Congratulations, you’ve decided to adopt! You’re ready to move forward but starting to worry about the "what ifs" of adoption. Or maybe you're still just considering adoption but haven’t taken the next step due to fears. It is important to note that most adoptions do progress smoothly and without major incident. But, let's face it - all methods of building a family are not without risk so let's review the best ways to have a safe adoption and how you can limit or prevent your worst fears from becoming realities.
Successful adoptions include not only affordability but also commitments that can be honored and managed for years to come. To have a safe adoption, it is important to realistically review the risks.
Scams – Unfortunately, there are people in this world who prey on those during their hardest, most vulnerable moments. Adoption is no exception. This is why you need to work closely with your team to make sure the expectant mother is actually pregnant and intending to place her baby for adoption. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to try to navigate this process without professional help. Any expectant mother truly dedicated to the adoption process will not mind working through the proper channels. Even if you find a potential birth mother on your own, you should still put her in touch with your agency/attorney so that she understands her legal rights and the steps involved in the process, not to mention gets access to counseling & support. Never respond to emails or requests for people to work outside your agency/attorney. Never give money directly to an expectant mother. That is illegal and can be considered baby brokering. Do not put yourself in legal jeopardy.
Finances – Let's talk about expenses. Keep in mind that you don't have to pay for everything on the first day. Many people spread the costs out over a few years so there’s time for saving and holding fundraisers. Work with your team to understand your payment options and timelines. In addition, many employers offer adoption assistance. If your employer does not offer it, consider meeting with your HR representative to see if they will start a program. Also, the IRS offers a tax credit of over $14,000 for adoptive families; consult with your adoption team and your tax preparer to understand if you qualify.
Disruptions – There is always the possibility that the potential birth mother could change her mind during the process prior to her consents being irrevocable. While this can be heartbreaking, it’s important to keep in mind that it is in the best interest of all parties for everyone to be 100% committed. Working with an adoption consultant is a great way to have an unbiased expert in your corner to do risk assessment on each opportunity that arises. Regardless, if a disruption does occur, you still have such a big part of the process behind you and you’ve gained invaluable experience. Chances are very good that the next match will be successful! Remember, every setback is a step closer to success.
Revocations – Although this scenario has been sensationalized by the media and in movies, it is rare that birth parents try to regain custody after a placement is final. And even if they did, they wouldn’t have legal standing. From a legal perspective, once an adoption is finalized, the biological parents have no more legal rights to the child than a stranger on the street. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t keep your moral and ethical commitments to them regarding any ongoing contact, but there’s no need to worry about losing custody.
Substances – Substance use and abuse is a risk that you will need to consider as it can occur among potential birth mothers. Educate yourself on the likelihood of usage and the effects of various substances so that you can make informed decisions about what is reasonable to expect and where the bounds of your comfort level are. As an advocate for you, your adoption consultant should be able to point you towards medical professionals with adoption-specific expertise who can guide you through some of these decisions.
Commitments to the biological family – It is important to be upfront and honest with the birth family about post-adoption contact. There is no one right answer as to how much or how often. The best thing you can do is to under commit and over deliver. Do not agree to terms you know will be too hard to meet but be open to the relationship naturally evolving over time. Also, keep in mind that ongoing contact does not mean co-parenting. The birth family usually just wants to know that they made a good decision and that the baby is thriving.
Losses of sanity! - Yes, this IS a risk. If you're switching paths from trying to conceive to adoption, you are probably starting the process a little battered and bruised. Take a deep breath. Recalibrate. Adoption and trying to conceive are two separate, independent processes. You are about to become a parent! You need to take care of yourself just as you would if you were the person giving birth. Put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others! Now is the time to get organized. Relax by the pool with a glass of wine. Pray or meditate. Read the books you have been wanting to read, because if you're going down the road of adoption, your life is about to change. Your days during your adoption wait should be optimistic and joyful, not scary and full of ‘what-if’ scenarios running through your mind. Depend on your adoption team to get you through the harder times. Surround yourself with supportive people and DO NOT rob yourself of another minute of joy.
Bio for Nicole Witt, Executive Director and owner of The Adoption Consultancy (www.TheAdoptionConsultancy.com), an unbiased resource serving pre-adoptive families by providing them with the education, information and guidance they need to safely adopt a newborn, usually within three to 12 months. Nicole has assisted several hundred singles and couples with their adoptions.