About this time 13 years ago, my husband and I felt called to adopt and began the process that led to our adoption story. In honor of National Adoption Month, I’ve put together some thoughts for those considering adoption, drawn from our experience.
Pray. Is adoption for you? Are you ready for a lifetime commitment of parenting? Pray for discernment.
Determine support. Invite your family and friends into the discernment process. Support groups and secular or religious counseling are available to help you through the adoption process; seek them out.
Do research, learn the language. Attend a workshop conducted by an adoption agency. Learn the language of adoption. Read about the process. Learn the laws about adoption in your state.
Make initial decisions. Will you consider an infant, toddler or older child? Is a trans-racial adoption or a special needs child right for you? Decide between a domestic or international adoption. Choose between a public or private agency. Would a ‘foster to adopt’ program be a good option? Is an open adoption right for you? Is a private adoption arranged through an attorney a possibility?
Check resources. Adoption costs can range from little to thousands of dollars. How will you finance an adoption? Consult a tax attorney for current tax breaks.
Consult calendar. Does your employer provide adoption leave? Some international adoptions require the adopting parents to travel to the foreign country or to live there while the adoption is finalized. Can you manage that?
Complete paperwork. Complete the agency’s application form(s). Complete the home study (putting on paper intimate details about your childhood, significant relationships, marriage and personality). Complete the background check, providing certified birth and marriage certificates and a criminal background check.
Use the waiting time. Pray for the child, the birth parents, the adoption workers and yourselves. Assemble a welcome book or video about you to give to the child. In trans-racial and cross-cultural adoptions, read about your child’s history, traditions and rituals. Prepare the home, perhaps outfitting the child’s bedroom or, if the child is older, be ready to allow the child to make decisions about décor and furnishings. Talk with family and friends about the adoption.
When the day arrives. Have a ‘welcome home’ party. Plan a ritual for welcoming the child into the family, offering thanksgiving to God for the new family.
What’s next? Begin building your family together. Locate a pediatrician. Add your child to your health benefits. Enroll your child in school. Secure an adoption therapist or other mental health professional for your child and you. Consult with a lawyer to update your will. Line up post-adoption support, through a support group or counselor, and make arrangements for respite care.
No matter how a family is formed—whether by birth, adoption, marriage or something less formal—a family is all about people who love you unconditionally, people you can always trust. May we all know the best of what family can be.
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director.
The photo was taken in the judge’s chambers in June 2002 when my husband and I adopted Judy. A version of this post first appeared in The Lutheran Handbook on Marriage, published by Augsburg Fortress.