When my husband and I began our adoption journey, I spent countless hours on the web googling “Is adoption right for me?” No one in either of our immediate families had been touched by adoption. We didn’t know of anyone who had been adopted or who had adopted children. My closest connection was a friend of a family from my parent’s church who had adopted a little girl from South Korea 20 years before. It was a stretch, to say the least. Two international adoptions from two different countries later, I have learned a lot about adoption. I have learned that adoptive connections can run deeper than blood. I have learned that a child does not have to be biologically related to me to have my smile. And, most importantly, I have learned that welcoming a waiting child into our hearts and homes was the greatest gift to both me, our family, our extended family, our community, and to our children.
Every year, thousands of couples encounter unexpected pregnancies and every year thousands of couples experience infertility issues. Whether you are unexpectedly expecting or a prospective adoptive parent exploring your options, you may be asking, “Is adoption right for me?”
What is adoption?
When considering adoption, the first thing to understand is what exactly it is. Adoption is the legal termination of the birth parent’s rights and the granting of those rights to the adoptive parents. The birth parents’ rights may have been terminated by choice, which is common in private domestic adoption; or the parental rights may have been terminated by the state, which is common in adoption from foster care and in international adoption. Once an adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents will legally become the child’s parents with all the responsibilities of raising that child. The child will then have all the rights “as if [the adoptive child] had been born to them [the adoptive parents].” A birth parent would no longer be responsible for the child, but he or she may choose to remain in the child’s life through open adoption.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one out of every 25 families in America has experienced an adoption. Adoption triads (the birth parents, the adoptive parents, and the adoptee) come in all different shapes and sizes. Children from every background need forever families from every background. Whether you are single or married, divorced or remarried, a member of the LGBTQ community, or already have children in your home, there is a child out there who needs you. Adoption triads come from all different races, ethnicities, and cultural communities. They live in cities and rural communities. They may be wealthy or they may not be. But the one thing they all have in common is they have opened their hearts to adoption, and that is a beautiful thing.
The Adoption Process
Understanding the adoption process is another key in knowing if adoption is right for you. If you find yourself unexpectedly expecting, you may feel that now is not the right time in your life to parent a child. You may have professional or educational goals you still want to meet, or you may not be in the right place to support a child financially or emotionally. Whatever your reason, know that choosing adoption is an incredibly selfless decision. As an expectant parent, you may choose to place your child for adoption at any time during your pregnancy. You may even choose to place your child a few days or weeks after you have delivered. Likewise, you may choose adoption and then decide to parent your child, and that’s okay too. The key is to connect with an adoption specialist who will support you through every step of the adoption process and answer any and all questions you may have.
Know that as the expectant parent, you have the right to select your child’s adoptive parents. You may review hopeful adoptive parent profiles and choose which profile is the right fit for you and your child. You may also choose to place your child with the adoption agency in a closed adoption. You also have the right to choose your level of openness and engagement with the child post-placement. This may vary from open to semi-open in which the birth parents are involved in the child’s life, to closed, in which there is no contact.
Hopeful Adoptive Parents
As a hopeful adoptive parent, the first step in the adoption process is to consider why you want to adopt. If you have come to adoption through fertility struggles, make sure you have grieved the loss of experiencing a pregnancy and grieved the loss of not having a biological child. Infertility is a difficult journey and your social worker will discuss this with you in the home study process. Alternatively, if you have decided to build your family through adoption for other reasons, you will want to prepare to share these reasons with your social worker as well. The purpose of this exercise is to ensure you are adopting for the right reasons and that you are matched with the right child for your family.
Choosing adoption means choosing to love and parent a child who is not biologically related to you. Think about if it is important to you that a child looks like you or if you are open to raising a child of a different race or ethnicity. What about a child that was born in a different country? What level of openness are you willing to commit to in your adoption triad? Are you comfortable with periodic video chats and phone calls with the birth parents and in-person get-togethers, or do you want no contact? What age range are you open to parenting? Are you okay if that child has some degree of special need? All of these questions will help you decide between private domestic adoption, adoption from foster care, or international adoption.
Lastly, you will want to ensure you are prepared for the financial aspects of adopting. Domestic and international adoption can differ in price, but adoption from foster care will cost little to nothing. Thankfully, the Adoption Tax Credit, many adoption grants, and fundraising opportunities are available to hopeful adoptive parents. As an expectant parent, choosing to place your child for adoption will cost you absolutely nothing.
Ready to take the next step? Contact an options counselor or an adoptions program manager at the Gladney Center for Adoption.