As you get ready to step into this new phase of life, whether you already have kids or not, the adoption process takes time. While stocking your nursery and pantry may be easy, the process of getting your home and current family ready takes a little longer. Whether the decision to adopt came from wanting to grow your family or other personal reasons, here are a few steps to prepare your home and family.
Home Study Preparation
When applying to adopt, you will need to complete a home study. This can look different based on how you’re choosing to adopt (international or domestic) as each has different requirements. It can be overwhelming and a little bit intimidating inviting someone to review your space, but at the end of the day, it’s what shows an agency that the well-being of the child—mental and physical—is going to be taken care of.
Finding an agency to do a home study is the first step. Based on the type of adoption you’re interested in, you’ll have different agencies you need to work with. International adoptions will usually have two agencies to work with. This will potentially have to be submitted to both the international and local adoption agencies you’re working with.
Make sure you have all your documents together for the home study, as this is a huge part of the process. This can include your marriage certificate or divorce decrees, income statements, birth certificates for any children you may have, and health/life insurance documents.
Be sure to also check some physical aspects of the house too. You won’t want to create full renovations for the house to welcome a new member of your family, but make sure your fire and carbon monoxide detectors are up to date. You’ll also want to put any toxic chemicals away in a locked cabinet. Rather than a deep clean, make sure to clean surfaces and put clutter away. The idea here is that you’re showing your caseworker that the environment you and your family live in is a safe one for a new child that is entering your home (no matter their age). There are different adoption laws for each state, and they all have different requirements for a home study, so stay up to date with the laws that are specific to your location.
Older Adoptees and Their Needs
If you plan on adopting an older child, such is common through foster care, you can anticipate a period of adjustment to your home and family. Oftentimes, there will be a period of withdrawal, but having patience and understanding will make the process smoother.
While you’ll want to make sure a child is acclimating to his or her new family environment, there are plenty of things you can do beforehand to make that easier for them. While asking them about their snack and food preferences is helpful later on, consider generalizing your grocery list for a little bit beforehand. This will help you create a more diversified pantry until they are acclimated and comfortable enough to offer up suggestions of foods they may like.
They may also be interested in extracurricular activities; but until you meet them, you probably won’t know what they’ll want to participate in. Gather a small list of local recreational activities in your community and school district; this will offer your child an array to choose from or be interested in right away. This may be a great way for you to learn about local events your entire family may be interested in.
As always, give your child time to adjust. Be open with him or her about the adoption process. If your adoption is open, being an example of positive communication can open doors of trust and patience. Doing so may help you child open up about his or her past and adjust to the family.
Creating a Home for Growth
No matter the age of the child you’re adopting, small updates as they grow with your family can make a big difference if you plan on staying in the same home. As you welcome new family members, make sure you can accommodate with the space you have—do you have enough bedrooms? Are the bathrooms accessible for heavy traffic in the morning? These aren’t necessary at all for adoption, but something to think about as your family grows.
Updating your existing home may help create more space; but more importantly, think about storage. A great space to start is larger areas, like the kitchen. Take some time to assess the kitchen space; are you going to be able to make larger family meals, and is your home equipped for the clean up afterward? Updating the sink to something like a farmhouse model will provide you with more space for cleanup, but make sure this won’t get rid of any current storage space you have.
Extra shelving in the pantries for food is another idea. If you have alcohol and other items you normally keep out, make sure these are placed on higher shelves or in a wine/liquor cabinet that’s locked. Small updates make the biggest difference, but make sure these adjustments make sense for your current home and your family.
After assessing your larger spaces, think about personal areas. While a separate bedroom isn’t necessary, make sure to curate some items they can make their own as they grow up. If you plan on adopting at a younger age, a transitional crib that can turn into a full-sized bed is a great item to have as they get older and are in need of something bigger. Repainting the walls with a neutral color will also allow for easy personalization as your child gets older and he or she makes the space more personal.
As your child grows, he or she will collect more and more personal items and need more space. You may consider upgrades to your bathroom vanity to hold space for items you may buy in bulk like paper towels, cleaners, etc. This can create extra personal space as your children get older. Again, this isn’t necessary, but can be something to consider a few years down the road. These won’t be necessary for a home study, but again, are adjustments you can make over time as your family grows.
Whether you’re choosing to adopt by yourself, with a spouse, or with your family, there will be adjustments you’ll have to make along the way. After all, you’ll have a new family member in your home. When the home study takes place, make sure to prepare your family to answer questions and be as authentic as possible with the agency professional. This will provide an inside look at your family, a critical ingredient in placement.
If you have younger children, getting them involved in the process early on can be a great way to get them adjusted to having a new sibling before arrival. Have them help pick out items for the new child’s bedroom and bathroom to make the experience more personal. Make sure to also maintain routines. Just because someone new is entering the home, it doesn’t mean his or her activities, or yours, necessarily have to change. Keep the one-on-one time you have already and keep your family’s routine as consistent as possible. Mealtimes, bath times, extracurricular activities, etc. should stay the same to help the adjustment period.
Consider the financial changes that may occur with a new family member. If you’re worried about the potential financial costs or the adjustments, it’s a good idea to find an adoption agency that can help you through the process. It’s also good to check with your current employer to see what they offer for maternity and paternity leave. This will come in handy for full family acclimation. Usually, these leaves of absence don’t cover a full salary. An adoption agency can help you find loans or grants to help with the financial aspect of adjustment..
While a new child will bring lots of change no matter what, adjusting slowly is key to making this process go smoothly. Remember, no parent is perfect, and no birth parent is looking to match perfect parents; they’re looking for the right parents to parent a child. Be yourself, and be confident in the idea that everything will turn out smoothly. After all, this is a new phase of life for you and your new family member.