By Amanda Grant
It’s yours to control – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise
One of the most significant misperceptions about adoption is that it is a process over which you have no control. People considering adoption or just beginning the process of adopting a child often believe they are stepping into an abyss of bureaucracy in which they are helpless. In fact, you have much more control than you think.
Just as with any decision in your life, being over-prepared can dramatically change your confidence in the process. The success of each step of your journey can minimize unnecessary emotional and financial risks. Being prepared exponentially increases your ability to approach the adoption journey with clarity and confidence.
It’s out of your hands
There are only a few aspects of the adoption process that you cannot influence and need to trust will happen when they are supposed to:
- The schedule of your home study visits and required education courses
- The time it takes for your FBI background check and child abuse registry review to be completed
- When you are selected by or matched with a birth family
- When your child will be born or will be placed with you
- The schedule of post-placement visits
- Finalization date
Are these significant parts of the adoption journey? Absolutely! But they are only a few of the many critical steps required to adopt a child.
You are in the driver’s seat
The majority of the adoption process is in your hands to manage. These are the aspects of your adoption journey that you CAN influence, improve and accelerate:
1) Make the key adoption decisions that will shape your entire journey and determine the professionals who are the best fit to work with you.
- What age child would you prefer to adopt and why?
- Will you adopt a child from foster care or through an independent adoption?
- Are you open to a child of a different ethnicity?
- What is your budget?
- Will you consider an open adoption?
- Will you adopt domestically or internationally?
The answers to these and many other questions will lead you to choose very different adoption professionals, which is why you should determine your answers before signing any contracts or agreements.
2) Complete your adoption criteria (profile, dossier) content.
In addition to thinking through the type of child you think would be the best match for your family, you can and should consider, in advance of working with agency or attorney, what type of birth family situations you will consider (lifestyle choices, status of birth parent relationship, family history, medical history, etc.). These decisions, combined with understanding the preferred characteristics of your future child, will help prepare you to select your professional.
3) Select the right agency or attorney the first time.
Not all agencies or attorneys are right for everyone. Just because someone you know had a particularly positive or negative experience with an adoption professional does not guarantee that same experience for you. It’s a personal, committed relationship and one that should not be taken lightly.
4) Prepare in advance for your home study.
You can’t schedule meetings ahead of time with your social worker but you can do just about all of the work that will be required to complete your home study, even before you begin the formal process. For example, you can draft responses to the most commonly asked home study questions, collect your financial information (tax returns and simple cash flow statement), identify and notify your references of their critical participation in your journey and make any necessary changes to your home as determined by minimum state requirements.
5) Select your attorney for finalization.
Whether you decide to work with an attorney or an agency to manage your adoption process, you will need one to finalize your adoption. You can interview attorneys and compare services and fees far in advance. As a result all you’ll have to do is to make a call to engage your attorney once you are matched with a child.
6) Create your adoption profile.
The best time to create your profile is before you are in the heart of the process and feeling additional time pressures, stress and/or emotions. Regardless of how you adopt a child you will need to communicate what brings you to this journey, a little bit about your past, your current family status, dreams of your future family and your thoughts and wishes for the potential birth family. These are thoughts you can write down now. You can also gather photos because you will need from 3-30+ photos, again depending up on the type of adoption and if you will be advertising on-line.
7) Create your advertising campaign and content.
If you are planning to work with an attorney and to advertise in order to match with potential birth families, you can define the components, budget, schedule, frequency and duration of your advertisements ahead of time. You can also get all of the applications completed for print advertising in advance. Finally you can compose the content of your various advertising components and design your site, ads, and any aspects such as adoption cards and flyers.
8) Review adoption match sites or registries for foster children.
If you plan to link your personal web site to one or multiple adoption match sites you can get a head start by reviewing all of the possible sites and figuring out which ones are right for you and completing the work necessary to apply. If you are pursing an adoption of a foster child then you may also begin to review profiles of children who are legally available for adoption. Keep in mind that the same children may not be available at the time you are finalized if they have been placed.
9) Network and self-educate.
It is never too early to begin educating yourself and your family about the impact of your upcoming adoption on the family and understanding the aspects of your child. For example, while the majority of domestic adoptions are open to some extent, there is a lot to understand about navigating open adoption and what it means for your child, the birth family and your family. If you are adopting a child from another country and or of a different ethnicity or race, this is the time to begin your life long learning about becoming a multi-cultural or transracial family. Through every class, workshop, conference, support group and blog you will begin to build a network of other adoptive parents who can be instrumental support as you proceed with your adoption.
10) Prepare your family and your home for placement.
While you are immersing yourself in becoming educated about adoption, your immediate extended family may know only what you share. Take the time early on to help them become educated in what the adoption of a child will mean to the child, to your family, to the birth family and to extended family. Adoption creates changes that will impact every family member. This is also the time to prepare your home and to line up necessary resources. If you will adopt an infant then you can pre-purchase that basic necessities, like a car seat, and preorder the rest for delivery at time of placement. If you will adopt an older child, think through that child’s living/sleeping space, what you will have then choose for themselves to help create their space and what you will provide from time of placement. Finally, this is the time to select your initial pediatrician, potential counseling and support resources, child care and/or school.
An Important Note
Too often, adoptive parents wait until after signing up with an agency or an attorney to address these important matters. Unfortunately, that is the worst possible time because you are feeling the pressure to move quickly, you are emotional and often afraid to raise questions for fear of being perceived as a nuisance.
Remember that you are not powerless in the adoption journey. It is up to you to be well-informed adoptive parents. Own your journey. You are not a cog in a wheel. You are pursuing a life-dream and nobody is better equipped to manage the journey than you. Educating yourself and maximizing your advanced preparation will ensure that you select the right adoption agency or attorney to help you complete your adoption dream.
Amanda Grant is President & CEO of USAdopt, LLC and a member of The American Fertility Association’s Adoption Advisory Council. She is also a parent via adoption.