Life is more difficult in the Last Frontier. I would guess that the same goes for adoption in Alaska. That’s not to say that it isn’t possible, isn’t just as needed, and isn’t just as satisfying. As all Alaskans know, it is a vast land. Depending on where you live in Alaska, you may need to be creative to adopt. But don’t get discouraged. It can and will happen. I know. We did it.
We lived in a rural town just south of Fairbanks, Alaska. Well, about 100 miles south. When we started the adoption process, there was a private adoption agency in Fairbanks. Nowadays, you’d have to contact an agency in Anchorage, and while it’s not exactly “local,” let’s face it, You do live in Alaska. Local is relative. You know that everything in Alaska is just a little bit extra. Shipping, commutes, driveways, animals. It is what it is.
As with any adoption process, you’ll need to first consider what type of adoption you’re interested in pursuing. In my personal experience, I have known families grown through foster care, private domestic, and international adoption. You must find the method that feels best and right for your family. I do know that no matter what, you’ll likely have to be a bit more patient with the process in the Last Frontier. But know this, adoption in Alaska is possible.
The first thing we did after we decided that we wanted to pursue domestic infant adoption is that we started researching agencies in the state of Alaska. We were able to find an agency that would travel to our area. Sadly, that agency has closed now, but I do know that there are other agencies within the state. We had also spoken to an agency in Anchorage that was willing to travel over 350 miles to our location with only a minimal additional fee. You’ll also want to ask them about post-placement visits and if there are extra fees associated with those visits as well. Domestic adoption is on the decline nationwide. This is why after a relatively short wait period, we were encouraged to find another agency outside of Alaska, in the Lower 48, that would be able to help us adopt from anywhere in the United States.
A simple Google search will provide you with a plethora of options. It is important to do your due diligence. Speak to others who have adopted in your area or nearby areas. Listen to their input, their positives, and their negatives about the agency, the caseworker, the process. You may have different criteria for the process, you may have no idea what that is. You will find your way. You will find the right agency. I know that it can seem overwhelming to make all these decisions, but you can do it. If you don’t have a clue where to start, start here.
You’ll want to consider travel to and from Alaska with an infant. Find products, services, and people to make your traveling less stressful and easier on you. Stack away extra funds so that you have the option to travel most efficiently and comfortably that you can afford. We found a great carrier that made traveling with our infant so easy. He just snuggled in and made himself comfy. I had use of my arms, which is a beautiful thing. Another game-changer was a premixed formula. They come in small shelf-stable, ready-to-use sizes, and were a lifesaver in a small space when he was ready to eat right now! It really made life and traveling easier.
Once you make those initial decisions, you’ll want to get the paperwork and home study checklist from your agency. It was a lifesaver to have the list ahead of time so that we could make the necessary changes to our home before the worker made her initial visit. When we completed that first home study so many years ago, we had several visits to the office, then at our home. We were able to slimline the process because we were able to prepare and know the changes necessary. And since I’m a natural planner, I was a lot less stressed when that initial visit came around. That doesn’t mean I didn’t clean the corners of my closet anyway. Several people, articles, and blog posts told me it wasn’t necessary, but the man did it to make me feel better just to know.
International is another choice if you are pursuing adoption in Alaska. The home study requirements will be different for international adoption than domestic infant adoption. If you aren’t sure where to start I have included a list of the top five international adoption agencies here. The process of international adoption will likely be the process of adoption in Alaska least likely affected by your geography. You may have to account for some extra travel time but that’s just a given if you live in rural Alaska. As with any process, you’ll want to decide on where to adopt from. That will help you find the correct agencies to fulfill your needs. You will always need a local agency to do a home study, but not all adoption agencies can complete home studies for international adoption. If you have a hard time finding an agency to come to you, ask your international adoption agency if they have anyone that they would recommend in Alaska.
Another option for completing an adoption in Alaska is adoption from foster care. You will find a social service agency in any larger city in any state, Alaska included. You may even find them in smaller cities as well. If cost is of concern to you and your family, foster care adoption is a wonderful option as it is virtually free to families choosing to adopt through the foster care system.
With foster care adoption, there are many other questions you’ll have and decisions that you’ll have to make. The home study process will be close to a domestic adoption home study, though with public adoptions you’ll need further training on safety issues and concerns. As with any type of adoption, there are risks. You’ll want to do thorough research on the effect of drugs on a child’s brain and nervous system and prognosis for the future. You’ll want to educate yourself about trauma and resources in your area.
When you plan to complete an adoption in Alaska, or anywhere, you will need ongoing services for your child. Trauma is a part of the adoption process and it affects each child uniquely. It will become imperative for you to know what services are available in your area. If they aren’t available in your area, you’ll want to know how far you will have to travel to get your child the therapies and services that they will need. Consider what it might look like years in the future when your child is in school, or you have multiple children, to drive the distance once or twice weekly. This may seem pointless, and I truly hope that you will never need those services, but I can speak from experience that you likely will.
Finding support will be essential in adoption in Alaska. Whether you find in-person or online support, it will become an invaluable tool in helping you navigate the nuances of adoption. In many ways, adopting is just like parenting a biological child. In other ways, you have no idea (in many cases) what happened during your child’s pregnancy and as was the case for us, in their early years. Formation of the brain will likely be impeded and your child will have needs. For some, that information sounds dire and helpless. Healing can and will help, and that’s why support and services will be such an essential part of the adoption process.
Adoption in Alaska will have many challenges. For us, one of the largest issues was finding the gear that our child needed. As first-time adopters, we listened to the naysayers around us and did not prepare a room before we were matched. I’m naturally a planner and I wish that I had listened to my heart and prepared a neutral room ahead of time. Even just the furniture ahead of time. My son ended up with a very sweet nursery in the five weeks we were given to prepare for him, but, truthfully, had I had more time it would have been nicer furniture. We were thankful and blessed that the car seat we felt was the safest and best was able to be delivered to us in the time frame we had. I can imagine that if you live even more rural than we did, finding baby gear would be more challenging. The requirements for cribs and car seats are pretty much universal. But check with your licensing agent before you buy so that you are up to date on the current requirements for car seats, cribs, and gear.
If you adopt an infant, one thing that became very difficult for us, initially, was feeding our adopted child. Whether you choose to nurse your adopted child, or formula feed your new child, you’ll likely need to do some preparation so that you’re not making a long trek for formula each week. In our situation, we had to try out many, many formula options before we found the right fit for our little guy. Thankfully, there are so many services that will send your products on a subscription basis. When we began this process those services weren’t available, at least not in rural Alaska. Eventually, we moved to foods and that was much easier as you have more homemade and shelf-stable options. And, truthfully, we made our own pureed foods in many situations.
No matter where you choose to adopt there will be things that catch you by surprise. All you can do is prepare the best you can. For me, that meant reading a lot of books. A lot of books. Gather information in any way that you can. If you prefer reading I have included this article that provides a wonderful list of books to help prepare you and your family. If you are planning to adopt a child internationally or from the foster care system, I highly recommend Wounded Children, Healing Homes. It has been a game-changer for our family and has helped us navigate the world of trauma and improve, or change, our parenting strategies for each of our children. It has provided us with tangible ways to help our children as we navigate this world of trauma and the effects on their brains.
No matter where you are in the world, you will figure out what you need to parent the children you are given. Adoption in Alaska can be challenging, but it’s challenging in the Lower 48 as well. Planning and preparation are just part of life in Alaska, and adoption is no different. You can and will find the supports you need to parent successfully. There will be ups and downs, but anything is possible with research and preparation. I have found that support groups have been a vital part of our process. And it becomes more important as time goes on. If you can’t find a support group, start one. I can guarantee no matter where you are, you will find someone who knows where you are, how you are feeling, and the best part is giving you tips and strategies to make it through that time in your life. The common denominator is how you love your family and the nuances that come with parenting children that didn’t come from your body.
Research, plan, prepare, and enjoy! Embrace the challenges and find a way to make them fun and unique for your family. Making the best of the situation you are in is important and imperative. Life will always have challenges, especially in the Last Frontier, but you can and will find the best avenue for your family.
Do you feel there is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by a child? We’ve helped complete 32,000+ adoptions. We would love to help you through your adoption journey. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.