Many of us have given up so much throughout the course of the pandemic. For some, it’s the idea of parenting a child or adding another child to the family through adoption. It’s been hard for some of us to contemplate leaving our homes, how can we travel across the world and complete an adoption? However, while some countries, mainly China, have paused adoptions, other countries are not only processing adoptions, but are welcoming adoptive families with open arms (and masked faces). Some families even report that adoptions, or parts of their adoptions, have gone quicker than anticipated.
We spoke with three Agape families, all of whom started their adoptions prior to the pandemic and finished in the midst of it, about the process of adopting during COVID. Each family adopted from a different country, all of which are processing adoptions currently – Bulgaria, Dominican Republic and Romania (two other Agape Adoption program countries, Hong Kong and Honduras, are also currently processing adoptions).
As Thea Carp, who adopted her three-year-old daughter from Romania last year, remarked, “Initially I thought that the pandemic would make things 100 times more difficult, but it was the opposite. The process was so smooth, everyone stepped up to help (in Romania and in the United States), and it allowed me to be 100% focused, no distraction, no friends coming over, nothing overwhelming (for our newly formed family).”
When reading about families who have adopted during COVID and their experiences, it’s important to remember that rules and regulations are always changing in adoption, and due to the shifting nature of COVID they change even more often. Each country has its own set of rules and regulations for adoption and COVID travel restrictions. It’s always best to chat with an adoption agency (reach out to us here) about what the process looks like now and keep an open heart and mind throughout the adoption process.
From travel to paperwork: It’s not easy, but easier than you think
Thea Carp noted, “Adoptions have been prioritized (in Romania) so anything related to the process moved extremely fast - from judges to social workers, everyone made themselves available to speed up the process and make sure things don’t fall through the cracks.” The Clark family and the Rosendo-Grant family reported similar experiences in both Bulgaria and the Dominican Republic.
In terms of travel, all families anticipated that the travel process would be a significant challenge but reported that it was much easier, and required fewer hoops, than they had thought it would. Most countries with active adoption programs outline their protocols very clearly and agency and in-country coordinators provided detailed information regarding the process. Some families packed large numbers of masks, hand sanitizer and other COVID safety measures and products but reported they needed far less than they anticipated – and they often ended up leaving them for those who may need them in the country they were adopting from. Others were surprised to find safety protocols easy to follow – and less stringent than their home countries.
Quarantine can be great for bonding
The first stages of the bonding process, those that happen in the first days and weeks a family is together, are essential for lifelong bonds and attachment. Sometimes the excitement of a new family member can bring that outside of the immediate family to visit. However, this often isn’t ideal for the child(ren) coming into the home or for the family unit, due to how overwhelming adoption and international travel can be. Saying no to grandmothers, relatives and close friends isn’t always easy, especially if they want to support you and your child(ren). Amanda Clark, who traveled in January of 2021 to adopt two teenage boys from Bulgaria, noted, “I feel like it [quarantine] was almost helpful [to our bonding] because we were forced to stay together constantly for ten days and had no other distractions. We got the first arguments out with our other kids - They started acting like siblings real quickly.” All the families we spoke with remarked that quarantines or reduced activities with those outside their immediate family and the ability to work remotely allowed for necessary bonding that helped the family immensely in the months after placement.
The process, and wait, is harder on the children you are adopting than it is on you
Both the Rosendo-Grant and Clark families mentioned that the delays due to the early stages of the pandemic took a much larger toll on their soon-to-be teen and pre-teen children than it took on the family who was hoping to adopt them. The Rosendo-Grant family was set to fly to the Dominican Republic on March 18, 2020 (the day after international flights were cancelled globally) and waited another seven months to travel and completed their adoption in June of 2021. Walkiria Rosendo-Grant remarked that their daughter, even though she was living with their family in the Dominican Republic, was going through a lot, doing school via television and was afraid that her hopeful parents in the U.S. would not live through the pandemic and, therefore, might not come for her.
The Clark boys were living in a group home for children during shutdowns and knew that they were in the process of being adopted by the Clark family. However, the boys felt like the adoption just wasn’t ever going to happen and were stuck in a place that wasn’t their home. Shutdowns were hard enough on those of us in the Western world, but put yourself in the shoes of the boys who were waiting years for a family to come for them, only to be stuck in a pandemic limbo. It’s a heartbreaking reality that many waiting children face (and those in China still face to this day).
Thea Carp’s three-year-old daughter had a whole different challenge - she had never been exposed to people who wore masks because it wasn’t practiced in the care facility she lived in (this is often the case, as it’s seen as the home of the children living there. Just like we, usually, don’t wear masks in our homes, they don’t wear them in theirs). Her daughter didn’t know how to react to people who were wearing masks and it took some time, and a few tears, for her to adjust.
What does it all come down to? If adopting is in your heart, go for it!
As for advice for families interested in adopting during COVID but afraid of the challenges? Everyone remarked, go for it! Amanda Clark, noted, “If it’s on your heart and you’re feeling that pull to bring a child into your home through adoption, just do it, no matter the seemingly inconvenient circumstances. As with so many things, you can’t wait for what you think is the perfect time or when you think you’ll be ready. That day will never come in your mind and there will always be bumps on the road towards your hopes and dreams...Just say, yes!”