I think the best thing we can do for ourselves and any children we hope to adopt is to do some real research on the topic. Read whatever you can get your hands on. Have a simple, straight talk with people who have adopted kids from foster care. Check into the body of research on the topic. Be inquisitive. Take the blinders off.

No matter what anyone tells you, adopting a child is not the same as giving birth to one. I think that goes double for adopting a child or children through foster care. I am not talking about love. I have never given birth, but I cannot imagine that I could love a child more because he or she was born to me. I am talking about the child and that child’s growing up.

It seems that all children, from time to time, believe life would be easier or more fun or happier if they lived with someone other than their parents. For adopted children, this fantasy has a name: “birth family.” For former foster children, they may even have memories of their original family and the bond they shared. Fantasies are not about reality; do not expect your child to consider the reasons they were brought into foster care or to compare the way in which you care for them to the care they received at their original home. They cannot do that. The birth bond is a primal one; it transcends reason.

Most adopted kids will grieve the loss of their original family at some point, often in adolescence. For a child who was in foster care, it can be even more painful. This is the time in which they must come to terms with what you have always known; for whatever reason, the person who “should” have loved them most did not. This is a terrible loss to reconcile. Please, please plan now to get professional help for them in this time. It is too big a weight for a child to pull up themselves. For children who enter foster care after the infant or toddler stage, this pain may be present when they enter your home. Do not take it personally. It really is not about you.

So, please do not let your desire to become a parent (or to become a parent again) overwhelm your natural curiosity or due prudence. And don’t let the awesome responsibility scare you. Take the time to learn about how adoption affects the adopted person, the birth family, and the adoptive family and go into it with your blinders off… and your heart wide open.