By Lisa B. Samalonis
"You will never really know if you are ready to adopt until you start exploring with an agency that can help you navigate through the process," says Rose Lewis, an adoptive parent and author the children's book about adopting her daughter from China, "I Love You Like Crazy Cakes," (Little, Brown and Company, 2000).
"Patience, the agency, and the country you adopt from (if international) are in total control. Once you realize this, the process will become easier to handle," she says.
Lewis advises parents who have been dealing with infertility to make sure they are really through with attempting a pregnancy. "Most agencies will tell you that you cannot begin the adoption process until you have stopped fertility treatments. It's important to grieve that loss before moving on to adoption," she says.
Lewis also warns that the process will feel very intrusive. "I have yet to meet an adoptive parent who didn't at some point say, "think of how many children are born and no one ever looked at the parent's financial statements, criminal records or medical reports!" In addition, prospective adoptive parents will need to write your autobiography and get your financial records in order. "This will all be part of the parental record to make sure you are able to handle the adoption," she explains.
- Decide on your type of adoption
- Choose and Agency
- Evaluate Financial Options/Work Leave
- Set up a Support Network while waiting
- Prepare for Your New Life
"Many people start the adoption process without doing sufficient research and the results can be truly overwhelming," says Margaret Schwartz, a single mother and author of "The Pumpkin Patch: A Single Woman's International Adoption Journey" (see www.pumpkin-patch.net).
"Prospective adoptive parents need to know that there are thousands of people who have already done this, and it is important for them to use these parent group resources. The Web is the best source," she adds.
Schwartz also notes that it is important that parents explore what type of health care coverage they have, what their finances are (relative to the type of child/children they want) and what flexibility they have job-wise for vacation and leave of absences.
It is also important to read, read, and read more. "There are several wonderful books detailing personal adoption journeys and this is the best way to learn what type of experiences will be in store for them," she says. In addition, many major hospitals now have International Adoption Centers that offer workshops to prospective parents and educate them on potential health issues.
"Prospective parents need to do is to be honest with themselves about the type of child or children they are willing to bring into their home (i.e. age, sex, race and health issues). These decisions will help them decide whether they will chose a domestic (foster care versus private) or international adoption," Schwartz advises. "No one should sign on the dotted line with an adoption agency without speaking to at least four people who have completed their adoption within the last three months. They should also check out the agency with the better business bureau."
Lastly, Schwartz recommends reviewing the adoption agency contract with an adoption lawyer prior to signing. "Make sure you understand what the agency's responsibilities are regarding the health of the child/children, what happens if you don't adopt a child (for reasons beyond your control) and post-adoption support services," she adds.
Realities of Adoption
According to Schwartz, the bottom line is that adoption will take longer, be more expensive and create significant stress in prospective parents' lives--even before the children arrive. "The important thing is to be as prepared as possible and reach out to those who have already done this. The adoption community is very supportive and prospective parents can learn so much by reaching out to these parent groups (such as www.frua.org for Families of Russian and Ukraine Adoptions)," she says.
International Adoption Tips
Laurie Hurley, an adoptive mom of two girls, says it is important to be prepared for the unexpected with international adoptions. Hurley first entered the international adoption scene when she adopted her oldest child from China when she was four months old. She is now eleven. "My youngest daughter was adopted two and a half years ago. She was five and a half and now is almost eight. She is from Kazakhstan. Having traveled to both countries, I have a list of tips for prospective adoptive parents who are adopting internationally," she says.
Hurley's top tips include:
- Be sure you do your research on the adoption agency you choose and make sure they are registered in your state of residence and have a track record of successful adoptions. Check them out with the Better Business Bureau and the American Embassy to be certain there have been no major complaints filed against them. Ask for references that you can call. If you are traveling internationally, ask who is coordinating the arrangements in the US and who will be meeting/escorting you in the country to which you are traveling. Ask if you need to hire an interpreter.
- Ask for as much health history that you can on your adopted child(ren). Often it will be presented to you in the native language of the country. Have it translated and take it to your pediatrician. Do not over react to negative information. Oftentimes the information is incorrect. If you are adopting a newborn, almost every country does a physical exam before you leave the country. Almost all foreign-born children are tested for HIV and Hepatitis A, B and C. If you are certain of your travel schedule, make an appointment to see your pediatrician as soon as you arrive home. Keep in mind that many third world countries do not have access to good medical care and infants are usually underweight.
- Keep your expectations realistic about the "wait time." The U.S. has little control over what happens to your paperwork once it leaves the American Embassy and is sent to the country you are adopting from. Waiting is difficult, but don't set your sights on a particular month. While you are waiting, check out support groups for adoptive parents, go online and connect with others using your agency.
- Adoption is expensive. After you pay your fees to the adoption agency, find out exactly how much money you will need when you travel. It is quite typical that you will be expected to pay only with American cash (usually new bills) in the foreign country. Purchase a few money belts and strap the money onto your body. Do not carry it in a wallet, purse, etc.
- When you travel, dress casually and try not to draw attention to yourself by wearing bright colors or expensive jewelry. Dress down and try to blend in.
- Learn the customs of the country you are traveling to. Go online and do a search under adoption - customs - name of country. It is usually appropriate to bring gifts to the orphanage, your escort, translator, etc. You will be attending a court hearing and it is usually NOT acceptable to bring a gift for the judge.
"Take a deep breath and be joyous about the new child that is soon to enter your life," Rose Lewis says.
About the Author
Lisa B. Samalonis is a freelance writer from Sicklerville, NJ. Ms. Samalonis frequently writes on several topics including family, parenting, and health issues. She has written many articles for medical and trade magazines, and newspapers.
Reprinted by permission of Parents Express News Magazine
and L. Samalonis