a child seeks concerning their heritage, culture, and biological connections.
Adoptive parenting does share the same day-to-day responsibilities as a biological parent who is raising a child. Adoptive parents provide the daily care, love, and guidance that a child needs while taking full responsibility for the nurturing of a child’s emotional, physical, and mental health. This is true no matter what kind of parent you are.
How Do You Become Adoptive Parents?
Each state and country sets its own guidelines for who can become an adoptive parent. Prospective parents need to check state laws before starting the adoption process. International adoptions may have additional requirements set by the country. As a general rule, most adoptive parents need to pass all background checks and provide a suitable home for a child.
Additionally, there may be requirements related to age, marital status, and health. More states are allowing those who are single or cohabitating to adopt, as well as those who may be older. Because every adoption agency is different, parents may have to complete adoption classes or education hours before they can have a child placed in their home.
Steps to Becoming Adoptive Parents
The first step is deciding what kind of adoption you want to pursue: domestic, foster to adopt, or international. Your decision may be influenced by many factors, including what age child you want to adopt, whether you’re willing to travel, what requirements you meet, and how long you’re willing to wait.
Prospective adoptive parents will need to complete a home study, which is a detailed written report completed by an adoption agency or a licensed social worker. This report contains background information on you and your spouse, as well as details on your employment, home, and health. A social worker will conduct interviews and visit your home to complete this necessary step.
Depending on the type of adoption you choose, your steps to becoming an adoptive parent will vary. For international adoptions, your agency will put together a dossier—the legal documents needed for international adoption requirements. Many countries require you to travel, and some require a minimum stay while in the country.
For domestic adoption, birth parents look through prospective Parent Profiles to select their family. Once they have chosen a profile, they may want to meet with the prospective parents before choosing them as their adoptive parents. A Parent Profile tells your family story, what kind of home you can provide, and what your new child will experience as a family member. You’ll also include pictures of your family, background, hobbies, and travel.
For a foster adoption, you need to fulfill foster parent training before having a child placed in your home. After you have met all your state’s requirements, you can then proceed with either fostering a child or choosing a waiting child.
The finalization of an adoption is an important step for all adoptive parents. Once birth parents have signed consents or birth parents’ rights are terminated, you can pursue the finalization of the adoption in court. After your adoption has been finalized, adoptive parents’ names will appear on the birth certificate as mother and father.
A Birth Parent’s Perspective: What Kind of Adoptive Parents Should I Choose?
If you’re a birth parent, you know how incredibly hard it is to choose adoptive parents for your child. It’s important to keep in mind that every birth parent will have different reasons for choosing their family. Some of those reasons are related to certain preferences you might have. Other times, you have a special connection with your adoptive parent when you see their profile or meet them. Other birth parents will look for a stable home situation or a secure job.
If you’re a birth parent, you may want to start by searching through Parent Profiles and getting a sense of which parents stand out to you. If the process feels overwhelming, consider making a list of the traits you’d like to see in an adoptive parent. You may want to consider things like religious beliefs, race, education, jobs, location, hobbies, or the size of their current family. You will want to decide which of these things are non-negotiable and which are optional—things you’re willing to give up if you find a family you love. This will help you narrow down your choice and make the best decision for your child.
You will also want to decide the level of openness you desire with your adopted child. Even though your biological child will be raised by their adoptive parents, you may still wish to have pictures or visits with them. Clarifying your level of openness ahead of time will help prevent misunderstandings and create a long-term plan for the relationship. This can also provide many of the answers that adoptees seek when it comes to their biological connections and heritage.
Why Do People Become Adoptive Parents?
People choose to adopt for many reasons. Some couples experience infertility, multiple miscarriages, or even stillbirth, which leads them to consider adoption. After experiencing grief from infertility or the loss of a child, the couple may feel led to fulfill their dream of building a family through adoption.
Going through infertility treatments can be expensive and cannot promise a positive outcome. Depending on the medical reasons behind a couple’s fertility issues, fertility treatments may have a low probability of success or be too risky. On top of that, many insurance plans do not cover infertility treatments, making the costs of treatment a financial burden. If a couple has to decide between infertility treatments or adoption, they may feel like adoption is a more viable option, depending on the situation.
Others feel compelled to pursue an adoption whether or not they have biological children. There might be personal or religious reasons or even a family connection to adoption. Whatever the reason behind choosing adoption, it’s a highly personal decision.
Being a parent, whether adoptive or biological, means caring for your children and acting as their legal guardian throughout their life. It involves a lifetime commitment to loving and nurturing your child through every age and stage. Even though many adoptive parents have no biological connection to their child, it does not change how much you love your child or the commitment you have to him or her. This is the beauty of becoming an adoptive family.