Remember months ago when I said I would do a post about our most frequently asked adoption questions? I actually wrote this in November and forgot to post it. Sorry about that!
Once people learn that we are an adoptive family, they tend to have a lot of questions. Here are a few of our answers. 🙂
How did you know adoption was for you?
I always knew helping children was my vocation. When I was in college I was trying to decide whether to be a teacher or a social worker and a mentor suggested I read A Child Called It. That book taught me two things: 1) I could never handle being a social worker. 2) One day I would adopt a child out of foster care.
So I already knew it was one of my life goals, and Eddie knew that before he married me. It was more like when I knew we needed to go ahead and do it that was more of an issue for us. Honestly, it was just a deep, gut-wrenching need that I knew to be a calling from God. I didn’t hear any voices, I just felt a very heavy void and I knew in my heart that this was the way to fill it, the same way that you know eating a sandwich will help you fill the void in your stomach when you are hungry. It was primal and instinctual and I didn’t see it as my choice to make. At first Eddie didn’t feel called at all. In fact, he told me more than once he thought I needed to see a psychiatrist. We’d only been married for about 6 weeks and we were only 22. It was a test of our marriage, but I was very convicted I couldn’t go wrong following what I believed to be a calling from God. So I did what any good wife would do (kidding) I nagged. A LOT. Eventually we attended the foster care classes offered in our county and Eddie had a major change of heart.
What are the steps I need to take?
They are very different in every situation. We went through foster care in the state of Florida, because that’s where we were living at the time. Private and international adoptions are very different, other states are different, and most adoptions in Florida are different than the way ours went down. The best thing to do is call a local agency. They will tell you what you need to do to start the process in your area.
What are the hardest things to deal with?
#1 Fighting harder than you have ever fought for anything for a child who doesn’t love you yet in the conventional sense, not because he doesn’t want to, but because he can’t afford to allow himself to.
There is not nearly enough information or support readily available for children with attachment issues. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but if you are adopting, chances are your child will have some attachment issues and you have to be prepared for that. No matter what, DO NOT ADOPT if you are not up for dealing with severe behavior issues. They will happen. There is no worse crime than taking a child with a broken heart, offering a stable home, then pulling it out from under them because you decide you aren’t up for the challenge.
#2 Other people’s responses. People are rude. You won’t ever know how rude until you decide to foster or adopt. People will criticize your discipline, or purposeful lack there of, in public, or sometimes worse, they will try to sympathize. I remember when Nick’s foster mom told us of a time she snapped at a woman in the grocery store for offering advice on how to calm the screaming baby she had with her, when the real problem was the baby had been born addicted to drugs and was going through withdraw and did not, in fact, just need a nap.
“Oh, you couldn’t have a real baby, so you decided to adopt?” —actually said to my face on more than one occasion by more than one different person.
#3 Not punching anyone.
Whether it is because someone who doesn’t understand is being completely rude, or because you are having your child evaluated for the fourteenth time, or because you have finally been matched with your child and the legal process is taking forever, there will be a lot of times you want to punch something.
Honestly, was it worth it?
If I knew then what I know now, I’d absolutely do it again. I’d do it better, because I would be better prepared having that knowledge, but Nicholas is our son. Of course it was worth it.
You have to have that mindset from day one or your chances of failing are much higher. “This is my son,” not, “This is the kid I am doing so much for by getting them out of a terrible situation.” Do not expect gratitude where none is deserved. Every child has the right to have their basic needs provided for, and love and attachment to parental figures is a basic human need of every child. Don’t adopt to be a hero, do it because there is a huge need and it’s the right thing to do (although, obviously, it’s not the right thing for everyone). Altruism really has no place here.
I’m afraid of the impact of exposing my biological children to a child with problems.
So was (am) I. That was a major reason we chose to adopt first: so that our biological kids would never know things any differently. As far as they know, Nick is their big brother, and he has some issues. We also did things in that order so that we wouldn’t constantly be comparing Nicholas to our biological kids, because at the time we adopted him we didn’t have any yet.
There’s no easy way to handle it, my best advice is that if you’d had a biological child with those issues you would have no choice but to find a way to deal with it. At least when a child is adopted they usually come with a whole team of professionals to guide you through the rough patches.
Was it expensive?
Usually adopting out of foster care is free because almost all children in foster care fall into the very vague “special needs” category that includes things like being a minority, or over the age of seven, or having siblings. Nicholas was young and white and didn’t have siblings, so as a toddler he didn’t meet the criteria, but because he was in foster care and was a ward of the state we only had to pay for the legal fees. Ours was technically a private adoption, which happens, like, never when you are dealing with the foster care system. One of our social workers said it was only the second time in her career she had seen it happen. We did not chose for things to happen that way, Nicholas just happened to be the child our agency matched us with.
We paid about $5,000 out of pocket, but usually a private adoption would run closer to $20-30,000. It was less expensive than a regular private adoption, and we were blessed to know him from the time he was very young. But being a private adoption also meant he did not have the benefits of being adopted as a “special needs” child, like most other foster children. If he had qualified in that category he would have had access to medical care until the age of 18 and free college tuition to a Florida state school, so each method of adoption has pros and cons, like any other.
How long did it take?
Again, that’s going to be different for everyone, but for us the entire process took about a year and a half. We started going to classes in April of 2007 and went to court and made our adoption official in October of 2008. Sometimes it can be a lot longer. We were actually the first parents from our class (they make you take a parenting class) to have a child placed with us.
What do you know about his birth parents? Were you willing to have an open adoption?
We know their names (although I’m not really sure we are supposed to) and a very limited history. We have their pictures, but only because they had both been arrested multiple times and their pictures were posted on the website for the sheriff’s department. I have their names and photos in Nick’s baby book. We talk about his birth mom frequently whenever he has questions. At this age it is mostly things like, “Did I grow in your tummy like Abby and Penny did?” “No, you grew in a different mommy’s tummy (we use her real name with him) and then we got to adopt you!”
We wrote a letter to his birth mom as part of our preparation class. She knows who we are and she has the contact information for his social workers and foster mom, and all of them know where we are. If she wants to get in touch with him, there is nothing stopping her, but we understand that it was a very painful decision she had to make to terminate her rights to him. Our social workers advised us not to contact his birth parents, but to let Nick (as he gets older) and his birth parents work that out for themselves, so that is what we intend to do.
We understand that people have a lot of questions surrounding the process of adoption, and we are happy to talk with them about it as long as those questions are respectful. If you are interested in Why Your Words Matter To Adoptive Families, you can check out that post here.