If you feel that God is calling you to consider adoption, it is natural to have concerns. Anything unknown can be scary, and fear is one of the main reasons those who consider adopting do not follow through. This article addresses some of the more common myths and fears along with the realities of the adoption process. While adoption comes with its unique difficulties, it also offers great rewards.
Debunking the Myths
Myth #1: Adoption Takes Forever
It is true that the adoption process can be tedious. Certain steps must be followed, paperwork must be gathered, and then there is the waiting. It is not true, however, that adoption has to take years and years. Adoption is a journey of faith that can be completed in the relatively short time of a few weeks (although this is not typical), or the journey may take as long as several years. The thing to keep in mind is that most people who set out to adopt, and who meet the criteria to adopt, do finalize adoptions. The time required to adopt a child depends largely on how assertive those who want to adopt are, how quickly they get their paperwork and home study done, and whether or not they want to adopt only a non-special-needs, nonminority newborn. Most agencies estimate that the average adoption process takes ten to eighteen months to complete and can vary greatly from domestic to international and from country to country.
"When you view adoption as fulfilling God's plan, the time becomes less important," says Kristine Faasse, licensed social worker and national adoption consultant for Bethany Christian Services. "I just talked to a family not long ago who waited a long time. I ran into them at an event and asked how it was going. The mom said, 'You know, you told us there was a reason why we waited and waited. Now we know what you meant -- because this is the child who was meant to be ours.' I could tell you hundreds of those stories, and they all give me goose bumps. God has the right child for adoptive families in the right time."
For adoptive parents who do their part quickly and efficiently and who are open to different options, adoption can take place very quickly. Some friends in Texas experienced infertility and decided to go through the adoption process to create their forever family. They adopted a baby boy domestically after a wait of nearly a year, and when he was three they decided to try to adopt again. Within days of putting their profile on the agency's Web site, the couple was matched with a birthmother. They brought home their daughter just a couple of weeks later.
For other couples who adopt domestically, the wait can be longer. A couple in Florida had no difficulty adopting their first son seven years ago using an adoption attorney and agency. However, when they tried to expand their family five years later, it took two and a half years and several disappointments before they brought home their second son. As they gazed at their infant son, this couple is quick to say that the wait was worth it.
Adopting internationally varies in wait time, with the average adoption taking six to eighteen months for Eastern European countries, Russia, and Asian countries and sometimes fewer than six months for some South American adoptions. If couples are willing to take an international child with special needs, the wait can be shortened to just a few months from the time they first fill out an agency application to their Gotcha Day, the day they are united with their child.
If adopting parents choose to adopt from foster care and are willing to become licensed as foster-care parents, a child can be placed with them almost immediately after the several-week licensing process is completed, with plans underway for adoption to make the placement permanent if the child becomes legally available.
Although the adoption process might not be as quick as you would like, be assured that God will lead you to just the right child in just the right time.
Words of Wisdom: "The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it." - 1 Thessalonians 5:24
Myth #2: You Might Lose Your Money and Your Hearts
Adoption is a costly process, and all or a portion of the money is usually non-refundable -- even if an adoption is not completed. If that thought frightens you enough that you want to stop reading right now, please be patient. Losing money in an adoption attempt is a possibility, but a relatively slim one. For every adoption that goes awry, there are thousands of other adoptions completed every year. Trust that God will lead you in the right direction if you plan to adopt, do your homework and use reputable agencies and attorneys.
Of course, some adopting parents have invested more money than they anticipated. Costs vary greatly among the types of adoption available.
U.S. domestic adoption laws lean in favor of the birthmother so that she is not coerced to give up her child. Adoptive parents pay her and the baby's medical expenses (usually covered at least in part by their own health insurance policy), as well as any agency, attorney, and filing and court fees. In most cases, they pay her living expenses -- if they are paired with a birthmother during her pregnancy. So the cost of domestic adoption varies widely. Before the birth and for a short amount of time afterward (which varies by state), birthmothers have the option of changing their minds and keeping their babies; however, most do not. Before you contract with an agency or attorney, make sure that you know what happens to your money if the adoption falls through. In a case where the birthmother does keep the baby, the agency and attorney fees paid to that point are usually applied to the next attempt to contract with a willing birthmother, but make sure you have that in writing in your initial contract.
International adoption costs should be explained up-front and should not vary much, with the exception of travel expenses. The financial risk with international adoption is that a government can close its doors to international adoption unexpectedly, as more than one thousand families discovered when Romania banned international adoptions in 2001. In this case, most agencies would then apply fees toward adoption from another country; but make sure you thoroughly investigate the policies of any agency you consider before signing on the dotted line, and be sure your contract covers what happens to the fees if for some reason the adoption can't take place. (Adopting parents would incur additional expenses, if the new country's fees are higher.)
Foster-care adopters have little up-front, out-of-pocket expense. The costs they might incur include, other than a successful home study, any costs associated with becoming licensed foster parents in their state and other smaller fees. Costs for foster adoptions sometimes come in later, such as in the case where the child has ongoing special needs medically or psychologically that subsidies do not fully cover.
As far as losing your heart, no child and no adoption comes with guarantees. If a birthmother decides to raise her child herself or if an international or foster-care adoption falls through, the heartache will come. But those who have experienced it know that God sees every one of their tears and does not waste their pain. Psalms 30:5 states, "Weeping may go on all night, but joy comes with the morning." (NLT). Only by experiencing trials does anyone have a testimony to share with others and the empathy to feel others' pain.
Myth #3: Adopted Kids Do Not Adjust
Ideally, infants begin bonding in the first few minutes after birth and will continue to form loving attachments as they grow in healthy, stable homes. In the best-case adoption scenarios, an adopted child goes home from the hospital with his adopting family twenty-four to forty-eight hours after birth, or is placed in a foster home or an orphanage where the caregivers are loving and attentive just days after birth. Unfortunately, many adopted children have experienced some kind of trauma - ranging from the loss of their birthmothers' attention in the first days after birth to overcrowded orphanages without enough caregivers or sustenance to abusive or neglectful birth families or foster homes. All or any of these experiences can result in a child's trust in adults being broken, which in turn can cause some difficulty in bonding with the adoptive parents, especially at first. By educating themselves about ways children bond, most adoptive parents are able to encourage a loving bond with their child. In some cases, there is regression in the early elementary years and again in adolescence and teen years -- a time when most teens pull away from their parents, not just adopted teens. Wise adoptive families pray for their children daily, asking God to help their children trust, to erase their children's fears, and to help their children embrace the love of their adoptive families.
I Didn't Know That! You will easily recognize the names of many people who were adopted. Included on the list of famous adoptees are the ancient philosopher Aristotle, comedian Art Linkletter, country singer Faith Hill, blues legend Bo Diddley, inventor George Washington Carver, actress Melissa Gilbert, author James Michener, singer Debbie "Blonde" Harry, and singer Sarah McLachlan.
Myth #4: You Might Not Love Your Adopted Child
Author and adoptive parent Karen Kingsbury admits that she did not know what she would feel when she adopted three young boys from Haiti.
"At first, with the boys, we knew we loved them, but we didn't know them yet. It was more of a Christlike, take-you-as-you-are, servant kind of love," Kingsbury shared with mtl magazine. "Now it feels funny to look at pictures of our family before them. Now we love them because of who they are."
Kingsbury, like many adoptive parents interviewed for Successful Adoption, said she and her husband Don gave themselves permission not to be in love with each of their adopted children from the moment they received him. Loving is what Christians are called to do, but it is often an action more than a feeling. The feelings will come, and adoptive families say they cannot imagine life without the blessing of their adopted members. Kingsbury suggests that couples and families who are adopting pledge to be honest with one another before, during, and after the process so that they can work through their feelings and concerns together.
Words of Wisdom: Do not worry about anything but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks. -- Philippians 4:6 (NCV)
Myth #5: Adoption Isn't as Good as Giving Birth
The pain associated with infertility may cause a couple to question whether or not they would love an adopted child with the same passion they would feel for one of their own. Adoptive families who have been in the same situation give a resounding "YES!" Many say, if they had to choose, they would choose adoption over having a biological child.
Brian Luwis, who with his wife, Renee, founded America World Adoption Association after adopting their daughter Fei in 1994, admits he was scared at first that he would never feel as close to an adopted child as he would a biological one, even in the days after they brought Fei home.
I was in our home experiencing the newness of fatherhood and suddenly realized that this child, because of some ink on paper (or so I thought), was now my daughter. As I carried my daughter, Fei, slowly to her crib she gently patted my back (which was also my way of showing her affection). With that gentle touch, she spoke a thousand words into my heart and showed me what love is all about. Fei would soon call me Papa and with her smile fill my heart with a joy that brings tears to my eyes. Through Fei, God would show Renee and me the incredible joys of parenthood. Ultimately, it was through a new understanding of God's Spirit of adoption that we would learn that God truly had the best plan imaginable for our lives and that our children by adoption were a part of that plan.9
While anxieties and fears creep in before and during the adoption process, these end when your beautiful adopted child comes home. There is nothing about adoption that makes it second-best to having a child by birth. In fact, God made it his first choice for his Son, Jesus, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and raised by a human carpenter, Joseph, who adopted Jesus as his own.
Above all, do not be anxious that you will not feel the same way about your adopted child that you would a birthchild, even if you later have a birthchild. The collected wisdom of hundreds of thousands of adoptive parents shows this fear is unfounded. Renee Luwis later did give birth to a daughter, Sophia, after the family adopted two girls. Yet the bond between each child and her parents was unbreakable.
When Renee gave birth to Sophia we likewise questioned if God considered her to be more "ours" than Fei or Gwenn were "ours." We read in 1 Corinthians 6:19 "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?" (NKJV).
If we are not our own and God owns us, then He must own our children too, for it is by His grace that we move, live, and have our being. We have children by His grace, adopted or by birth. God entrusts them to us. He is their true Father in heaven. We are their earthly parents. This seems like such a logical conclusion, but I think when we hear "That's my boy," more attention is often placed on the "my" than the "boy." That child is God's boy, and God entrusts him to us. 10
Originally posted Nov. 2008.
From Successful Adoption by Natalie Nichols Gillespie. Copyright (c) 2006 by Natalie Nichols Gillespie. Reprinted by permission of Integrity Publishers.
Natalie Nichols Gillespie is the author of seven books and the managing editor of mtl magazine. In addition, Natalie's articles have appearead in more than two dozen publications including Christian Parenting Today, HomeLife, Charisma, Christianity Today, Spirit-Led Woman, Christian Music Planet, and CCM magazine. Natalie is a happily-married mom and stepmom of seven who range in age from 1 to 23 years old.
Footnotes 9, 10: Luwis, Brian, "The Spirit of Adoption." America World Adoption Association, http://www.america-china.org/stories/spiritofadoption.aspx (acessed March 15, 2006).