The need to nurture is fundamental. It is not a choice, but something much deeper. There are as many reasons for choosing adoption as there are couples considering it.
There are many avenues in adoption, each one has its pros and cons. Adoptive parents, especially first time adoptive parents, are usually unaware of the issues involved with adoption. Right now you may be gathering the information needed to make some big decisions that affect many different parties. Regardless of the avenue you choose in the adoption process, an attorney is a valuable part of your success.
Many people become foster parents as a first step in the process. When you become a foster parent, you can request the age and gender of the child you would consider. Consider as well if you are willing to accept siblings. There are strict guidelines for sharing of a room. Be sure to learn these rules as they will affect how many children can be fostered. Older children often feel responsible for younger brothers and sisters, and it may add to the stress experienced to separate siblings.
In Utah there is required training for foster parents. In the training, many topics are discussed to begin the conversation in your own family like “How will fostering affect our family dynamics?” You will learn how to be an effective member of a Family Team which includes birth parent(s), caseworker, guardian ad litem, and foster parents.
The part of the training that is hardest for me, is the discussion that must take place about the impact of abuse before children come to the foster system. It breaks my heart to even consider the lasting scars both emotional and physical. Even if you foster a newborn, they may suffer from abuse before their birth. It is important to talk about the impact on your family dynamics. The Utah foster care foundation training makes a honest attempt to open these conversations.
Remember that it is the stated goal of the state to reunify the birth family where possible. You will grow to love the children you foster. That’s the kind of person you are. How will you deal with the loss when the child you have grown to love is returned to a family situation you feel is less favorable than being with you? It is something to consider.
There are a host of emotional issues to really consider when choosing foster parenting. We only have limited control over most issues. Each child has her/his own well established family culture, and attitudes. During the first little while the child may “play nice”. Later they may test the limits of your love to prove that you are a liar like everyone else in their life. If you choose this path, be ready. There are many twists along the way.
In Utah, foster parents must be willing to adopt if reunification fails. If it comes to adoption, the state will pay for it. For cash strapped families this is a real plus. In some cases, state paid services may be available for the adopted child after the adoption. This is something to discuss with your caseworker.
Private adoption typically offers more choice in the process for both the birth mother and adoptive parents. Typically a birth mother has given it a lot of thought and makes the gut wrenching choice to offer her child for adoption. Finding the best possible adoptive parents is next on her mind. An adoption attorney or agency has a list of hopeful candidates she can consider.
In the ideal situation, a kind of partnership between the birth mother, adoptive parents and the agency/attorney forms before birth. The birth mother may have needs and circumstances that require some financial assistance on the part of the adoptive parents. These may include medical services during pregnancy, nutritional support, even help with some other limited living expenses. Your attorney can help set reasonable boundaries. Getting good care and support early in the pregnancy is important in the health and well-being of the baby.
Private adoption of a baby is expensive. The typical range is between $5,000 and $40,000, but it could be more. It is important for your attorney or agency to screen birth mothers. You want your baby to have the best start in life.
With such an investment, it is important to discuss expectations with your attorney such as:
- What if the baby is born addicted to drugs?
- What if the baby is born with a disability?
- What if the birth mother was less than honest with us?
- What other surprises may develop?
The legal hurdles are increasingly tough to navigate, and the process can be long. While some people see adoption as a way to unify a marriage with troubles, quite the opposite can often be the result. Even if you have children already, the emotional roller coaster of adoption can test the strongest of families. Talk about these issues with your attorney and a family counselor as well as your extended family. When we hold unexpressed expectations we set ourselves up for heartache.
The extreme shortage of newborn babies in the US leads couples to look internationally for children to adopt. This has its own set of legal issues and in some cases it is simply not possible. The shifting tide of politics can open and close doors for adoptive parents. Choose an adoption agency or lawyer with experience and connections if you are interested in international adoption.
Adopting Older Children
It is ironic that while there is an extreme shortage of babies, there are many older children who are waiting for adoption. Reasons to consider adopting an older child include:
- Your situation is better suited to older children, not so much for babies.
- Older children can be a willing partner, and crave a family who cares and includes them.
- An older child has a more developed personality you can connect with or not.
Older children also come with extra emotional baggage and history. Your expectations and their experience of failed relationships can clash on very painful levels. Even with the advantages of older children, there can be many unexpected issues to deal with. It’s never quite how you imagined it, but it can be really special too.
Eventually, most adopted children begin to wonder about their birth parents. They feel a need to connect with their roots. Especially in teenage years this can be the source of conflict as the teen sorts out their place in this big universe. It is not rebellion, or resentment of adoptive parents. It is just a deep need to know where they come from. The best we can hope for is to be the rock in the child’s life as he/she begins the journey of self discovery. Don’t take it personally.
We really need to talk about expectations. Do you hold the belief that a child is the sum of their parenting? Whether our children are adopted or not, as parents, we see our child’s possibilities. The truth is we only have a limited influence on how our children “turn out”. What we see as possibilities often has more to do with our own ambition rather than our child’s happiness. Ultimately it is the choices a child makes that mold their character. The most we can hope for is a roll as loving coach and cheerleader even when our child makes painful choices.
Is adoption right for you? It is a lifelong commitment and it is a question that deserves deep and thoughtful discussion with your spouse, counselor, nuclear and extended family. It seldom works out how you envision. Adoptive relationships can be just as frustrating and stressful as they are sweet and loving. Every child is unique. Every relationship has its own dynamics. Please, call now. You can speak with an experienced adoption attorney about your specific situation for free.