Are you considering adoption or fostering (potentially leading to adoption)? If you’re curious but don’t know where to start, here’s some collective wisdom from various experts I’ve interviewed in the course of researching adoption:
Former Family Law Attorney in Florida
Be persistent. Be an advocate for yourself. Know your rights. It’s well worth spending money on a knowledgeable attorney, who knows the system and can guide you through. That’ll save so much wasted time and heartache. Go through your local bar association to find someone who is familiar with the area. It’s worth the money.
Educate yourself and know your options before you jump in. It takes a team of people to help you through this, just like a doctor needs a team for an operation. You need a solid team of people around you that you can trust to help you reach your dreams of being a parent or growing your family through adoption.
I started my business because after I adopted my son, I was adamant that no one should go through this journey alone. There is way too much to know and most of the time, you don’t even know what questions to ask. Adoption agencies do a great job, but they are overworked and often pulled in a million directions. Prospective adoptive parents need someone who they can count on to be in their corner and can trust to know how best to guide them.
Becoming an adoptive parent is worth the effort, the heartache, the pain in the ass parts, the boring parts, the scary parts, and the money! Hindsight is 20/20, but I would’ve told myself to calm down, it would all be ok. I read every goofy piece of advice — like, have the house smell like cookies and have towels on the dryer — none of it was necessary.
Every child needs at least one adult who thinks they’re the cat’s pajamas. If you’re the kind of adult who can give that to a kid, there are kids in this world who don’t have it. Adopt because you’re ready to give yourself heart and soul to a kid.
Depending on whether you’re adopting internationally or domestically, as a couple or single, your sexual orientation plays more or less of a role in how you interact with the gatekeepers. Everybody has to find ways to negotiate that in ways that feel ethical and appropriate for them, the sending country, and the placing family. At this moment in history, it’s so variable.
Adoption looks very different than it did even five years ago. And in the era of ancestry.com and 23 and Me, there is little potential for anonymity. Open adoption also means that kids will have more of an understanding and knowledge of their birth families’ practices as they are growing up. Adoptive parents need to be prepared for that.
There are very few infants coming to the U.S. under age one. The ages of most children from overseas who are being adopted by families in the United States is trending older, and larger numbers of the children have special needs (some of those needs are relatively minor).
There have been changes in some of the “sending” countries where large numbers of children were adopted from; Russia closed its adoption program to the United States, and Guatemala’s program is also closed. Other countries such as Korea and Colombia have increased their efforts to promote adoptions domestically. In China there are now fewer children placed for adoption, and there is an approximate 7-10 year wait for a healthy child from China; however, the wait for special needs children is far shorter.
Jennifer Sartori, Co-Director of the Adoption and Jewish Identity Project
Read a lot about the complexities of adoptive identity and about relationships with birth families, whether or not you’re going into an open adoption, because birth families are a psyche’s presence, even if they’re not a real presence. If you’re open to, or pursuing, transracial adoption, do a lot of reading about race, including race in America and transracial adoption. Read a lot about the ethics of transnational adoption. Go into with your eyes open, not with blinders on, even though that’s hard to do.
In adoption, there’s always a tension between wanting to be treated like any other family and the ways in which adoptive parenting and identity are different. It’s important to go into it clear about what those differences are, and what the consequences of that might mean for your life. Be willing to make changes in your life that might be necessary for your kids — that may mean challenging things about your own identity or your own community, because it’s what’s best for your kids.
Reach out to a local agency and get informed before making decisions. Avoid doing research on the internet. Don’t watch Lifetime TV. Know that it’s possible. People hear a lot of negative rumors and press and believe that’s what foster care is about, and it isn’t. We see success every day. Don’t believe the myths and rumors; just get out there and do it.
There are all kinds of children out there who need us. Children in the foster system have PTSD at twice the rate of veterans. In orphanages, they suffer from poor physical, intellectual, and emotional health. But all this can be recovered in a permanent, loving family! Are we going to continue to let them go down the well, or are we going to pull them out? My organization, Second Nurture , teaches synagogue and other communities about the crisis, asks that they join us and take responsibility for addressing it by encouraging their families to adopt together and raise kids not only with their own permanent loving families, but within a supportive community.
A lot of the media stories that come out about adoption are about conflict; you don’t hear the positive stories. Adopting is one of the best things I ever did because it expanded my world in ways I never could have imagined. You can’t choose where you’re born. Your experience is your experience, but adoption changed my perspective. With adoption, there’s an expansiveness around it, that any person in the world could be your child.
Loosen your expectations, because a lot of the process is not in your control, and it can be frustrating if you have a timeline in your head or a sense of how it will look. Set a vision for what you want to do and are willing to do, and then plug away at it, because it’s very easy to be pulled in other directions that might be more or less than your family can handle. Have a really strong support network that can be supportive on various levels.
Written by: Melissa Langsam Braunstein