Positive Outcomes Part 2
All Adoption Stories
An Open Letter from an Older Adoptee
For many families, the decision of whether or not to pursue a second adoption can be a complex one. With so many factors to consider, and so many choices to make, it might come as a surprise to learn that most families' questions and concerns are remarkably similar. Delineating some of the choices, understanding many of the common questions, and thinking about how to prepare your family for the addition of a new arrival can help you make the decisions that will be right for your family.
What makes a repeat adoption different?
People often come into a second adoption with a very different focus and set of uncertainties than the ones that might have originally been part of their first adoption. Where first-time adopters might be wondering about some big questions - Will adoption work for me? Can I make it through the homestudy? Will I be a good parent? - those contemplating a second (or third) adoption usually have a different range of concerns. For repeat-adopters, the issues tend not involve the major questions of whether or not adoption works (it does), or whether they can be loving nurturing parents (they can), but whether or not they want to risk upsetting the balance of lives that have already been enriched. What's the big difference between first-time adopters and those who adopt again? It's usually the difference between actually becoming a parent versus refining a parental role.
In thinking about whether or not another adoption might be
right for you, consider the following questions:
Motivation - Why are you planning to adopt again? Is it for
you, for your child, or both? There is a common myth that children have better
adjustments with siblings, particularly siblings who are like them. While there
have been numerous studies on adoption adjustment, the effect of family
structure on adoption adjustment is not a common focus. One study (Brodzinsky
and Brodzinsky, 1992) suggests that family structure has very little, if any,
impact on child adjustment, a finding that is consistent with prior research.
Ultimately, unless the primary motivation to adopt is the desire to parent
another child, it might be worth reconsidering.
Timing - What will the age difference between the children
be, or what do you want it to be? Given the variability/unpredictability of many
adoptions, what special timing considerations should you keep in mind? Giving
careful thought to the spacing of children within the family, and the
anticipated time to complete an adoption, can help guide you in determining when
to begin the process.
Type - Should you pursue the same type of adoption? Should
you adopt from the same country or same ethnic and/or racial group? Program
requirements, fees, timeframes and availability of children might all have
changed since your last adoption. It might be worthwhile to consider all of your
available options before making a final decision. In deciding how you might
expand your family, you also need to consider how your family will need to
redefine itself in terms of racial and cultural identity if you plan to adopt
from a different country.
Every adoption process can be a time of potential worry and
anxiety. Repeat adoptions seem to have their own set of special concerns.
Parents and extended family often have the "lottery
mentality" as a primary concern. It is hard for them to imagine that they will
be as lucky in their second adoption as they were in their first. They fear that
they will never love their second child the same way that they love their
current child. Indeed, adoptive parents are sometimes warned by extended family
or friends not to "press their luck". Why is this advice so frequently offered
to repeat adopters? While the stigma attached to adoption has subsided to a
significant degree, some residual effects remain. It is not uncommon to feel
that adoption is a gamble. In the end, parents don't love their subsequent
children in the same way as they do their first. As children are different, the
feelings that we have for them do, and should, differ.
What's fair? Parents are acutely conscious of being fair to
their children. They often ask "What happens if we get more information on one
child vs. the other?" or "What if one birthmother maintains contact and the
other does not?" It's important to understand that being fair doesn't
necessarily mean being equal. Different stories have different beginnings. It is
unlikely that there will be equivalent information about each of your children -
even if you're adopting from the same country. Helping each child best
understand his/her own story as fully as possible is the best that any parent
When children are already a part of the family, they also
need to be included in the adoption process. While the degree to which you
involve your child is heavily dependent upon the child's age, interest and level
of understanding, some basic tips apply to most situations.
Involving your child in the adoption process
While children should always be helped to participate to the extent to which
they are able/comfortable, the actual decision to adopt is always one for
adults. Giving the child too much discretion in whether or not to pursue an
adoption places an unfair responsibility on the child. Allow your child to be
involved in other ways. If you're feeling brave, have current children offer
favorite name suggestions. Children can also be encouraged to help select
colors, toys, or decorations for the new child's room, and to decide which
hand-me-downs he/she would be willing to spare.
Using your second adoption to talk about your first
A second or third adoption gives parents a wonderful opportunity to speak with
children about their child about his/her adoption process and the family's
experience. Making use of the many adoption books written for children can
help facilitate the discussion.
Tackling the travel issue
One of the most common questions that repeat adopters have is whether or not
both parents should travel and whether to bring a first child along. If you
will be traveling to meet your child - either in the US or abroad - please
remember that the time you spend with that new child before returning home
will be the only time that this child will be the "only" child and gets to
enjoy the full focus of your attention. As experienced adopters know, adoption
travel is a "working" trip and not a vacation. The demands of the trip might
be very difficult on children, especially young children. For these reasons,
it is usually best to leave current children at home. Try your best to present
a positive face when you leave. When you travel there are ways to keep a close
connection with the child at home. Phone calls, leaving notes for your child
to be shared with him/her everyday and a calendar with stickers to mark off
the days until you return are all ways to maintain a connection with children
The decision to adopt, whether for the first or the fourth
time, is a deeply personal one. The time, money and energy that are needed to
parent children are all limited resources; but for those who have carefully made
the choice to adopt again, the rewards are without measure.
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