Domestic adoption or international? Open or closed adoption? There are many questions you need to ask–and answer for yourself–before you can begin the adoption process. Your first task is to consider the kind of an adoption you want and where you want to adopt from.
After you have decided on domestic or international adoption, find the right adoption professional. This individual will be able to guide you the rest of the way. Use word-of-mouth references, google searches and Better Business Bureau ratings as a guide. Having a knowledgeable and trustworthy adoption professional will make a big difference in your adoption journey.
Join local adoption support groups, as well as online groups. Look for groups in your area through Adoptive Families magazine, Facebook, twitter and adoption.com. Support cannot come too soon. Adoptive parents who have been in your shoes will offer you an enormous amount of emotional support, as well as knowledge and education. These parents have been through the same process and can give you advice on exactly what to expect.
While you should use support groups to educate yourself on all things adoption, be sure that you are also reading. Visit information clearinghouses, such as adoption.com and the Donaldson Institute, for the lastest adoption research. Adopting from abroad? Learn about the country, culture and language of your expected child. Adopting from the U.S.? Educate yourself on open adoption, relationships with birth parents and infant care. Be as prepared as possible for the arrival of your new addition.
Keep in mind that the process can take a long time. But after this period of waiting, you will be together as a family forever.
The media, as well as your friends, enjoy sensationalism. Every time you hear about an adoption story in the news, it is bad news. However, the vast majority of adoptive families are typical. And there is nothing sensational about a typical family leading a typical life. Same household issues, same behaviors, same love. So forget the hype.
Words have meaning, especially in the world of adoption. Be careful with your terminology because it can be demeaning–even if you do not mean for it to be. For example, use “expectant parent” instead of “birth parent” when speaking about a parent who has not relinquished a child. A “birth parent” is only someone who has terminated rights already. Don’t say that a woman “gave up” her child, but rather that she “made an adoption plan” for the child.
Yes, adoption is expensive, but you must think of the investment. People who adopt are primarily not independently wealthy, but they make it work. While the average adoption cost is $30,000, there is a $13,000 tax credit refunded to you as soon as you finalize your adoption. That is almost half of your costs. Fundraising is common in the adoption world, and almost every adoptive couple fundraises to pay for their adoption. Home equity loans, employer benefits and other lines of credit also come in handy. Remember that you are not paying for a child; rather, your are paying for the process.
Somewhere along your adoption journey, domestic or international, someone will likely offer you a way to cut a corner. For example, they will suggest that you pay a little extra and receive a faster referral, or sign up with a particular agency and they will ensure that the expectant woman signs for the adoption. But don’t do it. Ever. Cutting corners in adoptions always leads to activity that is both immoral and likely illegal. Using an adoption professional you trust will safeguard you against morally questionable practices.
Adoption is something you will live everyday. Adoption means relationships with birth families and other cultures. Adoption will invade your child’s school life, friendships and romances. You will become seasoned at answering questions about your adoption and your relationship with your child.
The adoption process is complex, but it does not need to be scary. Trust your gut instincts, educate yourself and rely on support–even if you think you don’t need it. Relax and enjoy the process. The end result is the best gift of all.