Waiting to adopt is like having a pregnancy with no due date and few fringe benefits (except that you and your spouse can still enjoy adult beverages now and then, perhaps?)
Ask any prospective adoptive parent what the worst parts of the adoption process are and they’re sure to mention all the mountains of paperwork they had to do, and then, waiting to adopt. Waiting. (And waaaaaaiting.)
It can feel agonizing when you’re waiting to be chosen by someone who is planning to place, no matter how ready you are or how good your adoption profile turned out? Because for all the control you do to decide what you will or will not accept. you are at the mercy of someone you don’t even yet know, whose life is far less privileged than yours, yet who seemingly is carrying the answer to your prayers in her anonymous belly. And that’s humbling, exciting, and nerve-wracking, all at once.
Why The Wait?
When you’re waiting to adopt, the uncomfortable reality is that the numbers can be daunting. Less than 1% of mothers in America now consider placing a baby for adoption these days, yet more than 50 families are now waiting for every one baby who does get placed. And since in most adoption programs the placing parents get to choose which home they wish to place their child in, most hopeful adopters find themselves waiting to adopt for months or years before it actually happens.
Since 1994, the majority of racially-open childless couples at Abrazo have waited, on average, 6-12 months or less to match and/or place, provided they had no gender preferences and were open to culturally diverse placements. Since the Covid pandemic and the resulting baby bust, couples with secondary infertility &/or those who have other children already are typically waiting 2-3 years or more to adopt.
Childless couples that are racially-accepting and open to various real-llfe factors (ie., lack of prenatal care, NAS, etc.) still usually match or place within 12 months, but placing parents in Texas definitely seem to prefer infertile and childless Texas couples that are Anglo & Hispanic and/or African-American. (They want their child to be the firstborn, although not necessarily an only child.)
Waiting: To Adopt Isn’t Easy
When you “match” with a prospective birthparent, chosen parents always know there is no rock-solid guarantee an adoption will result. Every parent considering adoption has the right of refusal prior to legal documents being signed days after the birth. Adopting parents can walk away from a match that doesn’t feel right just as expectant parents can, and it’s illegal for either party to coerce, induce or otherwise seek to influence the other party’s decision in any way.
Regardless of whether they have a/other child/ren in their home to distract them while they wait, more hopeful adopting couples in America are finding it necessary to match more than once in their quest to get through a successful placement. For some, this is due to having fallen victim to adoption scams encountered in the course of a DIY private adoption; for others, this is because of expectant parents having had a change of heart prior to relinquishment. Either is a painful detour on a journey that can seem exhausting at times.
How to Survive the Wait
Each adopting couple has to decide for themselves how to pace themselves. Do you get the nursery ready (yes!) and sign up for baby registries (go!) and enjoy the rituals of other expecting parents (do it!)? Or will you insulate yourselves. keeping your plans to adopt a secret and not indulge your excitement in case things don’t go as planned? Everyone’s coping skills are different, but we urge our clients to encourage the journey to whatever extent they feel able.
Our agency maintains a private Facebook group called “Abrazo’s Crown Club” which offers both professional and peer connections for our parents-in-waiting, as well as the Abrazo Forum, a great source of both pre-adoption and post-placement information. Unlike other programs, Abrazo encourages interaction between its parents-in-waiting, who find the lifelong friendships that result to be one more advantage of adopting here.
Self-care and marital support are essential tools for getting through the adoption waiting time. Any adopting parents should be encouraged to seek out counseling services and/or support groups, as needed. Church attendance can also be a spiritually-restorative practice in times of personal famine. Take a babycare class, and get your infant-CPR certification while you can. Abrazo also advocates for weekly “date nights” for adopting couples: fun adoption-free outings that enable spouses to revel in each other (and hopefully result in intimacy-enhancing “homework” later on, when they get home.)
Use the Wait to your Advantage
The families we’ve known who had the good fortune to adopt a baby just days or weeks after joining our program are always overjoyed, of course. But some will tell you it wasn’t ideal– not really. Even Mother Nature believes its optimal for parents to have 40 weeks to prepare for the enormous life changes that parenthood evokes– and that’s without factoring in all the added factors that come with adoption.
So however long you may have to wait to find the child/ren (and birthparent/s) of your dreams, try to embrace the journey and while you’re waiting, feel free to adopt our mantra: “it’s not if? but when!“ Because when you’re waiting to adopt, the end result truly will have all been worth the wait, all in good time.