Making the decision to adopt begins with asking yourself, “Am I ready to adopt?” Knowing whether or not you are ready to adopt is a pretty broad question and feels different for everyone. The answer to this somewhat loaded question will be based on some deep-diving, soul searching, and honesty.
Something to consider is that whether or not you feel ready to adopt, there are many factors that you may or may not be able to control once you get started. Understanding that and being prepared to roll with the punches is just as important as being confident in your choice to begin your adoption journey.
Just as important is understanding that your answer will one hundred percent impact the life of the child you are hoping to adopt. So, be ready to not only answer the question of whether or not you are ready to adopt, but the question of whether or not you are ready to become an adoptive parent.
Here are some things to consider while you figure all of this out.
Do you know what adoption is?
It can not be stressed enough that you should not consider adopting, much less attempt to ask “Am I ready to adopt?” until you fully understand what adoption is.
Adoption.org offers this comprehensive definition: “Adoption is the establishment of a legally recognized, lifelong relationship between adoptive parents and the adoptee(s) in question. Adoption is a permanent choice for birth parents. Adoption can occur in varying ways. A person can adopt their stepchild or relative. Many hopeful adoptive parents choose international adoption. A person may also wish to adopt from foster care. Others will pursue domestic infant adoption.
There are many sources out there to help you learn about adoption such as internet searches, adoption articles, books, adoption informational courses, support networks, and one-on-ones with adoption agencies and social workers. Consider more than the process of adoption, but the forever-after commitment that comes with it. Take time to learn from your adoptee and others who have had similar experiences.
Adoption does not end after placement, as demonstrated in the blog “What to Expect After Your Adoption.”
What does it mean to be an adoptive parent?
Adoptive families come in all shapes and sizes. The experience of one adoptive family can often be very different than others. While, yes, you are a family and you love your child the same as any parent loves their child–biological or otherwise–that does not change the fact that you came to be a family via adoption.
Being an adoptive parent does come with some additional self-awareness and responsibility. Before you ever became a family, you made a choice to grow your family through adoption–you took a non-traditional approach. Maybe that doesn’t stand out to you as anything special, but your family dynamic is different than a traditional family dynamic.
Similarly, before you may have even known your child, they will have experienced a different guardian or biological family–for a few hours, months, or years. Although you plan to love them and support them and make them feel wanted and cherished as one of your own, this does not make up for the fact that all adoptees experience trauma and loss. Recognizing adoption-related trauma is an important first step in helping your child not only transition into your family and cope with trauma but to thrive should they experience issues at any point in their lifetime.
Like any other health-related issues your child may experience–mental or physical–being aware and educated on how to help them through these tough feelings is your job as an adoptive parent.
Whether or not you notice any major issues with your child, being an adoptive parent is a beautiful thing. The love shared between adoptive parent and child can be as healthy as any other relationship when fostered and strengthened. Read more about some of the best ways to bond a new adoptive family at Adoption.org and additional ways to bond with older adopted children at Adoption.com. Additional tips on parenting an adopted teen can be found at ChildWelfare.gov.
How do I prepare for and roll with the unexpected?
So, you feel like you’re ready to adopt. You understand your role. You understand the process. Now what? Most adoptive parents will tell you to expect the unexpected.
Just because you’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s, it doesn’t mean your paperwork is going to go through without issue. And just because you’ve made your way down the checklist, love your social worker, and have your future planned out, don’t expect everything to fall right into place without a few hiccups.
There will be slowdowns, shutdowns, meltdowns, and uncertainty. Maybe not enough to write home about—but because adoption is such an important act and deals with real human lives, you have to be realistic and realize that you may need to take a few deep breaths along the way.
The adoption process itself is a bumpy road–for birth parents, for adoptees, and for adoptive parents.
You can better prepare yourself by finding support and resources to help weather the storm. Having professionals and other adoptive parents to help guide, support, and encourage you will be helpful along the way.
Your story and your child’s story doesn’t end the day you meet. Finding post-adoption support and services is just as important, if not more important. Don’t limit this to yourself; have your child in mind–whether for medical support, education opportunities through your school district, or social interaction with other adoptive families.
While there is not a one-size-fits-all answer for all of the different kinds of adoptive families, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. So long as you are willing to keep asking the important questions and are open to finding the sometimes uncomfortable answers, you are on the right track.