The process of adopting a child(ren) can be very challenging and there are some things you have to know and anticipate: emotionally, spiritually, and financially. Keep in mind that you are never alone; others have gone before you, and there are resources at your disposal to help you.
Here are some general tips on the adoption process which can be useful to you and your life partner (if you are going through the process with one).
COST AND GENERAL PROCESS
Whether going through an adoption agency, adoption lawyer, or other means to adopt your bundle of joy, be prepared to spend around $10,000-$15,000, minimum. These costs cover a wide array of legal fees, document processing fees, court fees, and a range of other things. To this end, start saving ahead of time, be very judicious when spending money, and if you need to, ask family and friends to help financially. It takes a village.
As prospective adoptive parents, there are a whole host of things you need to do. Here are a few of them:
– Provide financial summary information
– Provide information all about your job
– Personal/professional references
– Home study
– Repeated meetings with adoption agencies
-Wait, wait, and wait
COPING MECHANISMS/STRESS RELIEF
Realize that what you and your life partner are undertaking is one of the most complex, emotionally demanding challenges one can put themselves through. There will be times when you will lose your sanity; you will lose your sense of self and your emotions will grab hold of you leaving you confused, upset, angry, hurt, and more. Count on it.
Thinking ahead, it’s best to put in place strategic coping mechanisms so you can get through the hard times:
– Make sure you can go work out (exercise is documented to help relieve stress)
– Hang out with friends (free therapy!)
– Find ways to laugh (levity is a great cure)
– Have designated people you can reach out to in the middle of the night for those urgent “I need help” phone calls or times when you can’t or don’t want to turn to your spouse. It will happen.
You will be thinking about adoption 100% of the time. Find creative ways to get “adoption” off your mind, because if you focus on it too much, you’re going to be all-consumed—and that’s bad for your health and that of your spouse. Keep in mind there’s no average time for the adoption process. Some may take six months; some may take six years. You need to prepare yourself for a waiting game.
DON’T SHARE HEALTH INFORMATION (BE CAUTIOUS)
You were either just told about your pending adoption placement or you now have your baby. Congratulations! All the months, years, and time you poured into waiting is now….over.
Before you tell everyone about your new baby, think very carefully about what (and how much) information you share with people. For some of the most important matters (the health of the child, information about the birth mother), you need to understand the deep, long-term ramifications of oversharing.
If you are just adopting or being matched, you may be overcome with happy emotions, almost delirious. You won’t be yourself. It is in your best interest not to share *any* health-related information about the baby or birth mother with family or friends. You will get asked about your child’s state of health (and that of the birth mother’s), if there was any drug/alcohol use, if there were any external issues, etc. Should you divulge this delicate and extremely private information, you could unknowingly prejudice family and friends against your child as some could have preconceived notions on drug use and abuse.
You and your spouse should formulate an answer ahead of time and have it ready for when (not if) people ask. For example, you could say the following: “The baby is doing fine, but other than this, his/her health is a private matter.” If they get offended, so be it. I can’t insist on this enough. You can always share more later, but if you share too much too soon, you run a huge risk.
SPEAK NICELY OF YOUR CHILD’S BIRTH MOTHER
I am sometimes amazed at what terms I hear (or body language used) when talking about birth mothers. Unfortunately, sometimes people treat birth mothers as a meager after-thought on the way to a prize. It’s enormously disrespectful and rude.
– First, your birth mother is a human being worthy of respect.
– Second, your child’s birth mother has made an enormous human sacrifice, one that we need to ask “Could we do this ourselves?”
– Third, we need to remind ourselves that were it not for her generosity and selfless act, there would not be a baby.
To speak ill of anyone is extremely rude, let alone the person who just entrusted a stranger to her child.
Bottom line: She is someone who trusted two people with her own child. Please be considerate, kind, and recognize the utter sacrifice.
PREFERRED RACE/ETHNICITY OF CHILD
Selecting the race of your child is entirely up to you (and your significant other). You should have your own idea of what’s acceptable to you in terms of race, realizing that while you may be acceptable of transracial adoptions, some portions of America are very much not. This is something you need to take to heart as it could radically change your life.
Should you choose to have a mixed-race or transracial child, count on conversations about race with other people (be them calm or very intense). Also remember, the race is not just about skin color, it’s also about culture. You would be very wise to understand all you can before you make a permanent adoption placement. Is this really something you can handle? Is this something you want to take on? Are you doing this for political reasons (just to have a mixed-race family) or is this something that would bring you joy?
Be 100% on the same page as your spouse when deciding this and before proceeding with any adoption (especially transracial, etc). Do not assume that “just because we live together/are married, that this person will agree on me.” You are setting yourselves and your child up for huge risks. Give voice to all concerns and hesitations.
TOLERANCE FOR DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE
Going into the adoption process, your adoption advocate should make you aware that some (definitely not all) birth mothers used drugs while pregnant. This is something adoptive parents need to recognize and simply accept.
You need to have a conversation with yourself, first, then with your spouse about what you’re willing to accept, in terms of any possible neurological side effects or chemical dependencies that could arise in your child. To put things simply, you need to be aware of all the facts going in. Leave no assumptions. Ask questions of your adoption advocate. Be aware of all the side effects of drugs, short and long-term.
DEFINING TERMS OF CONTACT WITH YOUR CHILD’S BIRTH MOTHER
Working with your adoption advocate, determine what you feel is comfortable in terms of future contact with the birth mother, post-adoption placement.
Think of this as “forming the skeleton, the framework, of contact.” As months and years go by, you can revisit the contract, formally or informally, becoming more casual as necessary.
Forms of contact:
– Only through FaceTime?
– Actual face-to-face meetings?
– Only pictures?
– To all the above, how often? What are you okay with?
Be sure to think of the physical and emotional boundaries sooner rather than later so you can be matched with a birth mother who wants the same boundaries. Keep in mind, with each contact early on, you’re setting a “precedent of future contact.” Choose very wisely.
It’s worth noting that the Hallmark movies where the birth mother returns and haunts the adoptive parents, saying “GIMME MY BABY!!!” are pure fabrication. It’s TV drama and contrived. What happens more times than not is that the birth mother fades away. It’s the adoptive parents who continue to reach out for the sake of your child.
HEALTH INFORMATION OF BIRTH MOTHER
It might also be a good idea to speak to your child’s birth mother about any health concerns she is facing and whether or not you should watch out for them in your child. If she is comfortable with it, you might want to ask about her family’s health history as well—this could include siblings, aunts, uncles, her parents—who may have health concerns that would be helpful to be aware of for your child’s health history.
These are just some of the many topics which can help you navigate your adoption placement. Good luck!
Do you feel there is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by a child? We’ve helped complete 32,000+ adoptions. We would love to help you through your adoption journey. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.