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Issues to Think Through Before Adopting

  • Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2007 11 Nov
  • COMMENTS
Issues to Think Through Before Adopting

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Laura Christianson's new book, The Adoption Decision: 15 Things You Want to Know Before Adopting, (Harvest House Publishers, 2007).

The many details involved in pursuing adoption can consume your attention – so much so, that you may just keep moving ahead without really thinking about your decision. But such a big life change will affect you and your family in profound ways.

Here’s how you can think through the various important issues before adopting:

Consider your motives. Ask yourself honestly why you want to adopt a child. Is it truly just because you want to be a parent and let God’s love flow through you as you raise that child? Or do you hope adopting a child will comfort you in your loneliness, help your troubled marriage, heal your grief from infertility or the loss of a child, give you a chance to correct parenting mistakes you’ve made with your other children, give you someone to care for you when you’re old, or enable you to rescue an orphan believing that love alone is enough to meet that child’s needs? If you recognize any of these unhealthy motives, seek professional counseling before pursuing adoption.

Make sure your spouse is on board. Don’t proceed until you and your spouse have had time to thoroughly work through the issues together – and reached an agreement about which you both are confident. Make sure you candidly discuss topics like your age and energy levels, how much freedom you’ll have in your lifestyle after adopting, and how much money it will take to adopt and raise the child. Listen well to each other, and be patient as your spouse works through the issues. Seek counseling if you’re having trouble resolving the issues between you. Pray together often, asking God t direct your decision-making process, help you agree about whether to proceed with adoption, send encouragers who will support you as you proceed through adoption, soften the hearts of loved ones who are opposed to adoption, provide wisdom for the adoption professionals who advocate on your behalf, comfort and direct your future child’s birth parents, and protect your future child.  

Help your family and friends understand your decision. Realize that, as passionate as you and your spouse may be about adoption, some of your family members and friends may not understand why you want to adopt, and some might even oppose your adoption plans. Break the news to them gently and give them the information they need to discover why adopting a child is important to you and your spouse. Consider inviting them to attend an adoption conference or workshop with you, showing them Internet blogs written by people who have already adopted, or enlisting their help to create a special memento (like a scrapbook or quilt) to welcome your future child. Pray for the ability to respond gracefully to their wrong assumptions, and do your best to show them that you’re not a saint, a lunatic, or a superhero for choosing adoption – you’re simply a future parent who wants their support.

Expect and embrace differences. Expect that your future child’s physical traits, temperament, and talents will likely differ from those of you and your spouse. Rather than trying to make your child be more like you, accept your child for who he or she is and ask God to use the differences between you to help you grow. After you meet your child, affirm his or her uniqueness and enjoy what he or she adds to your life.

Plan for financial costs. Research the costs involved in adoption and figure out what changes you’ll need to make to your budget and savings plans to pay for it. Carefully compare the fees and services of adoption professionals before choosing one. See if you can negotiate a payment plan, and check out various resources for obtaining the funds you need, such as: workplace benefits, subsidies, grants, corporate donations, church benevolent funds, creative fundraising events and activities (like hosting a dinner or auction or planning a walk-a-thon to raise money), and sacrificial saving.

Let the skeletons out of your closet. Be completely honest with social workers interviewing you in the adoption process, knowing that they’re on your side and willing to work with you to resolve issues that may need attention before you receive your adopted child, such as: a chronic medical condition or physical challenge, past struggles with depression or addiction to drugs or alcohol, a prior arrest, unemployment, not owning your home, a divorce, etc. Aim to show your social worker how well you can handle adversity, which is an important parenting skill to master.

Establish boundaries around what kind of child you’ll accept. While it sounds nice to say that you’ll gratefully adopt any child, recognize that you do have a certain kind of child in mind. Be honest about your preferences for gender, age, race, whether you want to adopt just one child or siblings, etc. Think and pray about whether or not you’re equipped to raise a child with special needs, and if so, know clearly which needs you can handle (physical disabilities, emotional problems due to previous abuse, etc.). Recognize that figuring out your boundaries now will help your social worker look for the best child for you and your spouse. Trust God to guide you through the process.

If you’ve experienced infertility, mourn the death of your dream. Give yourself and your spouse enough time to grieve the loss of your dream to have biological kids before you consider adoption. Ask yourselves honestly: “Do we want to be pregnant, or do we want to be parents?”. Take your shattered dreams and the disappointment, anger, and heartache they cause to God and trust Him to transform the ugliness of them into something beautiful.

Prepare for adoptions potentially falling through. Understand that, even after you get the call you’ve been waiting for informing you that a child is available for you, you may not actually get to adopt that child for a variety of reasons (such as birth parents changing their minds). If that happens to you, don’t blame God or the birth parents. Instead, confess your anger and bitterness to God and ask Him to help you forgive, heal, and hold onto the hope of adopting another child when the time is right.

Prepare for an older child. Rather than just assuming that you’ll adopt an infant, think and pray about potentially adopting an older child. Expect that, if you do decide to adopt an older child, you’ll have more information about his or her development and medical history than you would with an infant, but you may have to deal with challenges like emotional scars caused by your child’s previous experiences. Ask God to give you and your spouse unconditional love for an older child, a sense of humor, wise problem-solving skills, inner strength, flexibility, and a willingness to seek support. If you do choose to adopt an older child, provide him or her with plenty of rest, consistency (like a predictable routine), and time to get used to your home after the adoption.

Prepare for a child from a different race or culture. Recognize that if you decide to adopt a child from another country, your child’s ethnic and cultural heritage will become intertwined with your own. Think and pray about how you’ll handle the racism your family will likely sometimes encounter from others, and how you’ll celebrate your adopted child’s cultural heritage and honor his or her cultural identity.

Prepare for a child with special needs. Understand that if you decide to adopt a child who has special physical, emotional, or mental challenges, you’ll need to assemble a strong support system even before adopting him or her. Expect to be your child’s primary advocate with pediatricians, specialists, social workers, child psychiatrists, caregivers, therapists, insurance providers, and school staff. Pray for God to give you: courage, optimism, a willingness to learn, a sense of humor, perseverance, creativity, flexibility, determination, and thick skin.

Prepare for an at-risk child. Consider how you and your spouse would handle the challenges of parenting a child with psychological or behavioral disorders or different ways of learning that make school hard for him or her. Pray for God to give you the wisdom you’ll need.

Consider an open adoption. Discuss whether or not you and your spouse might be willing to stay in contact with your adopted child’s birth parents, if doing so would enrich your child’s life. Trust God to help you navigate your relationship with the birth parents in ways that will prove most beneficial to you all, and especially to your child.

Adapted from The Adoption Decision: 15 Things You Want to Know Before Adopting, copyright 2007 by Linda Christianson. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or., www.harvesthousepublishers.com.    

Laura Christianson, a writer, speaker, and adoptive mom, helps people think through adoption issues on her award–winning “Exploring Adoption” blog.  She is also the author of The Adoption Network and writes for numerous publications.  She and her family live in Washington state.