Being a prospective adoptive parent can be a very challenging role to step into. Prospective adoptive parents are full of love and want to share that love with a child. Many prospective adoptive parents have struggled with infertility or are unable to have children for other reasons. These parents may be single or in a same-gender marriage that prevents them from having a child with their partner. Perhaps a prospective adoptive parent already has a family, but he or she is looking to enlarge that family.
No matter the individual circumstances of that prospective adoptive parent, he or she hopes for a miracle. They hope to adopt a child and anticipate that blessed event. If you happen to find yourself in that hopeful adoptive parent group, then you are an amazing person and there is plenty to look forward to beyond the hard waiting period.
However, it does take hard work and dedication to become a parent through adoption. In order to help you get from point A to point B, I have come up with five goals or character traits to work on developing in the new year as you embark on your own adoption journey.
1. Be Patient
Becoming an adoptive parent means a lot of paperwork, waiting, and hoping. Whether you choose to go through an adoption agency or use an adoption attorney, the requirements do not change. There are health exams, residence histories, recommendations, and questionnaires. In addition to the paperwork, you will also need to schedule and complete a home study to ensure that your house and family are ready and prepared for adoption.
When my family went through the foster/adoption process, we experienced a home study. Making sure the house met every requirement and preparing to answer their questions made us nervous. However, the questions and a stranger looking at our stuff wasn’t what made us the most nervous. The idea of not passing the home study made us the most nervous. Would they find something wrong with us? Were we as ready as we thought? Thankfully, we passed the home study which wasn’t as bad as we thought.
After completing the home study and paperwork, the prospective adoptive parent still has to wait. It took our family about eight months to finish the classes, paperwork, home study, and other requirements to become a licensed foster/adoptive parent through the state where we lived. If you choose to go through the state and foster to adopt, you will have to go through this process and then wait for a child to need a home. It took a little over a month or so for us to receive a foster placement.
Even after a child is placed in your home, you must often wait for the case to be finalized and for the state to decide that adoption is the child’s best option. In our case, we were only able to foster and not adopt. But every family’s story is different and some people can adopt the first child they receive in their home. Even in those types of cases, it can be a lengthy process that lasts a few years to be able to adopt a child. In order to shorten the time spent looking, you can look at Heart Galleries to find children who are available for adoption in your state.
Whether you are choosing to adopt through an adoption agency or adoption attorney, you will need to complete an adoption profile after completing the paperwork and home study. Upon completing the profile, you still have to wait for an expectant parent to choose you and your family to raise his or her child. You may even need to advertise on social media that you are looking to adopt. No matter what, you must be patient as you wait for an expectant parent to choose you.
In the case of international adoption, you may have already chosen the child that you want to adopt. But it can take years to overcome all of the legal and logistical issues involved. Every country has its own specific rules; most countries first seek out adoptive parents locally before allowing a child to be adopted into a different country. The last year has made international adoption even more complicated with restrictions on travel due to the current pandemic. Overcoming all of the challenges in local and international laws, travel, and finances can take time and patience. Be patient and remind yourself that the end result, a child to love and care for, is worth the time and effort.
2. Be Understanding
In order to become an adoptive parent, a birth parent needs to decide that you are their child’s best option. Either they or a state or local government decide that the biological parents cannot parent their child. Both situations are extremely difficult for a biological parent and for those close to the child. Although adopting a child is your dream, someone else has to admit or be told that they cannot parent his or her child in order to make your dream come true and do what is best for the child.
Recognize that birth or biological parents experience a great loss when they place a child through adoption. Adoptive parents can help lessen their pain through safe communication and contact. If ongoing communication after the child’s placement is good and helpful for both the birth parents and the child, then I recommend doing that. Remaining connected to biological parents can be extremely helpful for everyone involved. Seeing that his or her child is well-cared-for can help the birth parent heal.
The child benefits because he or she can know their birth parent and understand why they were placed through adoption. Being understanding of the other members of the adoption triad is important for healthy development in the adoptee.
3. Be Resilient
Like most things in life, adoption does not happen when or how adoptive parents plan. There are adoption problems that may occur during the journey. You may spend years hoping to adopt a child. It may be less than a year between beginning the process and actually receiving a child to parent. An adoptive parent may be selected and then at the last minute, the expectant parent decides to parent the child.
There are so many possible scenarios that can happen on the journey to adopt a child. It is important to be resilient and flexible with your plans. Hoping for the best and expecting the worst is one way to become resilient. A way to be further resilient is to continue practicing patience and understanding.
You are proving your dedication to parenthood and proving yourself resilient throughout the process when you try to be understanding of the biological family and put the need of the child above your own. In my adoption journey, nothing turned out the way I had hoped or planned; we have not adopted yet. Overcoming the feelings of loss and being resilient is not something that happens in a moment or even overnight. It takes time and work to be resilient. Allowing yourself to feel the loss and deal with your emotions can be helpful.
When the child is well cared for, being realistic about your experience and the child can help you move forward. It is harder to grieve and move forward from the loss when the child is not in a good situation. But all of these experiences will prepare you to be a better parent to your children, particularly when they deal with challenging circumstances in their lives.
4. Be Accepting
Acceptance may seem like it is the same as understanding but there is a difference. When we understand, we comprehend or have sympathy for someone or something. When we accept, we are saying that something is good enough for us. We not only understand, but we welcome someone or something into our homes and families. We welcome the traits of others. In the case of adoption, this acceptance can come in various ways.
Sometimes people want to adopt a baby because they think it will be easier or they simply want a baby. However, it is impossible to know what pre-existing conditions the child will be born with. You may adopt a child and later find out that the child has autism. Or you may find yourself blessed to foster/adopt a toddler and not an infant. The world of adoption is a world full of unknowns and plans that go awry.
By accepting the challenges that come and working on your ability to handle them, you are parenting. You may not have planned to raise a child with autism but if your adoptive child is autistic, you must alter your expectations. A biological parent experiences the same thing when they find out later that his or her child is autistic. Be accepting of your adoptive child and the challenges they face. Love them no matter what.
You also need to be accepting of yourself. It is okay to feel impatient when the road to adoption is long and bumpy. Allow yourself to experience your emotions and then work through them. Accept your own limitations and realize that you are learning and growing too. Life is a journey filled with growth and change. Being accepting of the journey includes being accepting of yourself and others along the path. Your spouse, child, family, and friends need your acceptance to have the necessary support to get through the difficult parts of life. You need to accept the challenges you come across as well as accept how those circumstances change you.
5. Be Persistent
I saved this for last to illustrate that becoming an adoptive parent is not a matter of posting a profile and hoping for the best. Becoming an adoptive parent takes persistence and can be a long process. You will have to ensure that you have done everything you can, including being vulnerable enough to open up to strangers. You may end up posting on social media numerous times asking that your friends recommend you to an expectant parent that is looking to place his or her child through adoption. Or you may have to foster numerous kids before you finally find a child that is available for adoption.
Deciding to adopt is a decision that you will have to remind yourself of during every step of the process. You will have to remind yourself that you want to adopt when you see the mountain of paperwork. You will have to remind yourself that you want to adopt when a stranger comes into your home and looks in drawers and rooms to make sure everything is safe. You will have to remind yourself that you want to adopt when you are asked personal questions during a home study.
You will have to remind yourself that you want to adopt as you wait to be chosen by a prospective mother. You will have to remind yourself as you see the baby you can adopt and have to wait for the birth mother to sign the adoption papers. You will have to remind yourself that you wanted to adopt when you take home that baby that needs your constant care and attention.
Adopting takes persistence and determination to see your decision through until the end. The end doesn’t happen when you finally receive that child to adopt. It is a life-long decision. But when you hold that baby in your arms, you will know that it was worth the effort. When the toddler skins their knees and wants comfort from a loving parent, you will be reminded of the blessings from your persistence. In the end, your persistence will pay off because being a parent is amazing.
Even though these five goals are not specific and measurable, they do provide an essential framework of ideas and character traits for prospective adoptive parents. These goals allow prospective adoptive parents to get an idea of challenges they will face and teach them that even though there will be challenges, they will be able to overcome them.
The end result of becoming an adoptive parent, having your dreams come true, and being blessed with the opportunity to raise a child is worth the challenges. Those dreams made reality are worth the patience, understanding, resilience, acceptance, and persistence that are practiced throughout the journey.
My prayer for prospective adoptive parents this year is for their dreams to come true and that they will bless a child’s life through the knowledge they gained along the way.