Should I adopt a child? 7 Things To Consider
The decision to adopt a child is just as big as the decision to start trying to conceive. While you won’t go through pregnancy and birth, there are different challenges that adoption presents.
It’s estimated that 18,000 children are adopted each year in the U.S. If you’re wondering if adoption is right for you, consider these 7 questions.
Do You Know How Adoption Works?
The word “adoption” sounds simple: You’re matched up with a child and you begin parenting them. But, in reality, it’s not that simple. Before you make a decision about adoption, you should familiarize yourself with the different processes and methods.
Some people wanting to adopt contact an adoption agency. Each private agency has a different set of requirements for approval. To figure out if you fit these requirements, you may have to go through several steps:
Intake meeting— The agency tells you about their specific process.
Application— This can involve personal questions, medical exams, police/background check and references.
Home study— There may be a wait between the application and the home study. Through interviews, a social worker will assess whether adoption is a right fit for you and if you are able to handle the challenges of raising an adopted child.
Decision— It could take around a year for an agency to approve you.
If you are accepted, your parenting profile along with a few others will be sent to the birth parents. This may be followed by an in-person meeting. The birth parents are free to choose the applicant they think would parent their child best.
You may also find birth parents yourself by:
- Mailing “parenting” resumes to obstetricians and lawyers. Some states allow “adoption attorneys.”
- Putting ads in the newspaper
- Setting up parenting profiles on adoption websites
At least half of domestic adoptions are done without an agency.
Foster Care Adoption
If you aren’t adopting from birth and would like to parent an older child, you can apply to adopt a child from foster care or apply to become a foster parent. According to AdoptUSKids, one-fourth of the children in foster care—or 100,000—are waiting to be adopted.
Do You Want to Adopt for the Right Reason?
Before deciding to adopt, you should ask yourself why.
For example, if you want to adopt because you’re infertile, have you fully dealt with that reality yet? Discovering you can’t have biological children can bring up a range of emotions. You need to process these feelings since adopting won’t make them magically disappear.
Some people like the idea that they are “saving” a child. While the intentions may be good, you can’t look at a child as a charity case. You also can’t expect a child to “owe” you anything for “saving” them.
If you are single and think adopting a child will make you less lonely, you should rethink your decision. On the flip side, adoption won’t solve you and your partner’s marriage problems either. It’s a huge responsibility and should not be motivated by selfish reasons.
You should only begin the process if you genuinely desire and have the ability to care for a child.
Are You Willing to Go Through the Process?
If adoption is right for you, no matter what method you choose, it’s a long process. Everyone involved wants the children to go to the best homes, and you need to be willing to give them the information they need.
Some applications may involve questions you find too personal and paperwork you find frustrating. The waitlist may be long and there may be months between each step. Adopting a child isn’t an overnight process. Simply making the decision to adopt is just the first step and doesn’t guarantee anything. You need to have the patience and time to complete the process.
Can You Afford Adoption?
You may not be paying for pregnancy supplies or hospital fees, but there are still expenses throughout the adoption journey. Before you apply for a child, you should consider the costs associated with the adoption process:
- Adoption agency fees
- Lawyer fees
- Possible travel costs
Using an agency, adopting a child may cost anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000. Since there are no guarantees, you should ask the agency what happens if the adoption doesn’t go through. For example, if the biological mother decides to keep her baby after birth, will you receive money back from the agency?
Without an agency, adoption can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $35,000. The cost to adopt a child from foster care can be up to $3,000 but is reimbursed by the federal government or adoption tax credit. If you are not adopting domestically, these costs are substantially higher.
It’s worth noting that some employers’ benefit plans include expenses associated with adoption. Some plans also include paid or unpaid leave for an adoptive parent.
Can You Handle the Personal Questions?
Be prepared to get the same comments and the same questions over and over. If your child doesn’t look like you or your partner, this may be especially true. You’ll get tired of hearing “She doesn’t look anything like you!” You’ll probably also get general questions about the adoption process, why you chose to adopt or how expensive it was. Repeating the same answer can be frustrating—but remember that you can choose not to answer.
Do You Know Who You Can Parent Best?
Before going forward with adoption, you should consider which children you’d be able to parent best.
- Best age— Would a newborn or older child fit your family best? Consider your family dynamics and how different ages would change that dynamic.
- Special needs adoption— If you’re considering adopting a child from foster care, you should know what a “special needs adoption” is. Children who are special needs may have a physical, mental or behavioral challenge. You’ll need to decide if you have the required patience, understanding and flexibility to parent these children. Before committing to adopting a child, research about their specific challenges and assess whether you have the resources to care for them.
- Interracial adoption— If you adopt a child outside of your race, you should spend time learning about how to parent a child of a different ethnicity.
Are You Emotionally Ready?
Parenting an adopted child often presents different challenges than parenting a biological child:
The adoption talk— If you adopt your child as a newborn, you will eventually need to tell him or her that they were adopted. Telling a child early and revealing more information as they grow up is a good way to pace out the talk and make you both comfortable. You’ll need to put in the time and effort to attend adoptive parent support groups and/or learn about how to best have the talk.
Throughout your parenting journey, you’ll need to be able to compassionately address emotional questions like, “Why didn’t my parents want me?” or “Was I not good enough for my birth parents?”
Questions about birth parents— As your child grow up, he or she will likely become naturally curious about their birth parents. You’ll need to be able to field these questions and help them handle school assignments that require them to know their family history.
Relationship with birth parents— If you adopt through an agency, it’s usually set out in the beginning what type of contact you and your child will have with the birth parents. This can be a phone call, a one-time meeting or an ongoing relationship. You will need to be able to navigate and emotionally prepare your child for this contact.
Providing child with emotional support— Some children who are adopted may suffer from mental health or behavioral issues. If your child was previously in foster care, his or her biological parents may have been psychically or emotionally abusive. If this is the case, you’ll need to provide emotional support and find a good therapist for your child. Even if no abuse occurred, a child may have emotional issues from adoption. Worries such as “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t belong” may need to be addressed through counseling.
To help your child through all of these challenges, you’ll need to have a few traits:
- Be emotionally/mentally stable yourself
- Have patience (especially if the child has behavioral issues)
- Have compassion during the difficult conversations and times
- Good communication. You’ll need to be able to express your own emotions in an effective way and accept the emotions of others.
- If a child has behavioral issues or acts out, you shouldn’t take it personally. You’ll need to be confident in your parenting skills regardless of the challenges you may face.
Are you considering adopting a child? If you are, comment below how far along in the process you are. If you have any friends or family members considering adoption, share this post with them, too!