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Tips on Adoption

Are you thinking about adoption? While adoption is a beautiful way of forming a family, it’s important to enter the decision with a clear understanding of the issues. Here are a few things to consider as you make a decision.

Adoption starts with loss. We tend to think of adoption as a celebratory event—and it is. However, it’s important to be mindful that adoption begins with a child’s loss of his biological family. As beautiful and redemptive as adoption is, a child may still feel this loss profoundly.

People can be very insensitive about adoption, and you will have to develop a thick skin.

If you adopt outside your race, you will need help. And humility. I know that some adoptive parents bristle at the idea that they need to outsource a part of their child-rearing. I understand that. As adoptive parents, we want to feel like we can give our own kids everything they need. It can feel like a hit to the pride to realize that in this area, we can’t provide for our kids sufficiently. But it is vitally important that we provide our kids with access to grown-ups who share their racial and ethnic background, so that they can learn pride in their race and also so they can have get feedback and empathy from someone who understands what it is like.

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You can love a child who is not biologically your own, but not everyone will hold that view. Love supersedes biology, and it is certainly likely that you will come to feel like your adopted child is your own flesh and blood. It can take time, however, and not everyone in the world will understand. People can be very insensitive about adoption, and you will have to develop a thick skin when others speak in ways that diminish your role as an adoptive parent. Adoptive families, stepparents, and blended families know well that family bonds transcend biology, and that family connections can be formed in many ways. Unfortunately you may become the object lesson for those who haven’t experienced a nonbiological family connection.

Even adoptees with wonderful relationships with their parents may want to reunify with birth parents. It is absolutely normal for people to want to connect with the individuals who share their DNA. It is neither a reflection of their bond with you as a parent, nor is it a rejection. Be willing to support your child in their efforts at reunification if she is interested, and never consider a relationship with a birth parent as a threat to your relationship. Both can exist at the same time.

You can only save a child once. After that, it’s called parenting. As an adoptive parent, you will get many people congratulating you for having “saved” a child. While it's certainly true that adoption can save a child from a life of living in an orphanage, adopted children are not required to bestow special gratitude to their parents. Adoptees have the same rights as biological children to be resentful, annoyed or ungrateful toward their parents, without being reminded that they've been "saved" by their parents.

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Children who have spent time away from their primary caregivers will have attachment challenges. Research shows that things like touch, eye contact and attention not only infuse a child with self-worth, but they even affect the way the brain and nervous system develop. When a child spends any amount of time away from a one-to-one parent relationship, his development is impacted in profound ways. When a child is deprived of nurture, the impact can be life-altering. If you adopt a child who has spent any time in a group setting, you can expect there to be attachment-related challenges, even if they are very young. These are not insurmountable challenges, nor are they a life sentence or an indication of future dysfunction. Most children can overcome attachment challenges with the help of a dedicated and educated parent.

The children waiting for families are not Caucasian newborns. Many people make the choice to adopt because they want to offer a home to a child who needs one. Most of the children waiting for homes are not infants. Older children and minority children represent most of the children waiting for families, whereas most prospective adoptive parents are waiting on a healthy white infant. It's important to note that adopting black children is not, in fact, a fad. The truth is that racial bias in adoption preference is very prevalent, with black children waiting the longest to find a family. If you want to offer a home to a waiting child, consider an older child or a minority child.

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The expense of adoption is the most worthy investment you can imagine. Most of us know this intuitively, but as an adoptive parent I've spent time in orphanages and seen the difference that living with a family can make. While it's wonderful that there are settings that can provide an at-risk child with food, clothing and shelter, I firmly believe that it's in each child's best interest to have a loving parent whose goal is to provide the love and attention that only a family can afford. Adoption is a blessing for children, but it is an equal blessing to parents. While it can be expensive, it is absolutely worth the sacrifice.

This post is part of our blogging carnival where we explore how the online world has helped us as moms. Read more about it here: Welcome to mom.me

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