I used to look at this one kid in my Grade 3 class and think, ‘What’s it like to be adopted? What’s it like to be removed from your biological family for whatever reason and then have to assimilate into another family?’ He seemed like any other average, well-adjusted kid from a stable household (stable at least financially: he was at a private school), but still I wondered, especially as he was a black child in a white family.
As an adult, what interests me more is the journey his adoptive parents took in deciding to take him into their family. Did fertility issues force them into it? How did his presence affect the family dynamic? Had any unanticipated emotional or behavioral issues shown up after the fact? How prepared had his adoptive parents been?
These are all legitimate questions, of course, but after all the priming and preparation, sleepless nights, and heart-to-hearts with the adoption agent — after all the impossibly endless waiting – sheer anticipation alone would make you answer the long-awaited phone call with a resounding “yes!”, right? Human nature says so, but the experience of some adoptive parents says sometimes it will have to be an unbelievable, heart-rending “no”. This necessary “no” could shield you from an experience that’s beyond your sphere of capability (while at the same time making the child available to a family that is well-suited to him/her) or steer you clear of the idea of adoption altogether.
From couples who have walked the walk, here are some critical and possibly deal-breaking questions that should form part of the decision-making process:
|Is adoption for us?||Should we adopt this particular child?|
|Is either one of you on the fence or even mildly opposed to adoption?||Are you financially and otherwise prepared for any behavioural, physical, or emotional issues that may surface?|
|How do your children feel about having another sibling? How will the additional sibling affect them?||Are there any legal concerns, such as the possible emergence of the unknown father?|
|Are you prepared for the prospect of making this child a permanent part of your family? Fostering may be a suitable alternative to consider, as it is usually a temporary arrangement.||Are you willing to adjust your environment, schedule, etc. to meet this child’s needs?|
|Are your home environment and support network adequate to help you navigate the experience?||How secure do you feel about the process, ie. is the mother badgering you for money or is the adoption agency pushing you to accept a referral outside of your stated capability?|
|Are you prepared for the cost involved? Again, fostering may be a suitable and cheaper alternative.||Is there any evidence to suggest that the child may have been trafficked?|
|Can you successfully complete all of the assessments required by the adoption agency?||Is the child’s medical history inconclusive?|
|How will the presence of this child affect the family dynamic? Consider its effect on your marriage/relationship.||Are you comfortable with the communication and other boundaries between you and the biological parent(s)?|
|Consider your true motive for adopting, ie. are you looking to “replace” a lost child? Consultation with a counselling professional may be necessary here.||If this is a trans-racial or trans-cultural adoption, are you prepared to educate yourself as necessary and deal with the relevant challenges?|
Now jump ahead into the future and relish the experience of your perfect family. You decided that you wanted to adopt and after rejecting a few referrals, you finally found your child. The learning curve was steep and the rollercoaster ride has been scary, frustrating, enlightening and awesome all at the same time. The challenges continue, but you remain grateful that you said “no” when you needed to. The silent voice from deep down affirmed that as heartbreaking and disappointing as it was, it was the right thing to do. By saying the necessary “no”, you released one child to be available to his/her perfect family and opened the door to welcome your child into your now perfect family.