When I first agreed to write a book about foster adoption, I knew what I wish I had known. But I wasn’t the only person who had ever fostered to adopt. So, I put a question out to many other adoptive parents that I knew. It was a very simple question:

“Before you entered into adoption or foster care, what do you wish you had known?”

The responses were overwhelming and incredibly honest. These are some of the answers.

About Attachment

I wish I had known…

  • What to look for in attachment issues.
  • Attachment problems come in all forms—mild to severe.
  • How to do attachment work right away with our kids (without waiting for their behavior to show up).
  • A toddler can prefer you, hug you, seek you out, and still have an attachment disorder.
  • There is such a thing as Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and the possibility that it could occur. We had heard a few stories about children who could/did not bond, but attachment problems were never, ever addressed by our adoption advisors, and if it weren’t for a knowledgeable, helpful friend, we would probably still be wondering what is going on, and be somehow blaming ourselves.
  • About how the parent of a child with attachment issues has to live.

About Post-Adoption Life

I wish I had known…

  • To be careful with my kid’s birth family.
  • To follow my instincts. I wanted to quit working and be a full-time mom, I wanted to hold and cuddle my three-year-old, but I was told I should wait until she “warmed up to me.”
  • We weren’t going to be the “perfect” family.
  • We would not always function as a family.
  • Bringing a child into our family did not mean they were going to want to be in our family.
  • You can’t just pick up these kids and raise them like regular children. This was encouraged, and as I was young and ignorant and totally driven by my heart, I didn’t know otherwise.

About the Process

I wish I had known…

  • It was okay for social workers to have to work around my schedule, not me work around theirs.
  • My disclosure rights at placement.
  • More about what medical and historical information I had the right (ability) to access.
  • With my first adoption, that I had rights and some power. And that they wouldn’t take my son (a hard-to-place 10-year-old) away from me because I stood up for things and asked questions. The first time around, they had me hopping. I was so afraid I’d do something wrong, and I see that a lot with new foster parents!
  • There was the chance I wouldn’t find the professional and post-adoptive support that I needed and desperately could have used.
  • I needed to be humble and listen to those around me, and even though my family is unique, we need the support of those who walked before us.

About the Hardships

I wish I had known…

  • Love would not be enough to heal their past hurts and trauma (even if it happens to them as a baby).
  • That in trying to “fix” this for her I would have to spend many hours in offices, fill out many forms, drive many miles on the road, wait out many sleepless nights, tear-stain many pillows, toss many chocolate bar wrappers, and experience many days when I just ran out of words.
  • How powerful nature is and had not been so convinced that environment would shape my child’s personality. I was really naive about that.

About the Surprises

I wish I had known…

  • That many times kids have more problems than their profiles say.
  • How even though things looked good on the outside, there could still be a tornado brewing inside, and we would, in fact, see it.
  • My kids are sexually reactive. When I think this was going on for nearly a year in my home, without me having a clue, I am appalled.
  • The truth about adoption so that I wouldn’t have been so disillusioned and heartbroken. I think I would still have gone through with the adoption, but I might have been a bit more emotionally prepared for the hard work.

 Are you and your partner ready to start the adoption process? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to begin your adoption journey. We have 130+ years of adoption experience and would love to help you.