I love adoption.
I love everything about it.
I love the joy of finding a forever home for parentless children. I love the excitement of a family bringing in a new member. I love hearing adoption stories. I love that adoption is the best physical representation of what God did for us by making us His children.
The only thing I don’t love about adoption is the difficulty of navigating the adoption process. I hate that there are good people who desperately want to add a child to their family and provide a loving home, but they are held up by paperwork. I hate that there are children without families that are living in limbo because the process of adoption is slow and tedious.
My husband and I plan to adopt in the next five years. At this point we are only talking about it, but we have moved past just thinking about it and talking about talking about it. We are both completely on board, but we haven’t started narrowing down our options yet. What we have started doing is collecting advice from friends who have been through the process. Here are some things we have learned.
1. Pray Without Ceasing
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Although we should be doing those three things in every aspect of life, I cannot think of a better time to really buckle down and focus on praying. I don’t need to tell you what a huge decision this is. You already know. To welcome a child into your home is a wonderful and life changing event, but it isn’t an easy one. A child added to your family through adoption will still get sick and sassy and silly at the wrong time. Usually in public and always with an audience. Many times I have wondered how I am going to keep my sanity and my children. All children will push you to that point.
The process may push you to that point as well. It is not uncommon to jump through all of the hoops and finally bring your child home only to find that the birth mother has changed her mind or the birth father wants to assert his rights. Before you bring this child into your home you need to be convicted that this is God’s will for your family. Doubt will come. Absolutely. So, start with some certainty and pray that God will help you to stay the course.
2. Chronicle His Story
My kids love to hear about my pregnancies were like. They love that with Brinley I ate greasy cheeseburgers and with Dax I ate Cheetos and with Baylor I threw up everywhere. It is part of their story. They love to see how big my belly was with each one of them. They love to hear my husband describe taking me to the hospital and the first time he saw them on an ultrasound.
At some point, you will tell your child that God used another woman to bring him into your family. Present it as the exciting adventure of how God brought you all together. The twists and turns and heartaches of the journey are an important part of their story. Write it down. Keep a scrapbook. You won’t have profile pictures of your baby bump, but you can take pictures of your house before the home inspection. (See how clean it was?!?!) Take pictures in the car on the way to the hospital, at the adoption agency, with your attorney. Every child needs to know that their parents struggled for them. They need to know that they were loved before they were born.
3. Make Sure You’re Like Minded
Adoption is stressful. It can be emotionally, financially, spiritually, and even physically draining. During this difficult process (as well as the time after you’ve brought your child home), you and your spouse need each other for support. If one of the partners is going along with the adoption just to placate or appease the other, it can be detrimental to your relationship as well as the bonding process with your child. Kids are smart and they will pick up on something not being right.
4. Do Your Research
Do you want to use a lawyer to facilitate a private adoption or an adoption agency or the foster care system? If you choose an adoption agency, do you want to adopt domestically or internationally? While the sheer number of options can be incredibly overwhelming, you need to research all of them so that you know which one is the best fit for your family. There are pros and cons to each avenue and making the best decision for you will center upon time, money, heartache, etc.
Go to as many informational meetings as you can
Even if you have your heart set on a domestic adoption through an agency, going to a meeting about adopting through the foster care system can provide great information. It can also provide a great opportunity to meet like minded people who can become part of your tribe (see number 7). Lastly, going to informational meetings now, could open up doors for you later.
5. Be Realistic About What You Can Handle
How much can you afford to spend on adoption?
Look at your budget. Find ways that you can save money and pay off debt (check out the Dave Ramsey snowball method). Seek out grants and loans. Start fundraising.
What can your family actually handle?
What age, race, gender, etc. are you looking to adopt? What about mental or physical disabilities? Special needs? Drug dependency? Sibling groups?
It’s easy to say that you want to adopt and then picture the perfect little chubby cheeked baby that you will be handed, but that is rarely the case. Adoption can be messy, gut wrenching, and fill you with regret, but it’s worth it. Giving a child a loving home and showing them that they’re worth it all, is the heart of parenting. Showing them that they’re worth the anguish and self doubt and extra tutoring and doctor appointments and counseling sessions.
It’s all worth it, but you need to be realistic about what you can handle.
6. Decide Between Open and Closed Adoption
Again, there are advantages and disadvantages to both of these options. There’s even the middle ground of semi-open and semi-closed. This is a decision that you will need to research, pray about, and seek wise council. When thinking about what you’ll be comfortable with, make sure to consider what a relationship with the birth parents will entail in later years. Although there is no way to know the future, you can make the best decision by fully considering all the options.
7. Find a Tribe
Adoption is tough.
Surrounding yourself with people that are on the same path as you, can ease the burden. It is awesome to have a supportive friend to call when you are frustrated with how the home study is going. It is even more awesome to have a supportive friend to call when you are frustrated with how the home study is going that has actually gone through the process of a home study and can empathize and offer helpful advice. Having friends in the trenches with you can make all the difference. Seek them out. Pray that God will send you people.
8. Be Tenacious
My husband (probably most husbands) loved the movie Taken. He sympathizes with a father who would do anything to get his daughter back. He can see himself in Liam Neesen’s position (although his certain skill set is less shooting bad guys and more making great omelets and killing crossword puzzles). You should take a note from Liam.
This is your child. You are working to bring your child home. When CPS says they’ll call you Thursday at 2 pm and it’s 3 pm and you haven’t heard from them, call them. This is not the time to be timid or demure. Be fierce (and polite).
9. Enjoy the Home Study Process
People are often afraid of the home study which is totally normal. People are coming into your home and interviewing you to determine if you are going to be able to adopt your child. That is nerve wracking! But what if you looked at it as an opportunity to show someone how ready you are to bring that child home? What if it was a chance to tell your story? You have a totally captive audience. Why not view that as a time to share about the circumstances that led you to want to adopt? I
f you can shift your paradigm, then you can also shift your feelings about the process. Instead of feeling nervous and anxious, you will feel excited!
10. Be Prepared for Disappointment
In a perfect world, there would be little need for adoption.
But this is not a perfect world.
As such, you have to prepare for disappointment. Adoptions fall through, and it is absolutely heart breaking.
I have friends who were adopting twins. They had the names picked, double everything bought, showers thrown, due date marked, car seats installed, onesies monogrammed, formula bought – they were ready. And one day they got a call from the adoption agency, that the birth mother had faked it.
She was never pregnant.
She was a nursing student who had access to ultrasound photos and was basically just scamming everyone out of their money.
My friends were devastated. Completely. They had to walk around their house looking at all of these things for babies that would never be. They said it felt like the babies had died.
I don’t know how they could have guarded their hearts completely from this pain, but I feel like keeping in mind that it could happen will help you. I hate to be pessimistic, but you have to continue to live. So if you have to be guarded – be guarded. Until you are holding that sweet child in your arms and the papers are filed and they are yours. Forever. Then let all your walls down.
What tips do you have for navigating the adoption process?
*For those of you concerned for my friends, they got a call the next month about a newborn ready for adoption. Although they were extremely gun shy, they jumped in the car and drove all night to pick up their baby girl in Amarillo, Texas. She is five years old and the friendliest child I’ve ever met.