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SO, YOU WANT TO ADOPT?

Fantasies, Myths and Realities

Many Reasons to Adopt

There are many reasons why couples consider adoption. The desire to raise children and the inability to conceive naturally are some of the basic reasons why couples make this decision. However, there are many others.

There are couples who decide to adopt children from troubled areas of the world or children who come from other ethnic groups to give them more opportunities in life. There are couples who can have children naturally, but still feel a strong urge to adopt an orphaned child as they realize that there are nearly 17 million orphaned children in the world today. Every couple has its own set of reasons, dynamics, goals, and aspirations about raising children…all of which goes into the decision to adopt.

While making the decision to adopt should be researched carefully, potential adoptive parents should be wary about some of the common fantasies and myths surrounding adoption. It is true that the process of adoption can take some time, but even natural parents have to wait nine months, and sometimes longer, to have their children. It costs money up front to adopt, but in the final analysis all children cost money to raise, adoptive parents just spend a little more of it in the beginning. Nevertheless, the adoption decision is a very important one and a reasonable understanding of the pluses and minuses should be reached before this effort is initiated.

Why Are You Adopting?

The first question to ask yourself as a potential adopting parent is: Why do you want this? It probably sounds simplistic, but deep in your gut ask yourself what you hope to get out of adopting. Many of those ideals you are hoping for will be shattered by reality, and the reality of adopting is that you can’t change your mind after you’ve committed to this course of action. So, spending some time in contemplation is an important first step. In fact, this should be a first step for all people considering taking on the responsibility of children.

As a couple, you may end up subjecting an adopted child to a divorce just as you might for natural children, but a divorce can more profoundly destroy the precarious stability of an adopted child. While single parents do adopt now, it’s absolutely essential for adopting couples to both be completely committed to the adoption before moving forward. Even the slightest doubt from either partner should be a red flag to slow down and reconsider.

Let’s be frank, your motives must be selfless and altruistic when you adopt because you will eventually sacrifice a great deal for this dream. If the child you adopt has special needs, there will be even more demands.The more you connect with others who have adopted and been through some of the sacrifices, the more realistic you can be about your potential adoption. Going into an adoption is a little like being in love: you feel like you will be able to overcome every obstacle just from the intensity of your early desire to adopt, but that fire burns down to warm coals just as love does. In the end, all love – and all adoptions – require sacrifice.

Identify Your Adoption Fantasies

Most parents have fantasies about how their children will turn out and how wonderful the parenting experience will be, but the reality is that there are no ideal child-parent relationships. Your children will become autonomous and willful by the age of four and will not always make you happy. Don’t choose to have children because of some idealized happiness you think you will get from them, or you will be sadly disappointed, and, the children you raise are bound to suffer for your disappointment.

The planning that goes into adopting children may give you some sense of control over how the child will logistically fit into your family. However, you will never be able to actually control the psychological adaptation of adoption for all the family members involved. For instance, you could decide—as one couple did—to adopt a child only a little younger than your youngest adolescent child so that your birth children develop natural sibling relationships with your adopted children. As these parents discovered, adopting middle-grade children from an overseas orphanage may turn out problematic in other ways. Taking on all the psychological differences that occur when children are raised in an institutional environment and with a different language and culture can require years of special care.

Statistics reveal that children who enter institutional care under the age of three years are at much higher risk for attachment disorders of all kinds. These begin to particularly cause difficulty in adoptive families during adolescence. This is no reason to avoid adoption, but be realistic about the possibilities.  Learn everything you can about issues for adopted children and the specific children you are considering before you decide.

About two percent of the child population in America is made up of adopted children, but more than 11 percent of adolescents referred for therapy are adopted.  This points out one very important thing about adoption: post-adoption services are necessary and relevant to all stages of parenting adopted children. 

Ease into Adoption

One way to prepare yourself for the adoption experience is to consider applying for short-term fostering before you go full-throttle into adoption. There is always a desperate need in most states for alternate foster parents to provide respite for full-time foster families. This usually requires you to foster for weekends or vacation periods when the fostering family goes away.

Often foster children are not legally authorized to leave the fostering state so these respite homes are indispensable.  While acting as a respite home for a year or two seems like a detour, it can educate you to the sacrifices you’ll have to make when you adopt. You’ll get invaluable training and undergo many of the same initial home assessments required for adoption. 

Adoption Myths

That brings us to adoption myths. Almost immediately after you announce your interest in adoption to family and friends you will begin to hear horror stories about the difficulty and expense of the process along with other discouraging pseudo-facts.

This happens because adoption is still fairly rare in America, although recent laws have made it much easier to adopt. Fortunately, you will have lots of encouraging support at your fingertips if you scan the internet for actual facts and information.

The cost of international adoption is definitely the highest and typically costs between $20,000 and $45,000. Domestic infant adoptions, which total about 20,000 per year, can cost between $10,000 and $30,000. Adopting out of foster care can cost much less – sometimes less than $5,000.  You may find this publication helpful:

http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/adoption_gip_two.pdf

There are a number of different funding sources that can reimburse for adoption costs and ongoing medical needs of certain adopted children; all of these should be reviewed during the process of looking into adoption.

Another myth is that most people who want to adopt cannot get through the rigorous assessment process. This is not true. Many people will argue that you don’t have to prove anything to anyone in order to have children naturally, so the process shouldn’t be so difficult. While it is true that there are demanding standards for adopting families, there is also an enormous need for adoptive parents. You will find many advocates helping you to negotiate the system and fulfill the processes required to get you to that moment when a baby or child is placed in your arms.

When you think about the important role you’re taking on as an adoptive parent, you’ll understand the reason for the processes. There can be no guarantees to ensure the safe development of these children to adulthood; the process of approving an adoption seeks to create the best possible outcome for the child. When all is said and done, the goal is a successful adoption for everyone – happy children and happy parents.

Written by Heidi Densmore

Copyright 2014 / Good Choices Good Life, Inc. / All Rights Reserved

At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child's success is the positive involvement of parents. Jane D. Hull