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Ease the transition to adoption and minimize the stressful journey

April M. Moyer, M.A. Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student, Psychotherapy Clinician, and Adoptive Mother Clark University
Ease the transition to adoption and minimize the stressful journey

Pre-adoptive parents have various reasons for choosing adoption. Some cannot biologically have children with their partner due to infertility or being in a same-sex relationship. Others choose single parenthood and decide that adoption is how they would like to form their family. And some adopt out of altruism or a personal connection to adoption. Whatever the reason for choosing adoption, all pre-adoptive parents face a multitude of questions, decisions and challenges. This article provides recommendations for couples and individuals contemplating adoption, as well as for individuals and couples who have already begun the adoption process. These suggestions are offered with the goal of easing the transition to adoption and minimizing the stress that is inevitably experienced during this exciting life-changing journey.


Do discuss adoption with extended family and friends

Talk to your family and friends about the possibility of adopting a child. Answer their questions. Get a sense of what they are looking forward to and understand their hesitations. In addition, try to grasp their level of support for you and your child after the adoption. Knowing who you can--and cannot--rely on once you become an adoptive parent will be beneficial. All parents need support.

Do pay attention to self-care

The adoption process is stressful. Many prospective adopters spend numerous hours per day on adoption work, such as researching options, making phone calls, talking with their partner about the adoption and simply thinking about what might happen. Just like with any other stressful life event, it is crucial to take care of yourself while you are in the process. Spend time doing what you enjoy. Give yourself permission to take a break. Exercise. Eat a healthy diet. Your own physical and mental health are very important. And if you feel healthy and rested, you are likely to be more efficient when doing your adoption work.

Do consider the culture of the child

Depending on the type of adoption you choose and the child who ultimately joins your home, it is vital that you consider your ability to foster the cultural background of a child who differs from you. Consider your neighborhood, your support system, where the child will attend school and your own biases/knowledge of various cultures. Although you may be adopting a young child, these issues will surface later as the child grows. It is best to be prepared to address them openly and honestly.

Do take your time when deciding on a specific child

If you are like most other pre-adoptive parents, you may feel that the wait lasts forever. When the opportunity to be placed with a child presents itself, it may be your impulse to immediately say yes! However, it is critical to pause and consider the child's--and your own-- circumstances and needs before accepting the placement. Do your homework and gather as much information as you can about the child. Talk to your support system to gather feedback and gain others' perspectives before agreeing to the placement. Although you will likely feel excited and relieved that the wait is finally over, you want to ensure that the match is a good one--for both you and the child.


Do not forget about the numerous adoption options

There are several paths that parents can take to adopt a child. Be sure to explore all of the options and weigh the pros and cons of each. For example, parents can adopt privately in this country (they are typically chosen by a birth mother), internationally, and through the U.S. child welfare system, also called foster-to-adopt. Each type of adoption involves varying wait times, financial costs, pre-adoption requirements (to adopt via the child welfare system in most states, parents are required to attend workshops and have a background check), and possible travel requirements, especially for international adoptions. Consider your options and your priorities when deciding on the type of adoption that is best for you. Talk to others who have pursued each type of adoption about their personal experiences.

Do not allow yourself to be misled about desired birth family contact

A child can be available for adoption for a variety of reasons, such as a birth parent decision or child welfare system involvement. The amount and type of birth family involvement and contact varies and will likely change over time. This involvement can increase or decrease as your child gets older. An important decision to make and be clear about up front is the amount and type of birth family contact you are comfortable with. There are several factors to consider, including the child's safety, birth family desire for contact, your personal comfort and legal requirements. Explore birth family contact early in the adoption process and have a clear conversation about desired contact and any hesitations with your social worker. Some prospective adopters feel the need to say anything to their social workers or in their "Dear Birthmother" letter to sound as desirable as possible and to be placed with a child as soon as possible. Being open and honest with yourself, your social worker, and the birth family about future birth family contact will reduce frustrations later.

Do not hesitate to ask for support from professionals

Professionals are available to support you during the adoption process, as well as when you become a parent. Many pre-adoptive parents benefit from consultation with their medical doctors, therapists, and attorneys, in addition to talking to their social workers and adoption agencies. Support specific to adoption can be valuable as these professionals may help you explore your own hesitations and questions. They also might introduce topics that you have not considered and can help you navigate the many decisions involved in adopting a child.

Do not make assumptions about parental leave policies at work

Some employers offer the same benefits to employees who have biological children as they do to employees who adopt. However, there are employers who do not offer the same parental leave to adopters as they do to biological parents. It is best to directly ask the following questions: How much time off will I receive? Will it be paid? Will my employer be flexible during my transition to parenthood? It is crucial to have these answers early in your adoption journey, so you can make appropriate plans and accommodations once you are placed with a child.

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These suggestions are not meant to be an exhaustive list of tips for navigating the adoption process. However, following them will ease your transition to adoptive parenthood and will likely decrease your stress levels as you begin this new, exciting phase of your life.

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April M. Moyer, M.A. Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student, Psychotherapy Clinician, and Adoptive Mother

April Moyer is an advanced graduate student in the process of earning her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Clark University. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Developmental Psychology as well as a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology. She has...

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