5 Mistakes Hopeful Adoptive Parents Make
When you’re trying to adopt, we know you try to “do everything right,” so we thought it might be helpful to share 5 mistakes hopeful adoptive parents make. (We’re assuming you’re already conscientious enough to understand why open adoption should be your first priority. If we’re wrong about this, then start by reading this instead, denying your child an open adoption could be your biggest mistake: What You Should Know About Open Adoption.) For the rest of you, these are five pitfalls we hope you’ll avoid as you pursue the possibility of adopting.
#5: Overlooking the children who need them most.
We get it: everybody (well, almost everybody) comes to the adoption process initially wanting a perfect baby that will best resemble the one they cannot have. Yet adoption is supposed to be about providing a loving home for the children who need you most, not replacing the children you cannot produce. That’s a hard truth– we know. But adoption’s not about you. It’s about children, and what they need most.
It’s human nature, of course, to want to optimize your parenting experience by seeking out the very youngest child available and minimizing any known complications right from the start. (You’re not wrong to wish you could do that.) There are, however, far more children in state foster care all across the US who are ready and waiting to be adopted than there are adoptable newborns waiting in American hospitals, and any child you adopt will potentially face some sort of challenges in life.
You’re underestimating your potential capacities as an excellent parent if you seek to overlook or exclude all the children that may need you most. Extend your preparation to include children of different ages and races and genders, and your new, improved parameters will expand your range of opportunities for placement as well as your potential for changing the world, one child at a time (or more!)
#4: Making hasty choices out of desperation.
As adoption professionals, we hear plenty of the horror stories about first parents who got exploited by overpromising adopters, and hopeful adoptive couples who got scammed by adoption facilitators or fake birthparents looking to play “Let’s Make a Deal.” We understand that dishonest people are out there, and that money is the root of all evil and this is regrettably a risk in some adoptions. We know that even an ethical adoption process can potentially get expensive, but we beg you, hopeful adopters: never lose your common sense or your ethical moorings in your rush to get an adoption done.
Never make promises you cannot keep. There’s a right and a wrong way to do things, and any good adoption is worth doing the right way and for the right reasons. Because ultimately, whether or not you ever have to account for your actions in a court of law, you will one day have to look your child in the eye and you don’t want to have to blink nervously and look away when all the details come out.
Do not pay anyone “under the table” for anything in the adoption process. Do not trust anyone who tells you that you should. Don’t let desperation fuel any decisions that impact a child’s future. Do not jump into anything that feels wrong. (Just don’t.)
#3: Overstepping rules to do things their own way.
Ethical adoption agencies like Abrazo go the extra mile to try to ensure that their adoptions are done beyond reproach, meaning that the best interests of each child come first– even before the desires and wishes of the placing and adopting parents.
This is why we tell adopting parents “don’t do anything for the placing parents before placement that you’re not willing to continue doing after placement.” (Because that child needs to know your kindnesses were genuine and not strategic.) This is why we tell adopting parents “honor the child’s first parents right to love them first” and not intrude on their bonding in those crucial early days of life. (Because that child needs to have experienced attachment with their first parents first, if their subsequent attachments in adoption are to mean anything.) This is why we tell adopting parents “don’t claim that child until he or she is free to be yours” even though we know you’re longing to room in at the hospital or hang out in the nursery or announce the birth on social media as soon as it happens. (Because you are not authorized to act as “the parents” until the baby’s first parent/s make/s that possible… this is why.)
We know you long to feel like “real parents” right away. We know the infertility and adoption process feel unfair, and that you have a big investment in this process, and you need to feel empowered, considering all that’s been out of your control. We understand that if you’re far from home, you want to get home with your new child as quickly as possible. We get that you may have others in your life telling you that you should get to call the shots.
But please hear this: you’ll never get another chance to make things right, so do everything you can to do it right the first time. That way, you’ll never have to regret what you did to make the adoption happen… nor will the child that you adopt.
#2: Failing to enjoy life along the journey
Let’s be honest: nobody adopts “for fun.” (Nor should they.) The adoption process is arduous and long and waiting for placement can seem like agony, whether you wait for weeks, months or years. Here’s the thing, though… happy parents make better parents, and happier couples tend to have happier homes, all of which are optimal for children being placed at any age.
So lighten up a little, and try to find levity and enjoyment along the way, as you’re able. Find a homestudy worker you can laugh with, when appropriate. Implement a kid-free date night routine with your spouse, long before any child enters your home (and keep it going once you do become parents.) Go on the sort of vacations now that you know you won’t be able to after the baby arrives. Plan some fun outings to enjoy with the expectant parents with whom you match– don’t just go to a doctor or sonogram appointment together. Include some funny photos in your adoptive parent profile, just because they make you smile.
You can still succeed at adoption whether you enjoy the journey or not, so why not enjoy it?
#1: Expecting perfection.
This is important, because parenting is a Really Big Endeavor and nothing in life always goes according to plan. And because adoption is a very emotional endeavor for everyone, you’ll have to expected the unexpected, because the process doesn’t always “go smoothly.” There are bound to be moments in this journey when you may feel disappointed or lost or betrayed, so be prepared, and know that even the detours can still help get you when you need most to be.
Cut yourself and your partner some slack: things won’t always go just right, and that’s okay. You aren’t going to be perfect parents from Day One, and that’s all right, too. The birthparents of your child are not going to be perfect people; love them regardless. (Even your adoption professionals may sometimes drop the ball along the way, because they’re human, too. Try to be understanding when you can.)
Most importantly, understand that there’s no such thing as a perfect child, just as there’s no such thing as perfect parents, nor a perfect home. And children who come to you via adoption are going to be their own little people. They’re going to have their own foibles and flaws and quirks and traits– some of which you may help create, some of which you may predict, and others which will surely catch you by surprise.
So learn all you can, now and in the months and years to come, about becoming the best (not perfect, but best) parent you can be, and about the needs of adoptees and the issues they will invariably face in life.
Of the 5 mistakes hopeful adoptive parents make, expecting their child to be someone he or she is not and can never be might just be the biggest, so remember all you learn here (and thereafter,) and strive to apply it accordingly.