Knowing what questions to ask before you consider adoption can be tricky. Most hopeful adoptive parents have at least done some basic research. And while it’s a start, it’s important to know that the more you learn about adoption, the more questions you’re likely to have. Why? Because adoption is complex and sprawling in nature; just when you think you understand a topic, you quickly realize you’ve only scratched the surface.
Whether via the internet, articles, webinars, or an adoption informational meeting, there are many opportunities for an introduction to adoption. Everyone should learn about what adoption is before deciding whether or not it’s right for you.
Like any other big decision you make in life, this one will not only impact you, but it will impact a child you have yet to meet. That makes it even more crucial to take the time to really stop to consider what adoption is, how it will change your life, what it will mean for a waiting child, and whether or not you are in the right place to step into the role of becoming an adoptive parent.
As you own your part in the adoption process, be ready to ask the questions you need answered in order to make your adoption journey as smooth as possible for your current and future family.
My Experience As An Adoptive Parent
I remember the first informational meeting my husband and I attended about adoption. It was in a smallish building just a few miles from our home. The drive over felt long, though, and the walk from the car to the door felt like a thousand steps. We were sure this was the direction we wanted to head, but the sheer realization that we were stepping into something we knew so little about—but would no doubt forever change our world—felt overwhelming.
We sat in a row of folding chairs along with two dozen or so other prospective parents and waited as the speaker stepped up to the front of the room and introduced herself. Thankfully, they handed out notes and brochures because most of what she spoke about went in one nervous ear and out the other.
The statistics, the legal process, the financial information, the wait times, the sliding scales–it was too much information at once. Very little was said about the adoption process itself, or the waiting children, or what adoptive life would be like.
When it was all done, I realized that, although I thought I’d done my homework, I knew next to nothing about the adoption process or anything that would come after it. Maybe I wasn’t ready for adoption after all? Or, was this agency just not right for us?
We sat on it for a while. My husband could tell that I was questioning things as he assured me we would figure it out. The fact that he felt my uncertainty was a huge indicator to me that if I (the more confident one in the process) was questioning things, he, too, was probably feeling the same things.
We reached out to another program and sat through another session. We listened. We took deep breaths. We again left feeling uncertain, anxious, and confused.
Looking back, I realize that in both of those instances, the one thing neither of us did was share any of those feelings or ask any of the real, raw questions we were thinking or feeling.
If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, I’d tell myself, “Hey, it’s okay, every single person in this room right now is feeling the same way and wondering the same things. Some of them know this now. Some may not know it until way later. It’s okay to feel nervous, unsure, and anxious. It’s okay to have questions. You should have lots of questions. You should feel comfortable asking a lot of questions.”
Our Next Attempt
We continued on our path keeping our eyes open for another opportunity to meet with an agency or organization. Several months later, the opportunity presented itself and we went. This time, however, the feeling in the room was different. The presenters approached things differently. Yes, they talked about adoption–the process of, the institution of–but they also touched on the heart of being an adoptive family and what that would mean.
They shared information that meant something—providing answers to things a waiting parent might actually ask about (deeper than numbers and statistics).
As it turns out, one of the speakers was an adoptive mom. And, as such, she was able to speak to us rather than at us. She didn’t speak about the waiting children as numbers, but as real, living beings with identities, with dignity, and with their own needs. We didn’t just hear about the cost of adoption in the sense of dollars, but that of our commitment to a child who needed a family. We didn’t hear dialogue geared toward waiting parents, but just as much toward the waiting children and their wants, their needs, and their vulnerabilities.
Not that she discounted the hopeful parents in the room and what we were going through, but that night–if we hadn’t already realized it by then–it was made clear that adoption wasn’t about fulfilling a want, or need, or dream of becoming a mom or a dad to a child, but that of becoming a mom or a dad to a child who needed a parent.
Questions were welcome. If you were seriously interested in pursuing adoption, you became part of a waiting parents group that would meet on occasion not just to go over where things were in the process or to work down the checklist, but to talk–to share–to feel safe.
What I learned that night was that if we were going to choose to pursue adoption, we needed to inject ourselves into the conversation. Here are three questions that you should feel comfortable answering before you continue the adoption process.
Why do you want to adopt?
It may seem like a no-brainer, but being able to answer why you want to adopt is important. If not for your own understanding, then for your child’s future understanding. You can be sure that, at some point in his or her lifetime, your child may ask you why you chose to adopt him or her. Your child may ask you more than once. This guide walks you through the adoption process.
How Will [You] Know if [You’re] Ready to Adopt? Ask yourself if you’re ready to put a child’s needs before your own and if you are willing to adjust your expectations. Maybe these are easy questions to ask, maybe they require you to think things through from another perspective.
There are many reasons why people choose to adopt. Most importantly, you should be in the right place emotionally, and you should be thinking outside of yourself. Adoption is about family. Are you ready to be that family for a child who needs one? Are you ready to take on the role of adoptive parent as a lifelong commitment?
Do you have the resources and support you and your child will need?
You’ve heard it before– “It takes a village to raise a child.” And while there’s no doubt you’re going to be the best parent you can be, don’t underestimate the strength of having a support system by your side to help you navigate through your adoption journey.
Childwelfare.gov offers information about the types of resources and support you may need at various times after the finalization of the adoption. What you and your child may need in the early years of infancy and toddlerhood will look completely different once he or she begins school, enters teenage years, and more.
Knowing how to talk about adoption will make a world of difference. Adoption language can help you recognize grief and loss. Hopeful adoptive parents should also know where to go for any other needed services early on so that the family is prepared no matter what the circumstances–adoption from foster care, infant adoption, older child adoption, international adoption, or adopting a child with special needs.
Are you open to learning about adoption through the eyes of your child?
There are literally thousands of books, articles, movies, and podcasts addressing adoption. Many of these are produced by adoption facilitators, agencies, and parents. Like any parent–biological or adoptive–you’re going to want to invest time in learning how to be the best parent you can be. Understand that raising a family has changed from the time your grandparents raised your parents or your parents raised you. It will continue to evolve throughout time.
Beyond the professionals learning about adoption from adoptees themselves. Articles such as 10 Things Adult Adoptees Wish You Knew ask adoptive parents to consider the adoption experience from the adoptee’s perspective.
The truth is, you can never ask enough questions about adoption before you consider taking the journey. Being open to listening and learning from a variety of voices and resources may very well be the most important thing you can do for your adopted child.