In some ways, adoption is like pregnancy. Both are filled with expectations and the hope of an expanded family, but it is also a time of uncertainty. It is critical for families to evaluate their expectations and be realistic about their limitations. Certainly God is in control of our circumstances, but it’s important to pay attention to His voice throughout this process. The better prepared your family is, the more you’ll feel ready to navigate the waters of adoption.
All adoptions involve some level of “red tape.” Sometimes families pursue one type of adoption over another because of a perception of less hassle. Regardless of the type of adoption, there is always a fair amount of paperwork and contact with the government (sometimes multiple state or federal governments). However, the focus should not be on the ease or difficulty of the process. Trust that the Lord will use this time to mold you even more into the parents you need to be for a specific child. The important thing is that a child will find the permanent adoptive family they need. Remember to keep this perspective in mind and focus on the needs of the child when going through the process.
1. Unfair expectations prior to adoption can prove to be most unhelpful further down the road. Do not anticipate that the child will be thankful that you “rescued” him from a bad home or “saved” her from abortion. Also, do not expect the child to show and receive love in typical ways, particularly when a child has experienced tremendous hurt prior to coming home. Remember, adoption is all about the adoptive family meeting the needs of a child, not about the child meeting any of the needs of the adoptive parents.
2. Parenting a child who was adopted (particularly if not adopted as an infant) is not the same as parenting a biological child. Sometimes adoption gets a bad rap because we have heard stories of families that have really struggled after welcoming a child home. The important thing to remember is that adoption isn’t the problem. Instead, something went wrong (in some cases terribly so) that caused that child to be removed from their birth family. Adoption is the mechanism to try and bring healing to that child’s life. And depending on the child, this can be a very difficult process. Allow the child to express his grief at the loss of birth family, and do not dismiss his feelings of rejection. Some children struggle with identity, personal control and intimacy, and it’s important to walk with your child through these struggles rather than ignoring his fears and concerns. Instead, be willing to be flexible with the type of parenting your new child needs. It may not be the same as the other children in your home, but that’s ok.
3. In some instances, there may be additional monetary costs than originally predicted. Find out exactly what the agency covers and what other expenses may arise in the future. For example, international adoptions may require one or more trips to the country you’re adopting from. If working with a birth mother, there may be some medical costs not covered by her insurance that she may ask the adoptive family to cover. However, many adoption-related expenses may be reimbursed by the state or the federal government.
4. When adopting an infant, be mindful that the birth mother has the right to change her mind. The placement is not guaranteed until after birth and often after an additional waiting period. Some states have a longer waiting period that would allow for a “change of heart.” Be sure to understand what the law is in your state as well as the state you are adopting from (if different).
5. Research a nation’s record with adoption before selecting a reputable international agency. Unfortunately, there are those that play into the desires of adoptive parents and can wrongly place children without communicating properly with birth families. Do as much research as possible on the country’s adoption record as well as the agency you’re planning to work with.
6. Work through the proper channels (i.e.: an agency or lawyer) to make things as official as possible. There have been cases of women claiming to be pregnant in order to receive coverage for their living expenses. Rely on the experience of a licensed and qualified agency to avoid this scenario.
7. If you don’t feel your family can meet the needs of a particular child or aren’t comfortable with the level of medical care the birth mother is receiving, you can deny a potential placement at any point in the process prior to finalization.
8. The biological father must also agree with the adoption plan. The agency will conduct a paternity test or search if the biological father denies paternity or is unknown. If the biological father is not identified after the search, the court can terminate his rights.
9. If your family has experienced infertility or the death of a child, take the time to work through any grief before considering adoption. Adopting a child will not replace a “lost” biological child. Instead, it tends to place unfair expectations on the child and hinders the transition into your home and family. Work to ensure your family is as emotionally healthy as possible and ready to take on the challenge of growing your family through adoption.