Whether you’ve just accepted a new adoption or fost-adopt placement or are about to, it’s important to know what you may expect in the first month. The first 30 days are a crucial time to form a bond and establish a connection that will last a lifetime.
There’s a lot that happens in this early period together. While the specifics can vary widely by family, here’s a brief snapshot of what many go through:
Shopping for Basics
Even if you have ample time to prepare for the child or children coming into your home, chances are you’ll still need to make A LOT of shopping trips to pick up more necessities. Within the first 30 days and beyond, things will break, go missing, be consumed, be forgotten, etc. For example, it’s entirely possible that the child will arrive with not nearly enough clothing. Be prepared accordingly, and try to set aside time and money for these last-minute additions.
Making and Going to Appointments
Depending on the age when the adoption’s happening and how the child is coming into your life, there may be a number of appointments required. At minimum, expect to make at least one doctor’s appointment (if not more) plus appointments with your court-appointed supervisor and the agency you’re working with (if applicable). Fost-adopt mother April Bean noted that within the first 30 days of placement, she’d made appointments with biological family members, social workers, county child protection services staff, pediatrician, dentist, and therapists, among others.
Enrolling Them in Your Health Plan
This is critical, as there’s a hard deadline involved. According to the U.S. Labor Department Employment Benefits Security Administration, “as long as you enroll your newborn child, adopted child, or child placed for adoption within 30 days of the birth, adoption, or placement for adoption, your plan or insurance coverage may not impose preexisting condition exclusions on the child. Further, any future plan may not impose a preexisting condition exclusion, provided the child does not incur a significant break in coverage (generally, a break in coverage of at least 63 days).” If you are doing a fost-adopt, the agency you are working with should help you through the transition process of health care that occurs when a youth leaves foster care.
Creating and Establishing Routines
Ease the youth into your home, as the transition may be really hard for them. By creating routines and sticking to them as much as possible during and after this critical initial period, you can help create or recreate a sense of normalcy.
“Predictability leads to feelings of safety and trust for all children,” notes parenting coach, Darlynn Childress. “When basic needs are met in a consistent and loving way, children are free to trust the caregiver. You can achieve this by creating a schedule in your home for meals, naps, bedtime and grooming so your child can anticipate your willingness and ability to meet his/her needs. This is how a secure attachment is fostered. Routines create trust too.”
Ensuring the Child Has a Connection to Their Past Life
When working with older kids, the fost-adopt or adoption process can be fraught. After all, from their perspective, it’s a big change to go through. It can sometimes be helpful to keep a few items around that remind them of home, to help ease the transition.
But don’t be surprised if you see a big change for the better after it’s all said and done. For example, Alternative Family Services fost-adopt parents Nikea and Yasou Freeman said they saw a dramatic difference in their daughter’s behavior from when they were just fostering her to when she was finally adopted by them officially.
Providing TLC: Tender Loving Care
As many former foster, fost-adopt, and adopted youth will attest, all they really want is safety, stability, and love. As a new adoptive parent, it’s critical to provide support, understanding, and love as soon as they’re in your home.
Find Time to Take Care of Yourself
The first 30 days of a placement can be incredibly difficult. For many adoptive parents, the change can be quite dramatic. There’s a reason that up to 32 percent of adoptive parents report a type of depression akin to postpartum depression. Even if you’ve been with the child before, as is the case when going from foster care to adoption, the transition can be stressful. That’s why self-care is critical. After all, if you’re not doing well, then you’re not in a position to provide the best possible care to your new child or children.
“Take care of your mate. Have your date nights. Take care of you. Get that workout. And of course, take care of that precious kiddo that you’ve been entrusted with. Because that fragile little soul needs the best that you can give at this critical juncture,” Bean writes.
Top Resources for Resource Parents
Are you a new resource parent (a.k.a. foster parent/adoptive parent) in need of support and guidance? We’ve got your back! Here are a number of resources for you to check out and use as needed.
- The Children’s Bureau and the Child Welfare Information Gateway, which are both parts of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, offer lots of great information. In particular, the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory provides contact info for a wide variety of relevant agencies across all U.S. states and territories.
- Most states and counties/parishes offer information on local adoption guidelines, so be sure to seek out these information sources to get knowledge on what’s required and what’s happening in your area.
- There are lots of private agencies out there (like AFS!) that can help answer your questions and provide on-the-ground support. Look into what’s available where you live, and who can help you with your specific needs.
- Have any questions related to health or healthcare? Be sure to consult your local pediatrician for advice and guidance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can also be a good source of health information.
- Your local school/school district can provide you with insights and guidance as it relates to education, especially when adopting an older child.
- Your community may also be a great resource! Friends, family, and neighbors can provide needed support and spot-on advice, and overall serve as a rock for you as your family grows.
Matthew Kaplan is the Content Marketing Manager at AFS. Alternative Family Services (AFS) provides thoughtful, informed foster care, adoption and mental health services throughout California’s San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Sacramento region. Since 1978, the mission of AFS has been – and continues to be – to support vulnerable children and families in need of stability, safety and well-being in communities through foster care, adoption and mental health services.