1. Are you really able to support a child in today's world? Too many people focus on the cost of adopting -- from almost nothing for some foster care adoptions, to over $50,000 for some domestic agency and Eastern European adoptions. In fact, the adoption costs are negligible, when compared to what it costs to raise a child till age 18 or beyond. Parents of adopted children may actually spend a lot more than those having biological children, because there is a greater possibility that they will have medical, psychiatric, and/or educational needs. And remember that, if both parents currently work outside the home, and plan to do so after they adopt, the child's needs may require one parent to stay home for at least some period of time. If you have any questions, get some advice from a reputable financial planner.
2. Are there people with prejudices in your extended family? Most families do have a bigot or two, alas. If you are adopting a child of a different race, ethnicity, religion, etc., you will need to find the strength to ensure that your child does not have to deal with these people. As an example, if Uncle Bob can't watch his mouth, and uses racial or ethnic slurs, even after being reminded not to do so, you may have to decide never to attend a family gathering with your child, if he will be present. And it's not just about race, religion, and so on. If Grandma wants all the children to get together for a family photo, but says that your child won't be included because she is "not of our blood", or "not really your child", you may have to cut your ties with her, much as you would prefer not to have to do so.
3. Are you prepared to do what it takes for your child, even if it is difficult? As an example, if you live in a 99% White community, with the only non-Whites being the folks who do the yard work, run the local Chinese restaurant, etc., you may find that it will be better for your child if you move to a more diverse area. And if the child doesn't do well in the local public school, which can't manage his/her language issues or anxieties, will you be comfortable either fighting a legal battle to get him/her the services he/she needs, or else putting the child in private school, even if those activities will cost you a good deal of time and money.
4. Do you know what good child care costs? Especially if you will be bringing home a child below school age, and if you plan to work outside the home, you'd better do some checking on the local child care situation. You may be shocked to find how expensive it is to hire a nanny, or even to use daycare. And be aware, too, that the best child care options often have long waiting lists. People who are having Biological children often reserve a slot as soon as they know their expected due date; however, with the unpredictability of adoption, many child care settings won't put a family on the waiting list until the child is home.
5. If you have come to adoption via infertility or miscarriage, have you worked through your grief about your inability to have a biological child, preferably with professional help or help from a support group like RESOLVE? Will you ever stop thinking of adoption as "second best?" Be aware that, much as you love the child you may adopt, there may be moments -- for example, on the anniversary of the day you miscarried or your IVF didn't work -- when you feel your old pain and sadness. You will need to be able to recognize and accept that sense of loss, .without letting it overwhelm you so that you cannot be a good parent.
6. Can you put aside your plans to have a "perfect" child, and accept that your adopted child may not have the ability to make the SAT scores necessary for getting into Harvard, following in your footsteps, and may be better off going to a community college or trade school? Can you accept that the child you adopt, just like the one to whom you might have given birth, could wind up with a heart defect, or bipolar disorder, or just the inability to carry a tune?
7. Can you learn to accept your child's birthmother as someone of value, even if she is an addict, or mentally ill, or in prison for a serious crime? After all, she made it possible for you to have your child. Can you teach your child that she made some bad choices in her life, but that she did give him/her life, and that she still wants to hear about how he/she is doing?
8. Can you teach your child to appreciate his birth heritage/culture, and to see adoption in a positive light, without minimizing the importance of his feelings, at any given point in time, of grief and loss. Can you model appropriate adoption language, teach him how to answer questions about his adoption in ways that respect his privacy, incorporate things from his birth culture into your home life, and make sure that he gets to know lots of other families formed by adoption, so he doesn't see his own situation as odd?
9. Do you have a good support system? Raising any child, but particularly an adopted child, is hard work. There are times you will need a shoulder to cry on, someone to share a funny incident with, an extra pair of hands, and so on. While it's nice if some of the people in your support system are relatives, it's not absolutely necessary; many of us create our own "honorary families" that include dear friends and others in our communities. In the case of a single adoptive parent, it's very important for the child to have positive adult role models of the gender opposite that of the parent. These can be relatives, friends, colleagues, clergy, and so on.
10. Are you willing to ask for help? Too many families wait until there is a full blown crisis to ask for help, and that goes for biological families as well as adoptive ones. It's easy to say, "Oh, we don't need psychologists; they just use psychobabble and don't solve problems," or "Our son doesn't need a shrink; he just needs to grow up and learn to respect his elders," or "Yes, he has some issues, but doesn't everyone?" or "I shouldn't have adopted; my mother said that what you get when you adopt is a 'bad seed' and our daughter seems to be one; we are going to find someone else to parent her." There is help out there, and you should be looking for adoption-savvy professional help before things get really rough, as well as good support groups of parents who have gone through what you are experiencing.