What do you wish you had known before you adopted a child?
August 5, 2010 9:53 PM   Subscribe

What do you wish you had known before you adopted a child?

We are considering adopting a child. We are an opposite-sex couple in our early 40s in Washington State, USA. We have not yet decided between domestic or international.

We are in the information-gathering phase and are looking for information from actual adoptive parents.

What have you learned subsequent to adopting a child that you wish you had known earlier? What would have made the process easier, clearer, happier, or less disastrous?
posted by K and S to Human Relations (9 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Not (yet) an adoptive parent, but we're quite a ways through the process and are friends with the families of six adopted children.

Learn everything that you can about attachment issues, especially if you're considering a non-infant. Your agency will likely have training available (or even required) for you on this; take it very seriously. Integrating an adopted child into the family (even an infant) is more difficult than integrating a birth child and some issues come up later -- even years after the adoption.

Learn about all of the tax advantages and credits that your state and the federal government offer. Adoption is expensive but there's a fair amount of help available.

As for domestic vs. international -- you may know thiis already, but just to differentiate them here: Many domestic adoptions are "open", meaning that the adoptive family has ongoing contact with the birth family post-adoption. Not everyone is comfortable with this. The upside to domestic adoptions is that you can often get newborns or very young infants, and they can happen faster. Our friends just completed one and it took under six months from the start of the home study to bringing home their newborn! It tends to go faster if you are open to children of any race; there are far more minority-race children available for adoption.

My wife and I have chosen international adoption. Upside: no "legal risk" period and no required contact with the birth family. Downsides: longer process with more red tape. Children are older when they arrive and you may have little to no information about their history; this depends greatly on the country.

Feel free to message me directly if you want to hear more about our experiences thus far.
posted by jdwhite at 10:23 PM on August 5, 2010

I have two adopted sisters from Russia. Be warned that Russian adoption agencies are frequently full of shit and will outright lie to you to better "sell" the children they're trying to place. Much of what we were told about my sisters' family of origin (including that they were orphans) turned out to be fabricated.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:43 PM on August 5, 2010

There's a bit in this thread amongst the argy bargy you might find useful.

See this comment and this one.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:32 AM on August 6, 2010

There are likely to be many children in your region who are in need of a home. If you are open to children of other races or children or with developmental difficulties, there are thousands of children looking for "forever families" right in your area. Many of these adoptions are for children whose birth parents' right have been terminated for various unfortunate reasons.

A practical consideration is that these adoptions go faster, cost less and sometimes come with subsidies and services. So that means more of your resources can go directly for the children and less to agencies and other intermediates.

Regardless of how you decide to go, number one priority is to make sure to have a supportive community of people about you. It takes a village, so find yourselves a village.

Find other couples and families in various stages of the adoption process and hang out with them. Ask any agency you go through about their post-adoption services. Take full advantage of what they offer. (At this moment, my three youngest kids are at a special free day camp for adopted children provided by an adoption agency's post-adoption services.) You have to be an advocate for your kids.

Take advatage of all the adoption and parenting training you can. If you adopt older children, get all the knowledge and training you can on attachment issues and postive discipline techniques.

One thing we learned as foster/adoptive parents is to let people help you, even if you don't "need" the help. Helping you is good for them and it builds community in a positive way. People will want to contribute and be a part of what you are doing in some small way. We had someone say it to us directly, "We don't have the guts to go out and do what you do. But we want to support you in some way." These people let my little ones take their after school dance classes twice a week for free. The way we chose to see it is that it is not charity, it's teamwork.

Best to you both.
posted by cross_impact at 8:10 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

The single most useful resource for me pre-adoption was the forums at foreverparents.com. They're closed forums behind a password, and it's adoptive parents and potential adopters being really honest. I don't know how active they are now, but it was the most helpful thing to me, to hear so many people who'd adopted in every possible way talk about their experiences. There are some angry axe-grinders for sure but a real spectrum of experiences good and bad and (perhaps most common) mixed. Also a great place for support when you need it.

What I wish I had known? That adoption is ethically and morally complicated no matter what path you take, and that facing that and dealing with it can be a long hard process.
posted by not that girl at 8:20 AM on August 6, 2010

Not an adoptive parent but my best friend is, and I am pathetically grateful that I read this in time for it to make a difference: adoption sometimes gets all fucked up. This bit in particular I sort of want to write on my hand:
This is not to say that everything about adoption is wrong, but everything about adoption is painful. For our modern, legal concept of adoption to exist, families must be broken. Adoption is not, and can never be, a best-case scenario. It relies upon the worst-case scenario having already come to fruition. From there, you’re working with what is instead of what should be. That should be will never go away. For the entire lifetime of everybody involved in adoption, that should be exists, and it hurts. What is can still turn out to be wonderful, beautiful, incredible, but what is will never be what should be. It is that should be that necessitates education, sensitivity, and trigger warnings, because it never goes away.
I had read birth mother blogs, I had read Bringing Them Home, I had read The Girls Who Went Away, but I don't think I ever really got it until I read that.
posted by rdc at 11:42 AM on August 6, 2010 [7 favorites]

My sister adopted a child from foster care. The two things which most stand out for me:

1) The pull of the birth family can be huge, especially for older children. My sister knows a family who adopted a sibling pair, and the bio mom is still out there having babies! Even if the kids accept and understand that for whatever reason their parents cannot look after them, many of the children she knows (including her own) still wonder and long for siblings or other relatives. I remember saying something to my sister about how when you consider the other options, by getting adopted she would at least get the best opportunity for a stable life, and my sister said that while she got what I meant, the reality is that the 'best' situation for any child is to be born into a family that wants them and is capable of looking after than...

2) I have worked with several adopted or foster children and a common situation that comes up is parents sometimes wonder if the child is behaving a certain way because of 'issues' relating to the adoption, or if they are just behaving a certain way because of something else. It is important to understand that ALL children have bad days, temper tantrums, grumpy moods etc. from time to time. Sometimes they may behave a certain way because they are trying to deal with 'issues' but sometimes they are just having a bad day and it has nothing to do with the adoption.
posted by JoannaC at 7:25 PM on August 6, 2010

If you adopt an Asian child, remember that it's likely to be lactose intolerant. Took us a good week to work this out.
posted by Wolof at 1:14 AM on August 7, 2010

K and S, I kept thinking about this question. We had a very challenging adoption that included a lengthy custody dispute with our daughter's birthfather, and that experience and a lot of reading I've done in the three years since we brought our daughter home have given me something of a dark view of the adoption industry. I ended up writing a post that is in part about your question--what do you wish you'd knows?-- on my blog today; the link is in my profile if you're interested.
posted by not that girl at 10:28 AM on August 13, 2010

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