Prospective adoptive parents are important characters in the adoption journey, but they need assistance in effecting a placement. Adoption professionals...

When seeking advice on how to handle something, people typically expect to receive tips about what they should do. But tips about what NOT to do can be just as helpful, if not more so, whether it is adding on to your house or growing your family through adoption. Let’s consider when hearing “Don’t do it!” is appropriate for prospective adoptive parents.

1. Don’t Be Self-Centered

While those seeking to become parents by adopting are some of the main characters in any adoption story, they are by no means the only main characters with a role. The birth parents and the baby are members of the adoption triad also and play a crucial part in an adoption. Prospective adoptive parents should not get so caught up in their own journey that they lose sight of what others are or will be going through as a result of this placement.

In particular, prospective adoptive couples need to recognize that while an adoptive placement may be a glorious event for them, it is a painful process for the birth parents. How would hopeful adoptive parents feel if they were faced with the decision to be permanently parted from their flesh and blood because that option was best for their offspring? The American Revolution may have been a time that tried men’s souls, but a pregnancy ending with a planned adoptive placement is a time that tries the souls of birth mothers.

Carrying a child will be a constant reminder to a birth mother of how her child was conceived. If she was raped, news of her pregnancy was not happy tidings, and her trauma continues during the months before she delivers. Perhaps the birth mother is experiencing feelings of guilt if the baby was conceived as the result of an extramarital affair or a one-night stand which she regrets. Even if conceived in love, her baby may be a constant reminder of a failed relationship.

Aside from inner emotional turmoil, a birth mother may also be facing external challenges. Her pregnancy might impact her ability to continue in her current job or to obtain employment if she is seeking a job. Positions requiring manual labor or standing for long periods of time may not be something she can handle while pregnant. Employability is tied to the birth mother’s financial situation and being able to support herself.

Opposition to a placement decision may also be encountered. Family members may disagree with that choice causing family disharmony. Friends or coworkers with whom a birth mother regularly interacts could be judgmental or cut off contact just when support is most needed.

Being pregnant also brings with it any number of physical challenges. A birth mother could experience nausea or discomfort because of her expanding belly. She may be losing sleep because she cannot find a comfortable position in which to sleep.

Prospective adoptive parents must realize that there is a steep price to pay for a baby to be available to join their family, and the birth mother is the one paying that price. Ignoring the process by which a new family member is obtained is akin to going to the grocery store and turning a blind eye to the fact that the meat in the plastic-wrapped tray was the result of an animal losing its life. The birth mother may suffer emotionally, mentally, and physically to bear her child for placement. Her sacrifice should not be ignored or downplayed. The prospective adoptive parents must not focus solely on their own challenges and fears during an adoptive journey. The birth mother is the human being who will provide them with their miraculous bundle of joy and deserves their support. If the prospective adoptive parents are interacting directly with her, they need to show concern and empathy for the birth mother.

Perhaps they could send a note of encouragement or a card to show they are thinking about her. If they are people of faith, the prospective adoptive parents can pray regularly for the birth mother as well as their future child. Respect and care for the birth mother will benefit the child in addition to his mother. Positive interactions with the prospective adoptive parents can lift her spirits in a difficult time and may help alleviate some stress which could affect her child. In the future, when adoption is discussed with the adoptee, he or she will know that his adoptive parents loved and honored him before he was placed with them because they treated his biological parent kindly and with concern.

2. Don’t Publicly Announce Your Match

Once a baby has been placed with a prospective adoptive couple, the couple will want to shout the glorious news from their rooftop. But, they should wait until the placement is complete to announce the good news. Why? Because until a placement is made and the necessary consents are irrevocable, there is a risk that the situation may fall through. No prospective adoptive parent wants to relive the devastation each time he is forced to repeat the sad news that the adoption fell through to untold numbers of people. It will be heartbreaking enough to process the grief and loss of a failed match, so prospective adoptive parents should avoid setting themselves up for even more trauma. When a match is made, news can be shared with a select few, if necessary, but the announcement of a match should not be Facebook fodder at that point.

3. Don’t Try to Run the Show

Prospective adoptive parents are important characters in the adoption journey, but they need assistance in effecting a placement. Adoption professionals, whether agencies or attorneys, are there to guide them during the process and to handle the necessary documents and steps along the way. Unlike adoptive parents, these professionals’ judgment is not clouded by emotions. The adoption professionals have the training and experience to know what to do, what not to do, and when to do it. Don’t make their jobs difficult by bucking their guidance and second-guessing their decisions. Let them do the job they were hired to do.

Asking for an explanation for understanding is a good thing to do, but challenging their proposed course of action is not a smart move. Would a prospective adoptive parent try to tell the doctor how to treat his medical condition? An adoption professional should be afforded the same courtesy in an adoption case.

4. Don’t Procrastinate

As they say, timing is everything. Unfortunately, in adoption situations a firm timetable is never in the cards. Birth mothers decide to pursue an adoptive placement when they are ready. Babies arrive when they arrive, which is usually not on their due date. Doctors enter orders and schedule procedures when they decide it is appropriate. The only thing adoptive parents can control is what they are asked to do.

Awareness of the fact that the exact timing of events is unknown means prospective adoptive parents shouldn’t procrastinate. They need to take care of whatever tasks are required of them promptly so that they will be ready when something happens. Things will be crazy enough during an adoption without the soon-to-be new parents delaying the process by neglecting their duties at a crucial time.

Adoption is a paper-intensive process. No one likes to do paperwork, but putting off doing paperwork is not going to make things better. In fact, it may make things worse. If a couple is working with an adoption attorney who charges an hourly fee, they will feel a sting in their wallet if the attorney repeatedly calls to ensure they provide the needed forms and documents.

A home study must be completed before a child can legally be placed in a nonrelative’s home. Dragging feet to get that background investigation process started may result in delays and panic if a baby arrives earlier than expected. Instead of procrastinating, prospective adoptive parents should be prepared by doing paperwork and providing information in a timely manner.

5. Don’t Expect the Situation to Be All Wine and Roses

Adoptions occur in the real world, and in the real world, things happen. Life does not always go smoothly or as anticipated, and nowhere is this statement truer than in adoptions.

Prospective adoptive parents are in for a rude awakening if they expect a smooth ride. They do not need to move forward thinking everything will be wine and roses. Snags and bumps will occur. It is not a question of if but when they will occur. Expecting that the unexpected can and likely will happen prepares prospective adoptive parents to address these challenges. Although not comforting at the time a challenge is encountered, these snags will be part of what makes a couple’s adoption journey unique and become a great story to tell in the future.

What snags could occur? An out-of-state couple may be adopting from Florida, and all the hotels are full due to a hurricane when the baby is born. Perhaps, the flight they were counting on to get them to the hospital in time for the birth is canceled. Maybe the fingerprints required for the home study must be redone because the initial prints were rejected. The prospective adoptive parents may have expected to be in the delivery room with the birth mother, but the hospital’s new COVID-19 policies forbid their presence in the hospital. The possible snags are endless.

6. Don’t Fly by the Seat of Your Pants

Even though it is impossible to know exactly how events will unfold in an adoption, that does not mean plans should not be made. Prospective adoptive parents need to at least come up with a Plan A, while realizing that in the end Plan M could rule the day. At least if a plan is in place, there is something to start with and revise if the circumstances change.

The date and time of the baby’s birth may not be known in advance, but prospective adoptive parents do know some specific decisions must be made. Travel plans are a prime example. Couples know they will have to travel to the hospital to receive placement of their new family member. What will the transportation plan be? Is flying or driving to the destination best? If children are already in the home, will those children accompany them or must childcare be arranged? If it is an interstate adoption requiring the prospective adoptive parents to remain in the state until ICPC clearance is obtained, where will they stay? Making decisions and plans at the eleventh hour and under the gun is asking for trouble.

7. Don’t Be Disengaged

Prospective adoptive parents should be active participants in the adoption process. They cannot simply sit back and await the call to come pick up their new bundle of joy or to receive a final judgment of adoption. Their adoption professional must take the wheel, but the soon-to-be new parents need to provide input.

The applicable state laws will control how some things are accomplished in an adoption such as the timing of consent. However, prospective adoptive parents have a voice in how other things are handled that are not addressed by state laws. The hospital plan is one such area. Is there a desire to be in the delivery room if the birth mother allows? If the baby is a boy, do they want him circumcised? Do they wish to be in a bonding room if one is available? Do they want to interact with the birth mother after delivery but prior to her discharge? Communicating with the adoption professional to provide this input in advance is vital to a smoother and more satisfying experience.

Prior to placement, prospective adoptive couples should ponder what information or assistance they require. If certain documentation must be submitted to obtain medical coverage through their insurance company, the prospective adoptive couple l needs to know in advance. If the attending pediatrician requests specific information or records for the child’s first doctor appointment, the adoptive parents should be given a heads up to ensure they acquire that documentation. It is important to the process for prospective adoptive parents to get involved and make sure that their needs and desires are conveyed.

8. Don’t Be Demanding

Adoption placements are stressful on all involved including the adoption professional and hospital staff. It doesn’t help the situation for prospective adoptive parents to ask for the moon in the midst of turmoil. The adoption professional will provide updates when they become available. Repeatedly contacting him to ask, “Have you heard anything yet?” is not helpful and may increase the cost of the case where legal services are billed on an hourly basis. Hospital staff are bound by the hospital policies and their assigned duties. They cannot simply drop what they are doing and come to get a baby discharged just because the adoptive couple is ready to leave. Hospital staff cannot allow actions which contradict hospital policies. Even though this is a “special” situation and the couple really wants to have access to the baby in the NICU outside of visiting hours, the hospital staff cannot consent.

9. Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch

While most adoption placements will successfully conclude, sadly, there will be some that fail. Prospective adoptive parents need to be aware of this risk and act accordingly. They can be cautiously optimistic, but they should also be aware that a negative outcome is a possibility. Hoping for the best but preparing for the worst is a good plan.

For prospective adoptive parents, managing an adoption journey is twofold. The process involves learning not only what to do, but also what NOT to do. A “don’t” can be as critical as a “do.” By observing a “don’t” such as “Don’t procrastinate” or “Don’t try to run the show,” an adoption journey can be much smoother for all concerned.