My wife and I finished our adoption in April of 2014 after a long and trying two-and-a-half year process. The paperwork was done, the court documents finalized, the money raised, and we were on our way to pick up our new son from his orphanage in Bulgaria. It was fun, intense, exhausting, exhilarating, and mind-blowing all at the same time. We’d prepared and prepared and prepared, and I think we made it through well enough. And in the two years since, we’ve enjoyed watching our new son grow into the boy he was always meant to be.
But in the interest of sparing you a long story, and in the hope of providing you some good take-aways for your adoption process, I have provided below some helpful hints to share with you. Some of them may not apply to your situation directly, but regardless of their relevance, I am convinced they will encourage you in your endeavor to bring a child into your family through adoption.
1. Its Totally Worth It!
Adoption is a long, grueling, tiring, frustrating, and maddening process. You have mountains of paperwork to complete, people to visit, questions to answer, and money to pay. Sometimes it will seem like it’s just never going to work out. But if you stick with it, and if you are flexible and have options, it will work out. One way or another, you will come away from it with a kid who will enrich your life and whose life you will enrich. You will be a happier, more fulfilled person. The biggest sacrifices give the biggest rewards. Our son was totally worth the wait and intense process. We think this every time he uses a new word, laughs at something we say, or reaches a new milestone. It’s just worth it.
2. Don’t Not Do It Because it Seems Unsurmountable
In keeping with the first helpful hint, I would also strongly advise not to avoid adoption just because the paperwork and fundraising seem unsurmountable or because it looks too expensive. Of course, adoption may not be for everyone. But if you feel the tug in your heart to give a child a loving home, then do it. If you’re struggling with infertility, like my wife and I were, then definitely do it. The frustration and grief will pass. And at the end, you’ll have kid who will make your life a joy to live. My wife and I know a middle-aged couple who couldn’t have biological children. They badly wanted to adopt, but the monumental task involved seemed too much to them, so they never did it. And now they regret their decision not to adopt. Don’t let their story be yours. Like the sports slogan commands, Just Do It!!!
3. Keep Your Options Open
If you’re like my wife and me and you want a child because maybe you can’t have any biological children or maybe you just really badly want to add to your family, then the last thing you should do is be too narrow in your options for a referral. Obviously there will be certain things that will work for you and will not work for you. Only you know what’s possible and what isn’t. But there’s a difference between knowing what you need and what you want. Some adoptions take upwards of seven to ten years because the adopting family narrows their age range, gender, and other characteristics of the child they are willing to adopt.
Some people are wedded to the idea of one gender or another and pass over many, many eligible children because they, the parents, must absolutely have, say, a boy. Again, you need to know what will work and what won’t for your family, but creating limits for yourselves about superficial things will make your adoption take longer and will lead to frustration and needless waiting on your part.
So don’t make it too complicated. Have a general idea of what you need, and go with your instincts and just get that kid of yours home.
4. Don’t Rush!
When you’re adopting a child, all you can think about is having the process behind you and the child in your arms. Every day is filled with waiting and longing. You’ll want the process to hurry up and get going. You’ll want everything to happen on cue. But sadly, it rarely does. There are so many factors at play and so many different people doing different things that the process can take longer than expected and can have more bumps along the way than you ever thought possible. People in other countries work at different paces. There is often culture and politics involved, and some countries are so unstable that “low-priority” things like adoptions are put to the back burner. Oftentimes bureaucrats in other countries are responsible not only for adoptions but for a myriad other projects too. When we were close to finalizing our adoption from Bulgaria, the government actually shut down temporarily midway through their fiscal year due to political conflict. You should always work to keep your end of the adoption moving forward (don’t let that paperwork build up!), but you have to be patient when waiting for others. They’re not purposefully delaying your family being whole. They’re just people – bureaucrats, lawyers, travel agents, judges – who have jobs and lives and existences outside this one, specific (though not unimportant) area of adoption.
Once you’re home, don’t try to rush your kid either. He or she has just been yanked out of the only existence he or she’s known and thrust into a completely new paradigm. There may be medical issues, psychological issues, and problems with bonding that have to be overcome slowly and steadily and with a lot of love. Your kid isn’t going to become captain of the peewee baseball team overnight. When my wife and I adopted, we tried potty training our son six months after bringing him home from Bulgaria. We figured that since he was four years old, he’d be ready. Initially, he started to get the concept but then other issues got in the way. He started to use bathroom time as an instrument to control us and make us “prove” our love for him. He wasn’t ready – not by a long shot. So we stopped (against all “conventional” wisdom) and waited until he was in a better place before picking it back up. You’ll be dealing with building up a person who does not know the love of parental care and possibly having to un-do damage caused by growing up institutionalized. That takes time and cannot be rushed. But if you do it right, it’ll turn out well and will be totally worth it (see helpful hint 1).
5. Have FUN!!!
Lastly, adoption is long and grueling, but it can also be so much fun. Paperwork is no fun at all, but how about taking it one form at a time and making yourself a big batch of popcorn to eat whilst filling in all the boxes? If you have to go get your fingerprints done (as we did, for some reason that I’ve since forgotten), why not take some extra PTO and go out to lunch afterwards? Why not throw a party to celebrate the beginning of your adoption journey and get people excited for you? When you’re travelling, go eat at fun places in the country you’re adopting from. Learn some of the local language and customs (the locals will love you for it!), buy trinkets to take home, and see some local sights. Why not get a massage on your last weekend before you pick up your kid? My wife and I did some of these things (like eating the local food, learning the local language, and doing lots of sightseeing when we weren’t with our son) and it helped immensely. We even stopped by Paris to see the Eiffel Tower on the way back from our first trip. On our way to finally pick up our son, we had a three-hour layover in Germany, so I got my wife and I massages at the airport hotel. The point is, the adoption process is no fun in and of itself, so you need to make it fun or all you’ll remember is the stress.
So there you have it; five helpful hints to take with you on your adoption process.
This list is by no means comprehensive. There are books upon books written about adoptions, many of which are worth reading. But hopefully these five tidbits of information from a couple that have lived through it can give you food for thought as you prepare for the process. So go for it, don’t give up, don’t rush, keep your options open, have fun, and help change the world one child at a time.
Carolina Adoption Services is a non-profit, international children's charity committed to finding stable, loving, adoptive homes for children in need of permanent families and dedicated to improving the quality of life for orphans and vulnerable children worldwide.
In addition to comprehensive adoption services, CAS offers programs and services such as home studies, humanitarian aid and overseas relief projects, parent/family education, child welfare advocacy, scholarships, and consultation services.
Established in 1993, the agency places children into families in all 50 states as well as overseas to U.S. citizens. Over 2,900 children have been placed throughout the United States and overseas in our 24 years. Carolina Adoption Services is Hague Accredited and is a member of the National Council for Adoption.