When it comes to adoption expectations, there’s a lot to be said– and so much more to be thought through.

Adoption expectations can be frisky ‘lil critters. See, it’s fine to be hopeful, but it’s not okay to be presumptuous. And while it’s good to be positive, it’s important to be discerning, too.

When you’re going through something like adoption, you don’t always know what to expect. (We get that.) You don’t know what you don’t know, of course.

So let’s look at five adoption expectations that get folks in trouble…


“We only want a healthy baby.”
“Only the perfect family will do.”

Don’t expect perfection.


The child who needs you most and whom you need most, might be the least like the child you thought you most wanted.

And let’s be honest: adoption profiles are marketing tools. They’re designed to show the adopting parents in the best possible light, but these rarely tell the whole story, because nobody’s perfect. Getting to know a prospective adoptive couple in person prior to placement is a necessary step in any potential adoption plan. And getting to know each other well enough to recognize each other’s flaws is vital before anyone enters a lifetime relationship with each other.

By the same token, there are no perfect parents and no perfect kids. Perfection is a myth, after all.


“She assured us she won’t change her mind.”
“The family promises they’ll always be here for me.”
“The dad says he’ll sign off on the adoption at the hospital.”

Plans are plans– not guarantees.


Adoption plans are not contractual arrangements; all are subject to change. So while it’s reasonable to feel excited about a prospective adoption match, it’s important to remember all parties have the legal right to change their plans as needed. Never ask a prospective birthparent for assurances that they won’t change their minds about placing– that’s potentially coercive, which is illegal in most states. And be forewarned that an adoptive couple or birthparent who is committed to openness prior to placement may not always stay in touch. We hope they will, but in states like Texas, open adoption agreements are voluntary, not legally-enforceable. (Want this to change? Please contact your state lawmakers!)


“Our children will always know what a blessing adoption is.”
“Good adoptees always appreciate the decisions that were made for them.”
“If you raise ’em right, they’ll never look backwards.”

Adoptees get a say, too: later on.


Don’t be expecting every adoptee to necessarily agree that his or her adoption was the best thing ever. Adoptees rarely get any say in whether or not they want to be adopted. Too often, they’ve been expected to be grateful for this life-changing choice that was made for them but not with them. And the universal truth is that adoptees do have a right to hold heir own opinions about their own adoptions– whether we like those opinions or not. They may not have a chance to express those opinions early on, but they can and will speak for themselves, in time. You don’t have to agree, but we do need to listen, in order to honor every adoptees’ right to their own feelings about the choices that got made on their behalf.


“We hope to have a smooth, easy adoption.”
“Once it’s all over, then I’ll be able to relax.”

Adoption is complicated. Placement is just the beginning.


Here’s the thing: adoption is a journey, not a destination. And whether you place, adopt or get adopted, placement is only the beginning. Adoption isn’t “done” just because the ink is dry on all that paperwork. From Placement Day on, there will be hills and valleys and glorious views and painful truths all along the way. Your feelings about your adoption experience may change over time. Adoption may sometimes seem to create more problems than it solves; if so, an adoption-competent therapist may become your best sherpa. But in the big picture, adoption is life-changing. Whether it changes your life for the better or not may ultimately depend on you and your perspective. (So keep this in mind. And keep expanding your adoption horizons.)


“How you adopt doesn’t matter, the ends justify the means.”
“Adoption agencies shouldn’t get paid unless they get you what you want.”

Agencies provide services, not children..


When you work with an adoption agency, you contract for services. Those services incur fees; if you’re a placing parent, the casework and counseling services rendered to you are covered by the fee paid by the hopeful adoptive parents, whether or not you place. If you’re an adopting parent, you are charged fees for services whether or not those services result in placement, because you’re paying for services and not for a child. Buying or selling a child is illegal, no matter who does it.

The best way to deal with adoption expectations is to learn all you can about the process and how it impacts adoptees. Knowledge is truly your friend when it comes to controlling adoption expectations and using them to best advantage. Whether you explore our homework for placing parents, our homework for hopeful adopters, or just focus on acquainting yourself with all of our recommended adoption resources, glean all the wisdom you can, from all the sources you can. Surround yourself with people who value adoption ethics and who have experienced fully open adoption and can offer realistic guidance.

You’ll likely find your adoption expectations change for good, and the potential success of your adoption just might improve, as well. (Go grow, you!)

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