Before Adopting a Child


If you’re considering adopting a child, be sure to take a look at this list of things you need to know before you go through with the process.

The most important person in an adoption is the child, not you.

If I could tell you just one thing that is of utmost importance, this would be it. The child is the only person in the adoption constellation (which includes first family members, adoption workers, adoptive parents, and others connected to the child or the new parents) that has no say in the matter. Every effort should be made to ensure that the best outcome possible is secured for the child.

Corruption exists in every type of adoption.

It would be preferable if everyone who works in adoption has a child’s best interests at heart, but unfortunately, there are far too many people who for whom adoption is just a business. Some corruption is blatant, and children are taken from parents and put up for adoption without their parents’ consent. Do your best to find out the truth of the situation before adoption takes place. If things are not as they should be, it is better to walk away than to remove a child from a family he could stay with.

When adoption occurs, a loss occurs.

For the adoptive parents, it is a very happy day when they find out that they will become parents. But for the child, it indicates that he is losing everything he has known so far. Even a child adopted at birth is losing the person to whom he was connected for the past nine months. Older children often lose much more, and the loss in an international adoptive placement is even greater.

round of fingerprints.

Educating yourself prior to adoption is key.

Most adoption agencies require pre-adoption education, but I recommend that you do far more than is required. Take online courses such as those offered by Adoption Learning Partners. Watch videos that are available on sites like Empowered to Connect. Seek out writing done by adult adoptees that can give you insight into what it is like to grow up as an adopted person. Speak with adoptive parents who have been parenting for a while and can give you practical advice both for your future parenting and for decisions you must make prior to placement.

Line up the professionals you will need to work with prior to bringing your child home with you.

When you receive information about the child you have been matched with, you can begin right away to find professionals who will be able to help you care for your child. A pediatrician is at the top of the list for any child. Your social worker should be able to give you the name and phone number for an adoption-informed family therapist.

Be honest with yourself about what you can handle in an adoptive placement.

There are so many choices to make within adoption, and it will not serve a child well if you enter into an adoption for which you are ill prepared or not a good fit. If a child has medical needs, is there room in your budget to pay for the additional medical costs, and are you prepared to order your life around many medical appointments? If adopting siblings, do you feel prepared to meet the challenges of more than one child at a time? If adopting a child from another culture, can you keep her connected to her culture where you currently live, and will that culture be respected within your extended family?

Plan ahead for additional expenses.

While most agencies will give you a list of fees that you will expect to pay for the adoption process, there are expenses involved in caring for a child that will not be listed. If you are in an open adoption in which visits are expected, travel costs need to be part of your budget. A child with medical needs will not only require appointment and hospital fees, but there will be related costs such as transportation and food during long days attending appointments. A child who is struggling with adjustment will need to see a therapist, and you may need support from a therapist as well. It is best to overestimate how much your family budget will need to expand than to underestimate and struggle to meet your child’s needs.

An open dialogue about adoption creates an atmosphere of support.

There is no way to predict how a child will react to the circumstances of his life before adoption and after placement, or how he will process the knowledge of his adoption as he grows. There are likely to be big feelings and big questions, and it is important to keep a dialogue open and to let your child know regularly that it is okay to share their feelings with you, whatever those feelings may be. While the days of keeping adoption a secret are mostly long gone, some families still struggle to talk about it openly. Many families create a book called a life book to tell the story of a child’s life and adoption, and this is a way to open dialogue from the time your child is small.