I really love it when people ask me questions related to adoption, especially when their questions turn towards the “how to” variety. We have been so blessed from adopting our six kids that I get really excited when I realize that someone else is contemplating it. However, I don’t want to sugar coat things. As amazing as my kids are, adoption can be challenging. Raising kids from traumatic backgrounds is hard. The emotional roller coaster of the adoption process can be discouraging at times. So, the next question that I want to address is:
Is Adoption Difficult?
This is a really complex question to answer because it depends so much on what type of adoption you are trying to complete. Carrie and I adopted our children from other countries which is much different from adopting through foster care which is different from private domestic adoption. After reviewing previous discussions on this matter I realized that the best way to answer the question would be to break it down into five sub categories, which are:
- Making the Decision to Adopt
- Dealing With the Paperwork
- Jumping Through the Hoops
- The Financial Cost
- The Emotional Cost
Making the Decision To Adopt
Carrie and I decided pretty much simultaneously that we were ready to adopt. This made the decision making aspect of the adoption process fairly simple. Not very many couples can say that.
If fertility or health concerns are the driving factor in your decision to adopt, both partners are usually on board with the plan. So obviously, this part of the adoption journey might be very easy. On the other hand, for couples who already have children, the process of deciding to adopt can be quite difficult. Sometimes one parent is determined to adopt children. It’s all he or she can think about. Meanwhile, their partner is perfectly happy with the status quo and adoption is completely off their radar. When this happens, making the decision can be the most difficult part of the entire adoption process. I will dedicate an entire article to this topic sometime in the future. The article will provide some information that may help you to encourage your spouse to see the benefits of adoption. Whoever is the initial driving force behind your adoption, it is VITAL that both partners are fully committed to the adoption decision before you bring a new child into your home
Oh, That Adoption Paperwork
Carrie and I often joke that I have a paper allergy. Of course, I am not really allergic to the paper itself but, for some reason I have great difficulty keeping up with all things paper. I mean, this seems to be some real psychological or cognitive disability on my part. When it comes to filling out paperwork, or organizing paperwork or even knowing where the paper work is, you absolutely can not count on me. So, with that being said, Carrie filled out every document that we submitted for our adoption dossier. My only involvement in the paperwork for our adoption was that I signed my name whenever she put a form in front of me, handed me a pen and pointed at a blank line!
Depending on what type of adoption you are pursuing, you will probably have to fill out a lot of paperwork. From beginning to end, it took us about four months to complete our “dossier” which was all the paperwork that China required us to compile at that time. So, though grueling, and stressful, I would say that the paperwork is not necessarily all that difficult, but then again, you are reading the words of the wrong parent here.
Some time in the future I will ask Carrie to do a post on the paperwork for our six adoptions. Until then, here is an undoubtedly incomplete list of items that might be required for your dossier. This list will differ depending on what type of adoption you are pursuing. You will likely be asked to provide:
- You and your spouses Birth Certificates
- Social Security cards
- Identification or Drivers License
- Passports – if you are travelling over seas
- Pay Stubs
- Copies of bills
- Mortgage information
- Banking Documents
- Tax returns
- Criminal Background Checks
- Finger Prints
- Medical History
- Marriage Certificates
- Divorce Decrees
- Home Study Report prepared by a licensed social worker
Jumping Through The Hoops
Different types of adoptions have different hoops that you will need to jump through. When we adopted Grace from China we had lots of paperwork to complete, but then, all adoptions require that. Here are a few things you might also have to do:
A home study is conducted by a social worker who will come to your house to inspect it for appropriateness and safety. The social worker will also interview everyone in the family in order to establish a family history. This process seems scary to most people and it is quite intimidating to share your whole life history with a stranger. Remember, most social workers love what you are doing and are on your side. They want to make sure you are the right fit for the right child. The social worker wants to make sure that you are ready for all the unknowns that come with adoption They are not there to inspect the grout in your shower for stains (I wish I had known that). They are there to make sure you will provide a safe and loving home.
Physical Changes To Your Home
Some adoptions may require that you lock up your cutlery and medications. You might have to purchase a fire extinguisher and other safety equipment. Some states or agencies may require you to put up a safety fence around your pool. You get the idea. It’a all about keeping your soon to be child safe and comfortable.
Family Profile Scrap Book
In cases where the birth mother will be choosing the adoptive parents, the adoption agency may require you put together a sort of “scrapbook” that basically shows the world what a terrific family you might be for a new child.
Educational Reading and Videos
Because we adopted our oldest daughter from China, we were required to take several online courses concerning discipline and child rearing. China and the U.S. are now both members of the Hague Convention . The Hague Convention was not in place during our adoptions so I can’t really provide any first hand information about how that has changed the process. Domestic adoption agencies may require similar tasks. Foster care adoptions require that you take several hours worth of classes to prepare for your adoption.
Whatever They Want
Adoption agencies can pretty much ask you to do anything (within reason) that they want in order for you to prove to them that you are a good candidate for adoption. Our agency required us to log in a certain number of hours caring for children. We got credit for working in the children’s classroom at our church.
This list is by no means all inclusive. The point is, if you are interested in adopting children, there are lots of things that you will have to do. Are these things hard? I don’t think so, but I want you to be aware of them.
The Financial Cost of Adoption
I will address the financial aspects of adoption in more detail in a future article. For now, I will say that adopting our children revealed God to me more than any other thing I have done in my life. Though this aspect of our adoptions required a lot of work, God more than met us halfway and really showed us how He can provide for our needs. Every time we needed a lump sum of money in order to proceed, that exact amount suddenly became available. It really was un-explainable. I don’t know how God will leave his finger print on your adoption journey, but that is how He let us know He was with us. Adopting from foster care is the least expensive option, private adoptions and international adoptions cost more. But suffice it to say, be prepared to have a lot of expenses during your adoption process.
The Emotional Cost of Adoption
This aspect of adoption was the hardest for me. I am an emotional guy, and waiting for two years for our oldest to come home nearly drove me crazy. No, really! When you are waiting for a child to come home, your mind can barely think of anything else. Mine tended to drift toward my insecurities, and I continually worried about my fear that my parenting would be inadequate. Of course I totally forgot that I had a partner with me on this adventure, and that she was totally going to rock this parenting thing.
I share this because waiting is difficult. It gives your mind a chance to wander off into the darkest closet where you keep your fears and insecurities. I’m sharing my experience with you so that you won’t be surprised if it happens to you. Just remember, your mind is powerful, and it can come up with all sorts of scary scenarios that will never materialize.
If you have a difficult time during your waiting period, I would suggest that you find someone who has been there and done that. You need someone who can answer your questions and calm your fears, someone who won’t think your fears are silly. This is one of the biggest reasons I decided to write this blog. I wanted to encourage people who are in the midst of or are contemplating adoption. I’m here for you if you need to chat!
Well There You Have It
I hope that I have successfully answered the question. Is it difficult to adopt? The short answer is “yes” but not so much that you should change your mind about pursuing it. The paperwork was daunting for Carrie and if it had been left to me it might never have happened. Waiting was hard, especially for me, but it was only one aspect of the adoption process, and the payoff was oh so sweet. Six times sweet!
I’m sure that some of you will still have questions. I want to answer them. Maybe some of you other adoptive parents will want to jump in with answers or encouragement. Please chime in if you have done a domestic or foster care adoption and have some insights about the process that you would like to share!
My next two articles in this four part series will be:
- Is Adoption Expensive?
- Why in the World Did You Adopt So Many Kids?