Our great adventure into adoption began about 18 years ago when we first contacted the Nebraska Children’s Home Society for information.
It came after years of infertility treatments and a longing to start a family with children.
For others, the idea to adopt a child starts as a desire to provide a lifelong family to an orphan or maybe add a daughter to a family of boys.
While I don’t claim to be an expert on adoption, I do have three adopted children, five adopted nieces and nephews, two adopted cousins, an adopted sister-in-law and many friends who have adopted. These children came through agencies, private arrangements, international adoption and foster care.
Here are a few of the adoption expectations I’ve learned along the way through our own personal experiences and those of my relatives and friends. If you or anyone you know has ever considered adoption, I hope it helps you along the journey.
- Expect Paperwork and to Prove You Are Worthy to Parent. If you choose an adoption agency or foster adoption, you will have to open your home to the scrutiny of caseworkers, lawyers and judges and answer hundreds of questions and complete mountains of paperwork. At times, it won’t seem fair that you have to be fingerprinted and prove yourself to become a parent, while others get pregnant with the blink of an eye. But, think of those birth parents and how important it is to them that the child they give birth to is loved and protected. The reason many choose an adoption plan is because they don’t have the resources or capacity at that time to be parent, and they need a family who can provide a stable home, a loving and caring environment and financial support. By going through a trusted agency, adoptive parents also have the support and guidance they need to navigate the legalities and lifelong adoption concerns.
- Expect Your Patience to Be Tested While Waiting. We waited one year after our adoption paperwork was approved before we were chosen to be parents to our first child. In all, from initial adoption agency contact to bringing our son home, it was two years. We waited nearly three years for our second son, and then we had just one day’s notice before he joined our family! We didn’t wait at all for our third adoption as she came as a complete surprise! For international adoptions, sometimes the wait is more difficult because after you are matched with a child, you wait about six to nine months before the child is in your arms. You have pictures and information about the child, but you wait for paperwork to be completed. The wait can seem like an eternity when you know that child is a member of your family, and yet he or she is still thousands of miles away.
- Expect Mixed Reactions from Friends and Family and Spend Time Preparing Them. We were lucky that our parents and family were 100 percent behind us because both of our families had already experienced adoption. Some adoptive parents aren’t so lucky. You may face questions about whether the adopted child will fit in with the family, or relatives may wonder if they can love an adopted child. There also may be racial issues to work through if you are open to mixed race adoptions. I have several friends who have biological children as well as adopted children. I love this saying they have shared: “Some of my children are adopted, I just can’t remember which ones.” For those of us who are already on the adoption path, we know this to be true. It just takes some people longer than others to realize that. Well-meaning friends and family wonder how you can risk taking on children from an unknown genetic pool. “Aren’t you worried they will be trouble makers?” one friend asked me. I have to ask, “What family has a perfect genetic pool?” Name one family that doesn’t somewhere in its history have an alcoholic, a divorce or someone with a mental illness? No genetic pool or family is perfect. Just remind them that Steve Jobs was adopted.
- Expect to Share Your Journey. When we first embarked on our infertility and adoption journey, we kept most information private except for sharing with family. Looking back, I wish I would have been more open with friends and co-workers so they could pray for us and help us with connections. Our first adoption actually happened because of a relative who shared information about us to the young woman who later became the birth mother of two of our children.
- Expect Questions that Can’t Be Answered. At each stage of our children’s lives, there are new challenges with adoption. The early years are somewhat easy as babies can’t ask questions. Our children grew up knowing they were adopted, so there was no “finding out” moment. We also have open adoptions, so there are fewer questions about where they came from. But, still there are some unanswered questions, and some children are more curious than others when it comes to family genetic information. We have biracial children in our family, and I was naïve to expect that everyone would love them like we do for who they are and not judge them by the color of their skin. Other kids will ask them questions they aren’t sure how to answer, and there are times they will feel lonely and unloved more so than non-adopted children. My son was singled out in biology class when he couldn’t do a family genetic assignment like most other kids in his class. There are definitely hard days.
- Expect Joy. Through all of the challenges, up and downs, tears of joy and sadness, at the end of the day, I am eternally grateful for the sweet hugs of our three adopted children as I tuck them into bed each night. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of their birth parents and the truly priceless gifts they gave me. No doubt, there are times when I ask, “What have I gotten myself into?” Adoptive parents are real parents who struggle with the same discipline problems and troubles as any other parent with the added stress of adoption issues. Adoption has tested and strengthened my faith. It has forced me to be bolder and stronger. I have learned so much about life from the unique personalities of these three little souls that have been entrusted into my care. And, most of all, adoption has given me the greatest gift I could ever ask for — the gift of experiencing the joys of motherhood and the young voices that call me “mom.”
If you have questions about adoption, two great places to start are the Nebraska Children’s Home Society http://www.nchs.org/ (which offers free adoption services across Nebraska) or Holt International https://www.holtinternational.org/(this is the agency that many of my friends have worked with for international adoptions).