So maybe you and your spouse have had vague conversations about adoption as a way to grow your family in the future. Maybe you’re having fertility struggles, or you’re done having children biologically but still feel this tug on your heart to grow your family. Maybe you have always liked the idea of adoption, but you have absolutely no idea where to start! From personal experience, I know the adoption process can feel terrifying, exciting, daunting, and completely overwhelming.
Here are some tips for the moment you think… maybe adoption really is the next step for your family.
1. Seek out informational meetings.
Adoption informational seminars are a great start to exploring the world of adoption. When possible, it’s preferable to go in person so you can easily ask questions, but many agencies are offering online options now. Google is your friend here to find meetings. These seminars will give you a plethora of new knowledge in moving forward, as well as an idea of requirements and if you’d qualify for different routes of adoption.
Don’t stop at one agency! There are several paths you can take with adoption: domestic infant adoption, foster care adoption, and international adoption are the main ones. Even if you know which one you’re interested in, I strongly recommend you gather information on all options to be sure. My husband and I attended multiple informational meetings held by different agencies in the Charleston area. This information-gathering step is crucial to finding out if adoption of any kind is the right fit for your family.
2. Talk with friends who have adopted.
After gathering information on your own, it’s really valuable to sit down with someone who has adopted in your area. To start, ask them which agency or attorney they used for their adoption, or who they know had good experiences with other options in the area. Then ask them ALL THE QUESTIONS you may have about their experience. I promise you, if you have a genuine interest, and the time set aside for this type of conversation, most families through adoption are happy to share anything and everything!
Talking with someone who has the personal experience, and whose career isn’t tied to your decision, will help you get the real, raw, nitty-gritty details you’ll be so thankful for later! This is no longer a time for fluffy adoption fairy tales… People you’re closer with are more likely to share the good and hard stuff honestly to help prepare you.
3. Plug into online adoption communities.
Our generation of parents has SO MANY great resources at our fingertips. One amazing source of information and connection in the adoption world comes through simple Facebook adoption support groups. Once you have an adoption route and/or an agency decided, search out a group pertaining to that on Facebook, or online in general. These are great places to ask questions, get direction, insight, and connections to countless resources through your adoption journey!
There are, in fact, in-person support groups occasionally (at least when we’re not in a pandemic!) — but an online community is a great, easy place to start gaining connections. There is nothing quite like connecting with others who have adopted. Other adoptive families are really the only ones who can fully understand what you’re feeling throughout the experience.
4. READ ReAd read rEAD READ!
Seek out books on your chosen adoption route — informational and memoirs. Books and other mediums by adoptive parents and birth mothers are great, and those resources from adoptees (adults who were adopted in childhood) are EVEN BETTER. Parents have a greater advantage these days than ever before with all that’s available to us.
Adoptees from the early days of adoption in our country are now adults and becoming invaluable voices for the children coming after them. We, the parents, have a responsibility to listen to those grown adoptee voices with humility. This is for the sake of our children, our future children, and our future selves. You will find that not all adoptee voices have the same perspectives and feelings regarding adoption and all its tangential topics. The important thing is to keep an open mind. See what you can learn from the positives and mistakes made previously in our culture and in older generations (who were most likely doing the best they could with what they had available).
It’s also a good idea to start reading very practical books on growing trust and attachment with your adopted child, and ways you may need to parent differently than you are used to. Hopefully, some adoption education is required by your chosen agency, so getting a jump start on these resources should save you some time later on!
5. Protect your heart.
As you’re seeking information and direction on your adoption journey, you may want to keep it on the down-low for a while. This major decision is between you and your spouse, or direct support system — just as pregnancy is. People outside of your immediate family will have things to say about your adoption — and it might be negative. I hope you will have vastly positive support. However, most people don’t understand all the facets of adoption, especially if they have no personal connections. There are assumptions and mass misunderstandings surrounding this option to grow a family. Just prepare yourself that not everyone in your life may be supportive of your choice. And that’s okay. It’s best to arm yourself with all the details you can gather, and make your decisions before sharing the news with your friends and extended family at-large.
Finally, keep in mind that in adoption nothing is final — until it is final! Unfortunately, adoption laws and requirements can change at any time throughout your process. A birth family’s situation may change, or maybe even your own circumstances. So keeping the news to yourself for a while may save you some hard conversations with people around you later on. Of course, this completely depends on the type of person you are, and what you need for support — or even sanity — while you wait through your adoption process.
Having come out on the other side of two adoption processes, and knowing many families who have adopted through various avenues, I can tell you for certain: the wait is difficult and the unknowns are scary but SO worth it in the end! Do all you can on the front end to gather details that will help you navigate the process and transition with your child when you do receive that placement call. As parents, we are always learning and growing throughout our kids’ lives. Adoption is no different, but it does add a layer of needs and sensitivity to stay mindful of as your child grows. As long as you are seeking, and open to learning from others’ experiences, you will become the safe place your future child needs.