I Want to Adopt But I’m Scared

It goes without saying that adopting a child is a bit more rigorous than getting a puppy. Included in this decision one must consider the potential issues which may arise in the process of bringing an infant,  adolescent or young adult into your family group, making sure that adoption is what you really want. it is not surprised that you feel fear afraid or intimidated of starting the process.

If you have experienced infertility, you must ensure you have accepted your infertility, completed your fertility treatments, and be mentally and emotionally prepared for bringing an adopted child into your home.

Educate yourself about the adoption process, so you know what to expect with each potential step. In addition to using the Internet to learn about adoption, talk with others who have adopted to find out what the experience was like for them.

There may be significant differences between states in the US which may be potentially frustrating, aggravating or simply down right challenging. You can choose an adoption agency in your state of residence that will help you through the adoption process or expand research calling numerous agencies. Interstate adoption remains an alternative, but carries additional complexity.

Ask about fees, peripheral support agent offers, the children they typically place, and the length the process generally runs. Ask also about issues that arise and what can be done to either avoid these and if encountered, what assistance is to be provided in such instances.

You can adopt a baby or an older child, a boy or a girl, of any race or national origin.  There are a lot of older children out there seeking to put themselves up for adoption. You can also seek to adopt a baby on a private or open basis. Adopting from private sources requires extra due diligence on your parts with special emphasis placed upon insuring you have legal advisory support in your efforts.

Your adoption process will vary, depending on which option you elect to pursue, in which State you reside and any particular specific unique requirements you may hold.  

United States and Canadian adoption practices allow for public or private domestic services or agencies where difference between using a public and a private service is generally involving wait times. These periods of time tend to be shorter with a private domestic adoption agency. Elsewise, application and legal procedures are generally similar if not identical.

Wait times with public agencies can be long, lasting years in some cases often without any assurance that a placement will ever be made. If timing is an important factor consider private agency support when you want to avoid this wait time. Private agencies’ fees may be significant (in thousands of dollars) to avoid several otherwise time consuming bureaucratic delays by dealing with private agencies, but with the added expense you also gain assurance that the child you seek is the child you most likely will get.

Public Domestic Adoption Advantages – Fees are low if existing at all. Prospective parents in Canada for instance do not have to pay the agency any fees for the placement, but are responsible for meeting home study costs and government sponsored parenting course expenses, in addition many agencies allow for some contact to continue between the adopted child and his or her siblings and birth family, if desired.

Public Domestic Adoption Disadvantages – there may be no guarantee that the child you want will end up being placed with you. They serve the interests of the child, not the parents. Domestic agencies will always place the child in the situation they feel is best.

Many children awaiting placement through public domestic adoption agencies arise from varied backgrounds and may be emotionally, psychologically and/or physically challenged. Some may have been sexually abused.  Some may have developmental delays and complicated medical conditions. Cases of fetal alcohol syndrome or drug additions are relatively common in infants and children in foster care. Some children within the ‘system’ may have serious conditions not manifest until the child gets older.

Overseas Adoption Options – A primary benefits of international adoption is that it allows adoptive parents to be matched with children that share their ethnic heritage. For example, a Chinese American couple can adopt a child of Chinese heritage, something that may not be possible through a domestic adoption agency. It also allows socially conscious couples to bring a child into a much more advantageous and privileged living situation than would be possible in the child’s country of birth.

Detractors to consider when attempting International adoption – A child may grow up feeling disconnected with his or her cultural identity. As in many instances in a Domestic Adoption, it may be overly challenging to locate family members if a child tries to reconnect the birth family. International adoption agency fees are high. Administrative and legal ‘red tape’ can overwhelm the process and drag on interminably as navigate convoluted policies and procedures.

Advice from an adoptee – before you decide to adopt any child consider the long term risk facing virtually every child taken thru adoption – addressing the adopted child as a young adult when presented with a question like, ‘who is my real mother and father’.

Consider before you decide to adopt, ‘shall we open the dialog with our child regarding his or her parentage’. If the answer is YES, then prepare yourself over the course of your lifetime for that moment when your child comes to you and asks to find his or her birth parent(s). Does this mean that the child no longer loves you? Does it mean that you are forfeiting your rights to his or her future?

If you think that any future you can perceive contains this line of questioning, prepare from the very start and keep it open for discussion at any juncture you may encounter, training yourselves for the conversation to provide age-appropriate healthful, helpful information that will provide not only information regarding the content of the question, but most importantly, will provide truthful, frank acknowledgement of the context existing before, during and along the path to completing an adoption.

  • Why did my mother give me away?  
  • What is wrong with me that caused my parents to give me up?
  • Where is she?
  • Can I go see her now?
  • Did my birth father love my birth mother?
  • Can I see, talk and walk with either of these persons?

If you are not inclined to be open to this line of questioning, I suggest that a very deep soul search be conducted since the only option from this is to hide the truth FOREVER. Inadvertent disclosure, whether purposeful or simply a slip in the tongue may well precipitate into an unforeseen catastrophe involving distrust, anger and potential separation.

This pertains not only to older children given up in adolescence but also to infants. Human memory is a strange and beautiful phenomenon. An infant generally has ‘no memory’ of early life, many recognizing ‘events’ as early as two years or three.  Some children have little or no memory before they’re four.

Memory is triggered in early infancy by ‘differences’ which accompany changes in his or her environment – the smell of mother’s neck or breast, a perfume, a press upon a cheek of soft cloth or brisk breezes, bright light or unusual noise or general disorder. Any significant ‘trigger’ will stimulate a patterned memory that may (or may not) linger forever.

In a particular instance, a child potentially is given away before a second birthday. Throughout the child’s lifetime there remain traces of a sweet floral scent – suggesting gardenia as it turns out, or the vague memory of one’s cheek touching a crisp white starched lacy collar – a fantasy perhaps. The same child may maintain a fascination with airplanes and every form of flight.  But as this hypothetical child’s evolution, proceeding over decades, discovery of mother and father produces evidence that ‘mother’ loved gardenia and always wore starched white blouses which she wore routinely to work. The hypothetical includes the child finding a coincidental career in aviation and aerospace, the child’s father retiring from a twenty or thirty year career in the US Air Force after flying bombers in WWII – A coincidence one might assume?

Another possible example, a child brought up in a home where the adopted parents are quite different in appearance, disposition, interest and demeanor. The child never comprehends why she looks so different and is completely disassociated with the social or psychological makeup of one or both parent(s).

An adopted child will never share the genetic makeup he or she otherwise inherits from birth parents, but conversely will ‘inherit’ and assimilate behaviors and possible lifelong attitudes from those with whom he or she lives.

A quandary for such a child can be that he or she is somehow disconnected from the environment, unable to internally resolve near-transparent, exceptionally obscured and abstract emotions. These sensations will prove fertile ground for confusion which may evolve into other relatively obscure emotional issues and/or physical conditions such as low level depression, anxiety, and insecurity.  Often research suggests that left untreated, these minor emotional conditions may evolve substantial anger outbreaks coupled to an extreme sense of loss as though there is no place upon which to ‘stand’.

This feeling of loss may be especially intense in closed or semi-open adoptions where little or no information or contact is available with birthparents. Such grief feelings may be triggered at many different times throughout the child’s life including when first learning of the adoption, particularly during potentially turbulent teen years, upon the death of other family members, or even as when becoming a spouse or parent.

There can also be significant concerns about feeling abandoned and “not good enough,” coupled with specific hurt feelings over the birthmother’s choice to reject the child to give him or her away or not wanting the child enough. Such hurtful and vulnerable feelings may be compounded should the child learn that the birthmother later had other children that she chose to raise herself for that the birthfather had reappeared with a family independent and separate across the adoptee’s young adulthood.

Relationships in childhood and young adulthood may be troubled.  Adopted children may struggle with self-esteem and identity development issues more so than their non-adopted peers.

Identity issues are of particular concern for teenagers who are aware that they are adopted and even more so, for those adopted in a closed or semi-open circumstance. Such children once again wonder why they were given up for adoption. They may also wonder about what their birth family looks like, acts like, does for a living, etc.  They may struggle with the knowledge that they may have a whole other family “out there” including half-siblings or extended family members that they may never meet.

These issues may still arise in open adoption circumstances, but in that case, adopted children may have the opportunity to form some manner of relationship with their birthmother so as to gain direct access to relevant information.

Guilt feelings may accompany such identity issues and concerns. Adopted children may feel as though they are betraying their adoptive family and/or that they will hurt their adoptive family by expressing their desire to learn about their birth family.

In a best case scenario, adopted children do not have to wonder how their adoptive family members feel about their interest in their birthparents because adoptive parents will have addressed these concerns directly in previous conversation. Even in such a best-case scenario, the emotions may still be somewhat painful or difficult

Adopted children may also suffer from a loss of access to important medical or genetic birth family histories. Although modern adoption agencies take pains to gather medical and family history information, it is often not possible to have full information for the entire birth family. This of course is not necessarily part of adoptions from private parties.

In a closed or semi-open adoption, there may be no way for an adopted child to ask questions or clarify vague or missing information that may only become relevant long after the adoption occurred. Even a simple doctor’s appointment wherein an adopted child is quizzed about their family medical history can become a trigger for painful or awkward feelings, reminding the adopted child (or adult) that he or she is somehow different from others and doesn’t have the same information available to share with the doctor.

What is one to do given potential risk to early familial relations, or subsequent development of the adoptee’s family evolution?

  • Strongly consider the positive nature of the ‘open adoption process’.
  • Be frank with an adoptee being clear, concise and consistent in handling truth, as hard as you might otherwise wish to repress a natural attitude to keeping the past in the shadows.
  • Support any rational effort expressed by an adoptee to ‘discover’ birthparents.
  • Take very seriously, the potential intervention of birthparents in a future in which you no longer have oversight or control of the youthful vigor of a curious adoptee seeking his or her roots.
  • Realize Birthright is important virtually at any age.
  • Do not assume an adopted child will automatically ‘adapt’ to his or her environment, regardless of age.
  • Do your personal research before, during and after adopting!
  • Stay vigilant and address any negative behaviors early.
  • NEVER attempt to deceive, hide or distort the facts regarding a child’s adoptive circumstances.

Is genetic testing important?

Genetic testing prior to adopting is often motivated by legal, moral or physical concern. The process is increasing in frequency when adopting children from any source or from any professional or private agent allowing the diagnosis of disorders that have been previously only suspected.

This has led to the advent of the ‘unpatient’, where there is an increasing ability to test healthy individuals for genetic conditions that they will get (presymptomatic or predictive testing), conditions that they may get (susceptibility testing), and conditions that their children may get (carrier status). In response to concerns with genetic testing in general, professional and governing bodies from several nations worldwide have developed statements to deal with societal concerns.

The National Institute of Health suggests that, “Every genetic test should be offered in such a way that individuals and families are free to refuse or accept according to their wishes and moral beliefs. All testing should be preceded by adequate information about the purpose and possible outcomes of the test and potential choices that might arise. Children should only be tested when it is for the purpose of better medical care”. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2791077/).

Further sources of information below may be helpful in realizing methods which best suit a decision to adopt – how, when, why and what may be incumbent risk/benefit factors which may influence early decisions in this regard. An initial selection is provided below:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804559/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11061791

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1288161/

Reiterating – get the facts first. Read, ask questions, make decisions based not only on emotional attachments, but consider life-impacting facts regarding everyone involved in the adoption process. This involves life quality of all including those directly connected to the child as well as those tangentially who may not yet surface.

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