5. Educating yourself prior to adoption is key. Most adoption agencies require pre-adoption education, but I recommend that you do far more than is required. Take online courses such as those offered by . Watch videos that are available on sites like . Seek out done by that can give you insight into what it is like to grow up as an adopted person. Speak with adoptive parents who have been parenting for a while, and can give you practical advice both for your future parenting and for decisions you must make prior to placement. I still look through my notes from our first pre-adoptive training that we completed seven years ago and find things that are relevant for my parenting now.
12 Things You Should Know Before Adopting a Child
This article was originally posted on Cosmopolitan.
1. The most important person in an adoption is the child, not you. If I could tell you just one thing that is of utmost importance, this would be it. The child is the only person in the adoption constellation (which includes first family members, adoption workers, adoptive parents, and others connected to the child or the new parents) that has no say in the matter. Every effort should be made to ensure that the best outcome possible is secured for the child. Sometimes this will mean that a child you hope to adopt will not become your child. Sometimes it will mean that your adoption will look different than you imagined it to be. Keeping your focus on the child’s best interest is the most important thing in your adoption process and your life as an adoptive parent.
2. Corruption exists in every type of adoption. It would be preferable if everyone who works in adoption has a child’s best interests at heart, but unfortunately, there are far too many people for whom adoption is just a business. Some , and children are taken from parents and put up for adoption without their parents’ consent. Other times it is , such as convincing a young mother that she cannot care for her child herself. As a prospective adoptive parent, it is of utmost importance that you do your due diligence and ensure that the adoptive situation you enter into is ethical. Read you are considering using. Do a Facebook search for groups that give information about the type of adoption you hope to pursue, and request to join. If you are matched with a child, ask questions of the first family privately, without agency involvement. Do your best to find out the truth of the situation before adoption takes place. If things are not as they should be, it is better to walk away than to remove a child from a family they could stay with.
3. When adoption occurs, a loss occurs. For the adoptive parents, it is a very happy day when they find out that they will become parents. But for the child, it indicates that he is losing everything he has known so far. Even a child adopted at birth is losing the person to whom they were connected for the past nine months. Older children often lose much more, and the loss in an international adoptive placement is even greater. Many children will grieve both in the beginning of your life as a new family and as they grow. It can look like our sadness, but often it looks like poor behavior or other unexpected reactions to normal life circumstances. Remember your child’s loss and for signs of grief so that you or a professional can give your child the support they need.
4. Actually parenting will be the most challenging part of adoption. With each of our adoption processes, there were both little and big things that went wrong along the way. It felt frustrating that there were so many intrusive questions about every aspect of our lives. It was annoying to have to request documents multiple times when they weren’t completed properly the first time. But looking back, I now see it as the easiest part of the process. The determination with which I have had to approach parenting is far greater than I ever had to use when finishing up more paperwork or returning for yet another round of fingerprints.
8. Plan ahead for additional expenses. While most agencies will give you a list of fees that you will expect to pay for the adoption process, there are expenses involved in caring for a child that will not be listed. If you are in an open adoption in which visits are expected, travel costs need to be part of your budget. A child with medical needs will not only require appointment and hospital fees, but there will be related costs such as transportation and food during long days attending appointments. A child who is struggling with adjustment will need to see a therapist, and you may need support from a therapist as well. It is best to overestimate how much your family budget will need to expand than to underestimate and struggle to meet your child’s needs.
9. Attachment and adjustment are the two most important processes after placement. Attachment is the process by which your child identifies you as the parent and you forge a parental bond to your child. If healthy attachment does not occur, it can lead to greater issues in the future. Your child also needs time to adjust to new surroundings. A new family and environment is enough to take on all at once, so many families practice what is known as in the beginning, to give space and time for a child to adjust and attach before meeting new people and experiencing life within the larger community. This is a time to be at home learning to be a family, with few or no outside visitors or overstimulating activities. Some children will adjust quickly, while others will need more time.
10. An open dialogue about adoption creates an atmosphere of support. There is no way to predict how a child will react to the circumstances of their life before adoption and after placement, or how they will process the knowledge of their adoption as they grow. There are likely to be big feelings and big questions, and it is important to keep a dialogue open and to let your child know regularly that it is OK to share their feelings with you, whatever those feelings may be. While the days of keeping adoption a secret are , some families still struggle to talk about it openly. Many families create a book called a life book to tell the story of a child’s life and adoption, and this is a way to open dialogue from the time your child is small. In our family, we have videos that we have made that our children can watch and that we can discuss together. If you still struggle, approaching these conversations with the help of a therapist is an excellent idea.
11. Remembering to take care of yourself is essential. Just because you have not given birth doesn’t mean that those first days, weeks, and months will not be challenging. Depending on the needs of your child, you may enter into years of intensive parenting. In order to meet your child’s needs well, you need to make sure your own basic needs are met. This doesn’t mean that you won’t lose any sleep or that you won’t sacrifice what you want in order to do the right thing for your child, but you need to know your own limits and honor those. If you are parenting with a partner, you should discuss together how each of you will get a break when you need one. If
parenting solo, find out who you can call on when you need help in order to meet your own needs.
12. The most important person in an adoption is the child. This is so essential that I’m saying it twice, at the beginning and the end. Keeping this at the forefront of your mind will ensure that all the other things I have mentioned — and many more that I haven’t — fall into place.
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