November is National Adoption Awareness Month, something very near and dear to my heart. I have two adopted nephews and an adopted niece whom I love dearly. I’ve asked a guest writer, Kristie Nixon, who has working through her own adoption story for the past few years, to shed some more light on this life-changing process.
When you hear the word, “adoption,” what kinds of feelings pop up?
- Excitement? Whoo hoo! Adoption is our number one choice to continue to grow our family.
- Intrigue? I’m not against the idea of adoption…but it’s not something we’ve be planning on.
- Overwhelmed? The thought of adoption make me want to grab a brown paper bag and take long low breaths.
- Fear? I could never handle the ups and downs of the adoption process.
Yes, it can be a confusing roller coaster ride. But it also carries a very unique beauty.
Here you are…standing at the cliff and thinking perhaps this is a canyon you want to cross. That perhaps there is a child on the other side who’s meant to be in your family.
How do you go about building that bridge? One step at a time.
Rome was not built overnight and adoption doesn’t happen overnight. You just take it one brick at a time.
What to Expect with Your Emotions
First things first – feelings. There are so many emotions that can bring someone to the place of considering adoption. Some are joy and excitement, but some can be hurt or pain.
If excitement and joy is where you are at, skip to Step #2. Sounds like you are ready to go.
But, if you are someone who has gone through great pain, maybe due to infertility, let me reach my arms through the computer screen and give you a warm embrace.
Your heart may have some healing to do before you begin your adoption journey.
When Life Hands You the Unexpected
I always knew I wanted to have a large family, 4 plus children to be exact. I was open to adoption, but AFTER I had a few biological children. It was not my first choice for growing my family.
I had been married for 6 weeks when I found out I was expecting my son. I was elated, to say the least. Then, when he was just over one, I was pregnant again!!
Hallelujah, my husband and I were on our way to our large family!
But, God had other plans for us… a miscarriage… and then another.
My heart had great pain and fear. Would I be able to conceive again? Will I ever be able to experience the joy of childbirth again? How do I cope with the loss of these dreams?
As you take the leap into adoption it is important to face the feelings that brought you to this choice. Adoption can be hard, just like being physically pregnant, there is a roller-coaster of emotions.
Trust me; I know facing our feelings ISN’T always easy. But afterwards it always feels freeing and refreshing.
Here are a few recommendations for working through your emotions:
Call a Good Friend ~ Maybe someone who has had similar struggles. It is always good to get it off your shoulders and gain some additional perspective.
Journal – Sometimes there isn’t someone available to chat or you may not feel comfortable telling someone ALL your feelings. A beautiful journal is a great way to get it all out on the table and still retain your privacy.
Talk to Your Significant Other ~ Talking it out with the other person who is along for the ride. They can give you a great sense of support. He may have some great insight you never thought of.
Take a Walk – Walks always helps me clear my head and sort through my feelings (I will admit I talk to myself a lot when I am on long walks – and I do answer back – eek!)
Ask Good Questions, Get Good Answers
After you have worked through the emotions of considering adoption in the first place, start thinking through all your questions and fears. This will help you to sort your mind out and allow you to start seeking answers. Don’t forget to loop in your significant other; it’s a team decision!
Should we choose domestic or international?
Are you going to look to adopt children through the foster care system? Or reach beyond the borders towards International children in need?
Heather’s brother and sister-in-law chose foster care, which led to adoption, while we decided upon the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It’s a very personal decision, so think about it carefully. Interview people who’ve done both sides to get a feel for which side may be a good fit for your family. Hurting children are everywhere, so there is no wrong answer.
- Read about domestic infant adoption.
- Read about adopting through the foster care system.
- Read about adopting internationally.
How much will this cost? Can I afford adoption?
Adoption can be expensive, yes, but you don’t have to be a millionaire to do it (I know we aren’t).
Julie Gumm has written a great book called Adopt Without Debt. I highly recommend it as a starting point.
Also consider the program you adopt through. For example, the cost of private adoption can be much higher than adopting through foster care or through a private organization.
Whatever path you take, don’t let the cost of adoption stand in your way. Where there is a will, there is a way ☺.
Am I comfortable being a transracial family and having children who look different then me?
You may not want to admit that this question has crossed your mind, but it is important to carefully think through. If this is something you think you will struggle with, ask yourself why.
It’s vital you probe into some of these deeper issues in yourself and your spouse before you start the adoption process.
It is also important to consider what this will mean for the children you bring into your home. What will it feel like for a child to be the only one in your family that doesn’t look like you? Are you prepared to help a child navigate the intricacies and challenges that come with transracial adoption? (Or are you willing to become prepared to help this child?)
Also, it’s probably a good idea to think through your extended family. If it’s going to be a big issue to extended family you spend a lot of time with, you have to consider the impact on the child you are bringing into your home. Are you prepared to protect this child from those impacts?
What age and gender would fit best in your family?
Does it matter the age or gender of the child you adopt? If so, how open are you to consider a different age or gender?
If you’re interested in foster care, be aware that there is usually a greater need for families willing to take sibling groups or older children.
For our family we wanted to make sure we retained birth order to help our family acclimate. In other words, we didn’t want a child older than the one we already had.
Take time to consider how the age and gender of a child might change the family dynamics – for good and for nil. What changes are you ready to embrace? What changes would be too much?
Are you open to raising a child with physical, mental, or emotional limitations?
Another difficult, but vital question to consider before the adoption process begins.
The cruelest thing is to bring a child into your home, only to decide that their physical or mental limitations are more than you can handle. If you adopt, it’s for life. So think through these things seriously.
Children who are adopted experience significant trauma and loss, which can effect development in a number of ways. Educate yourself about trauma and consider what that might mean for your family.
As you work through your questions a great resource to help you answer some of your questions is http://www.adoption.com. They have a lot of great information; including agency reviews.
Choosing Your Agency
Once you have worked through your emotions, questions, and concerns and have decided to adopt it is time to consider the agency you want to work with.
Here’s how to make sure your agency is top-notch.
Read Agency Reviews
When considering an agency or program make sure you ask to speak to references. They can give you an honest opinion. Remember, the agency or program you pick will be representing you! It’s important to make an educated decision.
Join an Adoption Group
Get involved with an adoptions group either in your community or through Facebook. Other adoptive parents are great resources in finding great agencies and programs.
Do an Online Search
Make sure to look up your agency or program online. You might be able to find some interesting information. Make sure you ask questions and search for information regarding the ethical practices of any agency you are considering.
Trust Your Gut
When you are evaluating agencies make sure you double check instincts. If your internal red flag is going off – Trust it! There is a reason.
A Beautiful Journey,
A Forever Family
Adoption is a long journey filled with emotions, questions, and paperwork☺. But it is a beautiful process of bring a forever families together. As you start taking your first steps into adoption always remind yourself to take baby steps.
Have you adopted? Are you considered adopting? Tell us what made you decide to take that first step. Was it a hard step to take?
And remember, everyone’s story is a little different – That’s what makes it beautiful.