Whether you’ve decided to adopt because you aren’t able to conceive naturally, have always dreamt of giving a child without a home a loving family, or have decided to take on the baby or child or a friend or family member, there’s a lot more to the process than meets the eye. It’s not just adoption checks and paperwork that you need to worry about, you also need to think about what will happen when you bring your new family member home, and what the impact will be on you and any other children that you already have.
Adopting can be a wonderful thing to do and a great way to add to your family. However, it can also be stressful and hard at times, especially when it comes to bringing your new child home and adapting to life with another little one in tow. It’s not just difficult for you and your partner, but also for any children that you already have, as well as for your new family member, depending of course, on how old they are. There’s a lot to adjust to for everyone, and it’s important to realise that. Of course, the process of filing for adoption is also stressful – there’s a lot of waiting, worrying, and what ifs to contend with. Overall, there are various things that most adoptive parents-to-be worry about.
So with that in mind, below are some tips and pieces of advice that all first time adoptive parents should know to make the adoption process, from start to finish, that little bit smoother for everyone involved.
Read up and research
The first thing that all first time adoptive parents should do is take the time to read up and research the process of adoption. It’s not like you can just decide that you want to adopt and that’s that, there’s a lot more to taking on a baby or child than that. If you take the time to read up and research what’s involved, you will realise that adoption can take months or even years, and it’s important to understand that.
As part of your research into adoption and what’s involved, see if you can meet with some other adoptive parents to talk about what’s involved. By meeting with other parents who’ve adopted, you will have the opportunity to talk to them about what the process entails, what adopting is actually like, and anything else that’s been troubling you. Write down any questions that you have so that when it comes to your meeting, you don’t forget to ask anything.
Speak to the professionals
The way that most adoptions take place is through agencies or via social services. Adoption agencies – both private and public ones – have lists of all the babies and children that are waiting to be adopted, along with the requirements needed for their adoption. Attend any meetings held by local adoption agencies, so that you are able to get to grips with what the process of adopting entails. You should be able to get the information that you need about starting the adoption process either at an adoption event or sent via the post.
Once you know what the process entails, the next step is being invited to a meeting at your adoption agency of choice. This is a chance for the adoption agency to get to know a little more about you and your family and why you want to adopt. If the adoption agency thinks that you could offer a child a good home, they will give you an application form to fill in. If your application is successful – aka you meet the criteria needed to adopt, you will then be matched with a child. Obviously, there are also checks done of your home via social services, background checks done by the police, and you will also require a full medical check as well.
Think about who you want to adopt
Adopting a child isn’t about picking and choosing a perfect child, it’s about finding a child (or baby) that’s a good fit for your family and lifestyle. That’s why when it comes to adopting, it’s so important that you think carefully about who you want to adopt – as in the age of the child, the gender, their ethnicity, their health, and so on.
For instance, their ethnicity may not seem important, but if you want the child that you adopt to feel like a real part of your family, it can often help if they look similar to you and the rest of your children. In terms of age, you need to pick a child that’s of a suitable age for the amount of time that you have for them. For example, babies and toddlers need a lot more time and care than older children, and it’s important to understand this. However, older children can find adjusting to family life harder, whereas younger children tend to adjust more easily.
It’s not about finding a perfect child; it’s about finding a child that will fit into your family and lifestyle and will be happy being part of it. When you find the right child, you will know.
Talk to your children
It’s important that once the adoption process has begun that you talk to your children about what your plans are. It doesn’t matter what their ages are; it’s important that you talk to them about what you’re planning to do – even toddlers need to be told that there’s a new family member on the way. Whether you’ve got toddlers or teens, take the time to explain to them that you are hoping to adopt another child and want to see how they feel about it. Tell them that you want them to be open and honest with you, and the fact that you’re adopting doesn’t mean that you love them any less.
You may not get the reaction that you were hoping for, and that’s okay. Remember, it’s a lot for a child to take in, so it’s important to understand that it may take them some time to get on board. This is especially true if they’ve always been an only child, as the idea of sharing their parents can be hard for them to adjust to. To help younger children understand more about adoption, there are some fantastic books and TV programs.
Be prepared for when your new family member arrives
When your new family member finally arrives, a lot will change, and that’s perfectly normal. It’s important that you are aware of what preparations you need to make for their arrival. These include getting their bedroom ready, ensuring that you have food in that they like, and making sure that you are able to spend plenty of time with them as they settle in. This means finding out what adoption leave from work, you are eligible for, so that you are able to spend as much time with your new family member as possible. When a child is settling into a new home, spending time with their new parents is incredibly important and can help to ensure a seamless transfer into the family.
The good news is that if it’s an older child you are adopting, you most probably will have spent time with them before they move into your home, so you and your children will have a chance to get to know them, and what their likes and dislikes are. If it’s a newborn baby you’re adopting, that may not be the case. Either way, it’s important to do what you can to help make your new addition feel at home. It’s hard for a child to join a ready-made family and instantly feel part of it, and it’s important to understand that.
Understand that it will take time for life to get back to normal
It’s important to realise that things won’t just go back to normal as soon as your new family member moves in, it will take time. At first, it will be hard, there will probably be upsets and disagreements, but in time, everyone will adjust, and life will begin to go back to whatever is normal for you.
The first few weeks may be difficult and stressful but don’t give up, in time life will return to normal, but you have to remember having a new family member in the house is a big change. It will take your other kids time to adjust, your adopted child time to get used to their new life, and it will also take you time to adjust. The first few weeks of adoption are a learning curve, and it’s important to understand that.
Adopting a baby or child is a truly wonderful thing to do and a great way to add to your family. However, it’s important to understand that adoption can be a stressful process and one that can take a long time. It’s also important to understand that it won’t all be happy families, but once everyone has adjusted, things will get better, and life will go back to normal again.