Adopting is hard…

As anyone who’s adopted can tell you, there’s a mountain of paperwork that’s required. Applications, income tax returns, floor plans. Photos of the applicants and their home. Reference letters.  Proof of infertility status. Employment references. Physicals. Contracts and agreements. (And that’s just to get your foot in the door.)

Oh, we know; if you’re taking on the lifetime responsibility of raising someone else’s child, it seems like somebody should streamline the process. It might seem easier if adopting was as easy as ordering something on Amazon, but then again, what would that say about its significance, really? Answer, not much. (Nada.)

It’s quite a shock to the folks who call adoption agencies thinking it’s as easy as asking to come look over the babies here who need to be adopted. (Yes, people do call to ask this. And no, they can’t, because no, we don’t warehouse kids in our office nor arrange public viewings.)

Why Is It So Hard to Adopt?

Adoption is complicated, because the stakes are so high. Ever since the days of the orphan trains, social workers have realized that there’s a lot more that goes into healthy adoption than just handing a kid in need of parents to people who say they want a child.

It used to be that orphanage personnel from the East Coast would board trains with dozens of “street urchins” and hoist them into the air at depots throughout the Midwest, so farm folk could bid on them. (Hence, the phrase “putting a child up for adoption.”) Yet the mistakes of that practice led to the background checks, homestudy requirements and post-placement supervision that are now standard practice today.

People who seek to adopt today must submit to FBI fingerprinting to prove they have no dangerous criminal background. They undergo physicals to verify they should have a normal life expectancy. Sit through series of interviews (along with any other members of their household) to prove they are fit for adoption. Turn over their financial records to prove that they manage their resources appropriately. Undergo hours of training and do homework and let a social worker come inspect their home. And put their life savings into the process, too.

All this, just to be approved to be parents-in-waiting, couples who wait to be found by someone who needs them— a prospective birthparent and/or child or both. Adopting is hard, so it’s a wonder anyone does it at all, amirite?

How Can You Make Adopting Easier?

Learn all you can about adoption, particularly from adopted persons, before you begin. Though it’s tempting to dive right in and focus on baby magic, it’s essential to “begin with the end in mind,” to quote Stephen Covey. How will you want the adult you will adopt as a child to view your quest (and your reasons for pursuing it>) Whatever adoption’s benefits to you, you have to be doing it for them. This isn’t about you, even though you know yourself better than them at this point. (Ironic, isn’t it?)

Like we said: adopting is hard, but there are some things adopting parents can do to improve the process. Adopting couples who fully share adoption responsibilities do find it easier to manage the challenges of the process. Both can complete paperwork and schedule appointments, both can help support the birthfamily, both can take parenting classes, and both can change diapers and get up for late night feedings.

Remember: adoption is generally a better experience for those who approach it from a healthier place. This is why adoption professionals urge infertile couples to take time to grieve their losses and get professional therapy before diving into adopting. A baby or child cannot heal an adult’s pain, nor should he/she have to. Couples who learn to manage their own life losses become parents who are uniquely qualified to help adopted children negotiate their losses in life, later.

Beware of any adoption professional who tells you adopting can be simple. It isn’t, nor should it be. Adopting is hard for those who place as well as those who adopt. And parenting isn’t easy, either. Do the work to do it all right, and you’ll find that while adopting is hard, it’s sure to be the toughest-and-best quest you’ll ever undertake– in your entire lifetime.

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