Adoption is a lengthy, expensive process that often includes a few hurdles along the way. Learning about the most common adoption obstacles and how to overcome them is key for navigating the adoption process successfully with minimal stress and anxiety.
Even when you’re sure that adoption is the right path for you to grow your family, it’s completely normal to have some hesitation. It requires a lot of time and money and comes with many unknowns. Familiarizing yourself with the most common adoption obstacles will reassure you that numerous other families face the same obstacles. Then learning how to overcome these obstacles will give you coping tactics and parenting strategies for a smooth, stress-free adoption and years of positive adoptive parenting.
Grief from infertility
Many (though certainly not all) couples pursuing adoption have faced infertility, miscarriage, and pregnancy loss. Adoption is a way to grow your family. It’s not a fix for infertility. It doesn’t magically erase the pain of failed fertility treatments, miscarriage, and pregnancy loss. Pursuing fertility treatments while starting the adoption process isn’t a good idea. Close the door on fertility treatments before you start your home study.
A lot of established adoption authorities will tell you to heal from your infertility past before pursuing adoption. I don’t think that this is realistic. Grief is an ongoing process. [Source] The pain associated with failure to conceive and to miscarry babies and lose them at birth may never go away fully.
You may need time after fertility treatments or a miscarriage before moving onto adoption. You may not. It’s important to do what works best for your family and to continue to grieve throughout the process of growing your family.
Trusting the wait
Adoption involves a lot of hurry up and wait. You’ll have periods that are busy with deadlines for paperwork and appointments. And then you’ll spend a lot of time just waiting. While getting home study certified is exhausting and often stressful, it does give you something to do. Once you’ve completed your profile materials and are in the waiting pool, you’re just waiting, which is so tough.
If you haven’t already prepared a bedroom for your child, I recommend doing so. I know that it seems crazy and expensive. But it will give you another set of tasks and ensure you’re ready when you do get that call. Once you’ve matched, you may be bringing home a baby in a matter of days. Getting a room ready in advance will help that first month will your little one go a lot more smoothly.
My other advice during the wait is to pray. We’ve spent long periods of our decade long journey to grow our family just waiting. I’ll be honest: so much of it still doesn’t make sense to me. I keep praying and trust that someday it will make more sense. Ask loved ones to pray for you as well.
Giving up control
You never have full control over growing your family. But there are so many more aspects of it with little to no control when it involves adoption. You don’t have any control over the timing and many of the major decisions. It’s okay to feel bitter or even angry sometimes about this aspect of adoption. When you feel overwhelmed about it, take a deep breath and remember that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to work out.
It may also help to imagine yourself in the birth mom’s shoes. The hardest aspects of your side of the adoption seem like a drop in the ocean compared to what she will experience.
Unfortunately, the high costs associated with private domestic and international adoption are a major barrier for many couples considering adoption. If you’re seriously thinking about adoption, sit down with your spouse and talk through the financial side. Determine if it’s feasible for you, and if so, how you’ll be able to budget and save for it. This process looks different for every couple. It may involve anything from cutting back on luxuries each month to taking on a side hustle to waiting a few years until you’ve paid down debt and can save more.
There are a lot of resources out there about adoption grants. If you qualify for grants or other benefits, such as employer benefits, take advantage of these opportunities. There are also a lot of resources available with ideas for adoption fundraising. I’m of the somewhat unpopular opinion that it’s not your family’s and friends’ responsibility to pay for your adoption. If loved ones would like to contribute, they’re certainly welcome to do so. But they shouldn’t be put upon to contribute.
Not falling for adoption myths and scams
The media and pop culture perpetuate a lot of myths about adoption. For example, I’ve never heard of an adoption-related kidnapping in real life. But almost everyone who learns that we have an open adoption with my son’s birth mom and her family asks if it’s safe. A lot of people’s biggest fears about adoption stem from myths. The more you can educate yourself about common adoption myths, including open adoption myths, the bigger peace of mind you’ll have moving forward with adoption.
There are also quite a few adoption scams. Family Education has a good article with real-life examples of some of the most common adoption scams to help couples steer clear of similar scenarios. The general rule is that if it sounds too good to be true, most likely it is too good to be true. Always do your research about adoption agencies and look into their credentials before signing anything.
Also, you should never be expected to put money toward an adoption situation before you’ve matched. Once you have matched, you’ll be given a contract with a clear fee outline. Question anything you’re asked to pay that isn’t covered in this contract.
Sharing your entire life story and home with people you barely know
I’m not exaggerating when I say that my social worker knows more about my life than many of my closest friends and family members. I’m also not exaggerating when I say that we put together a more detailed financial analysis each year for our home study renewal than we do for our financial advisor or tax accountant. You put your whole life out in the open for people you may have just met. You also open your home to them.
Social workers are professionals. They will not share your life story or details about your home with anyone who doesn’t need this information. They are also not here to judge your history or marriage or to criticize the cleanliness of your home. They’re doing their job to help qualified families get certified to adopt.
Opening your heart to potential adoption situations
I read accounts all the time from couples who feel overwhelmed when they first enter the adoption waiting pool. Even the best social workers can’t prepare you adequately for what it’s like to read about potential adoption situations. If you’re find yourself feeling overwhelmed, it’s absolutely fine to read profiles for a few weeks or even a couple of months without responding to any of them. You’ll know when the right situation comes along and you feel ready to present.
No matter what preferences you list for potential adoptions, I encourage you to read every profile opportunity you receive. Don’t discount it right off the bat because it doesn’t check all of your boxes. Again, when the right situation presents itself to you, you’ll know.
Getting your head around open adoption
I feel very fortunate that we’re with an adoption agency that is very pro-open adoption and encourages all of their birth moms and adoptive families to consider open adoption. We had support for open adoption right from the start and were also meeting local families in positive open adoption situations. Even with this level of support, open adoption is a bit daunting. It’s hard to know exactly what to expect, as open adoption varies so much from one family to the next.
I encourage you to connect with adoptive families with open adoptions. Finding adoption blogs with open adoption testimonials or ongoing narrative about open adoption relationships may also prove helpful.
Processing your ongoing emotions
Adoption is a rollercoaster, even under the best of circumstances. There will be high highs when everything is great and low lows when you question why you ever felt called to adopt. It’s best to be honest with yourself about the range of emotions you’re experiencing, so you can process them fully.
I’m sure it’s not a surprise that one effective way that I process adoption, as well as many other aspects of my life, is through writing. Writing is an extremely cheap, very powerful tool for working through virtually any aspect of adoption, including your emotions.
Learning where to go for support
Having a good support group is key for being a strong, successful adoptive parent over the lifetime of raising adopted children. Seeking out fellow adoptive parents in your area is also critical for building strong relationships to connect your kids with fellow adopted children.
The two places I’ve had the most success building an adoption support network are our adoption agency and local Facebook groups. I have an ongoing text message with an amazing group of fellow adoptive moms I’ve met through these connections. It has proved invaluable numerous times over the last few years and will continue to do so for many years to come.
Making self-care a top priority
Prioritizing your self care isn’t really a tip specific to adoption but parenthood in general. Neither adoption nor parenthood should ever be so all-consuming that you don’t take care of yourself properly. Start with the basics. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep every night, eat regular healthy meals, and exercise at least a few times a week.
Beyond the basics, take time for yourself for a hobby or other personal pursuit, and build in time at least once a month to get away from your kids. Even a few hours by yourself with friends will go a long way toward helping you recharge and come back a better parent.
Preparing for the life long journey of being an adopted family
One of the common misconceptions about adoption is that the process ends once you’ve finalized the adoption of your child. In reality, this is just the start of your journey. The sooner you begin talking about adoption as a family, the more comfortable you’ll be with the topic by the time your child starts asking questions.
Having a strong adoption community is key for being a successful adoptive parent. You never know when problems will arise or your kids will have questions that you can’t answer. Having resources at your disposal will help you confront any challenges that come your way.
As always, fellow adoptive parents, I’d love your insight on this topic!
What are biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your adoption journey and how did you overcome them?
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