The First Steps of Adoption
How does someone decide that adoption is the right choice for them? And what are those first steps one even takes in the process?
All of it seemed so daunting. Nearly unreachable. Sure, it was a nice thought, it was something always on our hearts. But when it came to the practicalities, I couldn't quite fathom it.
You know, people's different responses to your decision to adopt are so very interesting. Some are overjoyed! Congratulations, hugs, tears... it's so uplifting. I have one friend who just got pregnant with her first, and after telling me about it she excitedly said "We're going to be moms!" It sent chills down my spine! The reality of it all is so exciting!
Then there are those that instantly compare you with the other adoptive families they know and their experiences—because it's what they know of adoption. This is a tough one for me because each and every adoptive family's story varies so drastically. "Aren't you worried the birth mom will change her mind after the baby is born? What if you get pregnant in the middle of the process like my friend did? A couple I know has been waiting for over two years to bring a baby home—can you really wait that long?" There's only one way to reply to this: God's got it handled. The journey (as I've been told) is a messy one, one filled with lots of turns and twists, and your emotions will be EVERYWHERE. But accept adoption for what it is, including the messy process, and move forward. (I give credit to an adoptive friend for that advice. It's been what I've clung to so far.)
And then there are those who respond with questions. The first question we always get—"How much is that going to cost?" This is understandable. Heck, it was the first question WE asked when we were considering adoption! But I feel like these people are the more reasonable ones. What's the process like? What is open adoption? How long is this going to take? What if...? And I'll be honest—we don't have all the answers. We're still trying to figure it all out. But I wanted to take a few moments with this post to address the questions of those reasonable, logical people who wonder—What are the first steps of adoption and how do you even go about taking them?
First there's the decision to even adopt in the first place.
It's a balance between emotion (listening to your heart, your calling, your greater purpose) and logic (can our family take in a child and support them financially, how will this affect our lifestyle and jobs, will our family and friends be accepting of the child?). John and I are Christians, so we're able to lean on our faith and on God to provide those answers. It was bathed in much prayer and lots of long conversations.
And research. Honestly, consulting with adoptive parents that have already gone through the process made all of the difference. It's much easier to get practical advice from parents having already gone through it than it is to rely on Google. You'd think Googling "how to start the adoption process" would result in SOMETHING helpful! But nope. I was left with lots of confusion as I bounced around between different adoption agencies. So Skype calls ensued, and our decision to adopt was made clear as we picked the brains of those parents and learned more about what adoption truly entailed.
After that big, exciting decision, you have to determine the path you'll take in getting your child and understanding the process associated with it.
There's the option to do all of it on your own (a private adoption) where you hire your own attorney, find your own family to adopt from, and initiate all steps of the process yourself. The second option is to hire an independent consultant. This allows you to apply to many different agencies as you look for a good match all the while... well, basically someone is holding your hand. That's what I needed. I needed the hand holding. I needed someone to answer my every little question, tell me what to do next, and help me find those families who needed an adoptive match.
Last, there's the option to go through an agency. They work for you and with you to help find that match. They have a network of families within the agency that they work with, and they provide much needed counseling and consulting every step of the way.
Honestly. I'm not entirely familiar with each of those options except for the one we chose. We knew it fit with us the best.
Next, you'll need to form a strategy for announcing your adoption, raising funds (think marketing strategy for a business), find the necessary tools to get your message out there, and surround yourself with an adoptive community that'll help you through the rough patches (and celebrate with you during the good times).
It takes a lot of time to plan, strategize, and prepare for the future. But, I find this stage really fun. :) That's probably the business owner in me, but it truly is fun and exciting to map out the next 12 months of our adoption journey. (Note: this plan WILL change. I've been guaranteed by other adoptive families it will. So I make plans lightly, and submit it all to God! He knows better than I do anyways.)
If you're considering adoption but feel like these first steps are daunting and confusing, find an adoptive family to talk with. Take them out to dinner or jump on Skype with them and pick their brain. Find encouragement, but also find answers to the questions you're struggling with the most. Since we're not very far into the process, I can't say whether or not starting the process is one of the hardest parts—but I can attest to first steps ALWAYS being the hardest. This portion of time in our adoption journey has taken an immense amount of commitment, leaps of faith, and arriving at a place of vulnerability to start sharing our story. It's scary, but we take comfort in "one faithful step at a time."