Nineteen years ago I became the proud adoptive mom of my now 25 year old daughter. The process leading up to the adoption began several years before any paperwork was completed. Considerations of financial stability, emotional/mental ability to manage being a single parent, support structures in my life, and honestly answering the question, “Why do I want to be a parent?” were part of my internal preparation. Once I was sure of my intent and in my ability to parent and meet my child’s needs (as well as my own) I was ready to begin the formal process. The internal process went on over a 4-year period and I believe was the most important step to knowing I could offer a secure and safe place for my daughter.
The process changed my life forever, and as we approach the holiday seasons where family is core I provide you with some things to consider as you contemplate building your own family through adoption.
Adopting a child has nuances that we may not face with biological children. The literature often refers to the Adoption Triad to describe the multiple relationships that are formed through an adoption process. The triad is comprised of birth families, adoptive families, and the adoptee; it is a lifelong, intergenerational process of providing support and love to a child. With this in mind, AdoptUSKids notes that there are characteristics that adopting agencies look for in prospective parents:
- Stability, maturity, dependability and flexibility within themselves;
- Having the ability to advocate for children;
- Knowing how to be a “team player” with your family, the child’s family-of-origin and the caseworker overseeing the process.
If starting a family includes adoption, here are some steps to help you fully understand the process and scope of adoption:
Educate Yourself About Adoption
Read, read, read – Talk, talk, talk! Read everything you can about adoption and talk to people about adoption. Local agencies in your community have resource groups of adoptive parents who can meet with you and share their experience with adoption and also provide a source of ongoing support once you have your new child. You might also consider meeting with a therapist specifically trained in adoption-related issues to help you understand the process – and if it is right for you. Some questions to consider asking might be about ongoing relationships with biological family members after the adoption [“open adoption”], how to talk about adoption with your own family and ultimately how to present adoption with the adopted child.
Explore Your Options for Adopting
Families wishing to adopt have many options. The following is one way to think about how choices in adoption can be framed:
- Where will our family’s child come from? [Domestic or Intercountry adoption?]
- If we adopt domestically, what type of adoption is best for our family? [public agency, licensed private agency, independent, or facilitated, unlicensed agency?]
- If we choose Intercountry adoption, what country will our child come from?
This is the beginning of gaining clarity on your own personal values and expectations for adoption. We take this step in planning a biological family, and it is just as important in welcoming an adoptive child into our lives. Once your values are clear you will guide yourself towards the type of adoption that best fits you.
To learn more about what next steps to take when preparing for adoption, please read Series 2 of this article.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services