For most visitors to this site, adoption is something that they may never have considered before being confronted with infertility. Getting to the point of considering adoption is typically not something that comes quickly or easily; rather, it is a bend in the road that must be traveled by people seeking to build their families.
Understandably, thinking about adoption can be scary. Fortunately, there are many others who experience similar fears and are willing to discuss them in an effort to both ease their own tension and to educate themselves on the many facets of adopting children.
What are some of those common fears, when a person with infertility considers adoption?
The Birthmother May Change Her Mind
This probably tops the list for anyone thinking about adoption, and particularly for those who want to adopt an infant. How realistic is this worry?
“Birthmother” is the term used to refer to those who have physically borne children and then released those children to adoption. Prior to the legal termination of parental rights, a woman is a mother, and a man is a father. An expectant woman is expecting. A fact that many prospective adoptive parents fail to realize is that biological fathers, too, have rights in regard to the relinquishment of their children.
Two concepts to be aware of here: consent and revocation.
According to the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, 46 states and the District of Columbia specify exactly when a legal consent to relinquish may be made. (“Relinquishment,” rather than “giving up,” is the more polite term used in regards to a birth parent’s decision to place their child for adoption.) In virtually all states, fathers are allowed to give consent before or after the child’s birth, while mothers are allowed to do so only after the birth. The majority of states require a specified amount of time pass before the mother can legally consent, a waiting period of anywhere from a few hours to two weeks.
Revocation, or changing one’s mind about relinquishing a child, is not allowed at any time in five states and the District of Columbia. Nineteen states allow it only in circumstances with evidence of coercion or fraud. Other states are more lenient about the reasons and have specific time periods, ranging from three to 60 days post-consent, and in some, mutual consent of the adopting family or a court is required.
The most important thing to know is that each state’s statutes are different, so it is crucial to be aware of the laws in your own state and that of the placing parents.
An Open Adoption Will Alter Your Dream of Parenting
With the growing trend toward and normalcy of “open adoptions” (adoption placements that involve varying degrees of adoptive-birth parent contacts), many infertile individuals express concern over just what that means for the adopting family. Will the birthparents be in constant contact? Must the child be taught that he or she has two mothers?
While many individuals and organizations tout the benefits of adoptions that are open at varying levels (from partial openness to completely open), still others say that open adoptions can be fraught with problems that we still do not fully understand yet.
How do you decide? Here are some of the pros and cons for adoptive parents, as listed by specialists in the area:
- Adoptive families and children have more complete knowledge of child’s genetic history and any related medical issues.
- Child will benefit richly from knowing his/her birthparents, through enhanced positive self-image.
- Possibly less fear about stability of final placement (see “Birthmother May Change Her Mind” above), resulting in an earlier established sense of permanence.
- Reportedly fewer future behavior problems on the part of the child, and less preoccupation with identity and information issues, particularly for adolescents.
- Adoptive parents may feel closer to the birth experience.
- Depending on how they search for a birthmother and child, adoptive families may be open to false leads and fraudulent practices.
- Children may be aware of any disturbing facts about their birthparents or their birth situation.
- Adoptive parents may feel threatened by participation by birthparents.
- Possibility of feeling locked into continuing relationship with birthparents who are inadequately handling the separation process.
- Possible conflict over parenting responsibilities, particularly in cases of very young birthparents.
- Fears about weakening the growing bonds between adoptive family and adopted children, particularly in case of children older than an infant.
Obviously, there is much exploration that needs to take place before a family can decide what options are best for them. It is important to research and arrive at some base decisions before heading off in any direction, but being flexible and open to change is important, too.
You May Be Unable to Truly Love An Adopted Child
While this is a fear that is not easily or comfortably expressed, it is real. The process and concept of attachment as it relates to parent and child is now known to be of great importance. Concerns about how the adopting parents themselves will feel toward a newly adopted child and how they will fare through the bonding process may be greatest for those who will be first-time parents. It could also be that such fears are greatest for those who have never been closely affiliated to adoptive situations, either through their extended family or friends.
As with most fears, the best way to deal with them is to be open to acknowledging them. Be willing to discuss them with others, even if only anonymously. There are numerous online resources for doing just that, and for helping prospective adoptive parents feel more resolved about their decision. There are also numerous reading materials, online and off, that will prepare adoptive parents for the bonding process and what to expect from the moment of placement.
One would be hard-pressed to find an adoptive parent who willingly acknowledges aloud that regardless of their preparation, in the end, things did not turn out for the best. In fact, you’ll generally hear just the opposite, such as this from one of the visitors to our forum:
“All I want to say is that if adoption is truly the right thing for you to do, your perspective changes once you meet your child.”
Most experts point to the use of adoption agencies over lawyer-only adoptions as one of the best ways to feel secure in your preparation as an adopting parent. If you are using a lawyer instead of an agency, it is recommended that specialized counseling assistance be sought in addition. Often such assistance may be available through the social worker who performs the state-required home study.
You Won’t Pass the Home Study
Once you’ve gotten past any initial agency or state requirements, you may experience concern about the home study and its outcome. An in-depth study of your home and family is generally required in all adoption circumstances, and can provoke a great deal of anxiety.
Knowing what is covered may help you deal with the fear of not being accepted. You will meet with a social worker several times over a period of a few months. Adults living in the home will be interviewed together and individually. Children are generally included in the minimum one visit in the home itself.
The following topics must be addressed in a home study:
- Personal and family background–including upbringing, siblings, key events and what was learned from them.
- Significant people in the lives of the applicants.
- Marriage and family relationships.
- Motivation to adopt.
- Expectations for the child.
- Feelings about infertility (if this is an issue).
- Parenting and integration of the child into the family.
- Family environment.
- Physical and health history of the applicants.
- Education, employment, and finances–including insurance coverage and child care plans if needed.
- References and criminal background clearances.
- Summary and social worker’s recommendation.
In addition to the basic home study, your social worker should be able to provide you with counseling or appropriate resources to address all of your fears or concerns. It may help to remember that while the social worker is charged to act in the best interest of the child, he/she is also interested in seeing a stable family be built for all involved.