You may have suffered pregnancy loss or experienced infertility. Or maybe you’re single but still want to become a parent. Perhaps you’re a gay couple who longs for a child. Whatever your life situation, you’ve decided that adopting is the best way to build your family—and you’re excited to get started. But before you dive in, there are some important things you should know.
1) You will complete a lot of paperwork.
Be prepared to provide details about your background, family, employment and finances. You’ll also need to write an autobiography about your childhood, parenting style and beliefs as well as a letter to potential birth parents.
2) You’ll need to schedule a physical with your family doctor.
As part of your adoption requirements, you’ll need a clean bill of health. You can start by taking good care of yourself now and ensuring any health issues are addressed.
3) It’s important to work with a good, reputable adoption agency or attorney.
A skilled professional will help you successfully navigate adopting, ensure all legal requirements are met and be there to support and guide you.
4) A home study is not as scary as it sounds.
A social worker will set up a series of visits in your home to be sure you can provide a safe, loving environment for a child. Although this may sound intimidating, it’s actually a great opportunity to learn more about the adoption process and what to expect. Your social worker is not there to judge or scrutinize, but rather to educate you and prepare you for your adoption journey. He or she will also answer any questions or concerns you may have.
5) The adoption process is unpredictable, and the wait can be long.
There is really no way of knowing when you’ll adopt or what situations you’ll encounter. With domestic infant adoption, expectant parents choose you, so it really depends on what they are looking for and whether or not you’re a good match for them. With international adoptions, requirements and laws can change at any time and sometimes programs close unexpectedly or get put on hold. No matter what type of adoption you’re pursuing, expect the unexpected. Bring plenty of patience and try to be flexible whenever possible.
6) You’ll need to do some networking to help increase your chances of adopting.
If you just sit back and wait for an expectant parent to come to your agency and choose you, you could be waiting a very long time. Those who adopt successfully often network on their own to increase their chances and shorten their wait times. Some ideas you might want to consider are: an online adoption profile, business cards that express your desire to adopt, letters to family and friends, word of mouth, newspaper ads and a toll-free number for pregnant women to contact you.
7) Most adoptions today have some degree of openness.
Gone are the days where birth parents had no contact or involvement with adoptive families. The majority of domestic adoptions now include communication through letters, photos, phone calls, and even visits. Some families choose to communicate through the adoption agency; others have direct contact. It all depends on what both parties agree on.
8) Adoption scams are more common than you think.
You’ll need to be careful when dealing with adoption professionals and potential birth parents. Not every agency is reputable, so do your homework first. Also be aware of red flags with expectant mothers, such as wanting large sums of money, not providing proof of pregnancy, not working with an adoption agency or attorney, etc. Many hopeful adoptive parents, including myself, have come across at least one person who was pretending to be pregnant to get gifts and money.
9) Some days you will feel like giving up.
The adoption process is an up-and-down emotional roller coaster. Failed matches, a long wait, and unexpected obstacles can leave you feeling sad and discouraged. You may wonder if you’ll ever become a parent and, on your worst days, you may even consider giving up on adopting. This is all part of the journey. Hang in there and know that most people who pursue adoption are eventually successful.
10) The day you bring your child home will be a day you never forget.
Holding your child in your arms for the first time and bringing him or her home will fill you with a mixture of overwhelming love and fear. Your life will never be the same. But that’s a good thing. All your struggles and disappointments have led you to your precious child. You are a parent at last—and now the journey really begins.