I have to confess, when it comes to making big decisions, I have a tendency to procrastinate. Making the decision to start the adoption process was no exception for us. My wife and I started much later than we probably could have. We are finally moving forward, but sadly, I hear far too many stories of people who want to adopt but are afraid to take that first step. Many couples even give up on their dreams to become parents because they do not think they can adopt.
I think there are a number of different barriers, whether real or imagined, that keep people from adopting, but it all boils down to one thing: FEAR. Adopting a child is a major decision that will affect your life dramatically, and the very process of adopting can seem overwhelming. So I decided to come up with a list of ten reasons why people tend to put off an adoption or give up on it altogether, and suggest ways to overcome each of these fears.
1. I don’t know where to start.
Sometimes the act of just starting is the most difficult hurdle. There are so many options, so many agencies and attorneys, and so many things to consider, that it can be overwhelming.
This was a big problem for me and my wife. There were so many adoption agencies out there. Some of them sounded good, and some of them had red flags. How do we know who to trust? We were so confused and overwhelmed that we ended up putting off our decision for several months… years even. It wasn’t until one of my wife’s coworkers referred us to the adoption attorney we are now using that we were finally able to move forward.
So how do you get over this hurdle? Well before you even start looking for an adoption professional, you have to sit down and think about what kind of adoption you want to pursue. Do you want to adopt an infant or are you okay with an older child? Do you want to adopt from another country or domestically? If you do adopt domestically, are you okay with going out of state? Would you be okay with an interracial adoption or a child with special needs? All of these things need to be taken into account before you even think about looking for an adoption agency or attorney, so be sure to take as much time as you need to make that decision.
Once you’ve decided what kind of adoption you are interested in, it’s time to start looking for a professional to work with. Again, this can be daunting with all the choices out there, but I would start by asking around. Do you have any friends, neighbors, co-workers, or other acquaintances who have adopted kids? If not, ask them if they know of anyone. Chances are, if you ask enough people, you can be connected with someone who has adopted before. Once you find someone, ask them which professional they used and if they would recommend them. This is how Courtney and I found our adoption attorney; one of Courtney’s coworkers had two adopted children and highly recommended the attorney that she used for both adoptions.
If you can’t find anyone through the people you know, then try finding an adoption support group on the internet. You can find them on social networking sites like Facebook and Google+, or on adoption specific sites like Adoptive Families Circle, Adoption Voices and Adopt2Connect. Join some of these groups and ask around what professionals they would recommend.
One little caveat, though: don’t just go with the first professional you are referred to. Get a list of as many as you can find, then take time to call them, ask questions, and figure out which one is right for you. Choosing an adoption professional is one of the most important decisions you will make in the adoption process, so it’s important that you choose someone who is not only reputable, but who understands your adoption goals and can help you to achieve them. If you don’t feel completely comfortable with one, then thank them for their time and move on to the next one. Make sure you ask them for references as well, and if they refuse to give you any, move on to another one; a good adoption professional should have no problem giving you references.
In time, you will find an adoption professional who is right for you. Just don’t give up!
2. I’m not ready to be a parent.
Try this exercise: ask ten of your friends who have children if they felt they were ready to be a parent when they first found out they were pregnant. I’m willing to bet at least 7 or 8 of them will say they weren’t. I’m also willing to bet that all of them said that once the baby came, everything worked out just fine.
I don’t think anybody truly feels “ready” to be a parent. I don’t think I’m completely “ready” for it either. But as a good friend of mine once told me, once you hold that child in your arms for the first time, all those feelings of uncertainty and doubt and fear are drowned out by love. Parenting is a challenge for any new parent (and even the more experienced ones). But most parents are able find a way to overcome those challenges.
I honestly can’t tell you if you are ready to be a parent or not. This is something you have to think about and pray about for yourself. But don’t sell yourself short. If the desire to be a parent is strong enough, then you are probably more ready than you think.
3. I can’t afford adoption.
Many people get excited about adoption, only to have their hopes dashed once they realize that they will have to fork over a 5-figure amount of money to make it happen. I know this was certainly the case for me and my wife, and it’s one of the biggest reasons we put off the decision for so long.
Let’s face it: adoption can be expensive. Of course it is possible to adopt for free if you are willing to adopt or foster an older child from your state, but if you want to adopt an infant from the U.S., it can cost you around $25,000 to $35,000. An international adoption can cost up to $50,000 or more. Ouch!
It doesn’t seem right that adoption should cost this much, but it is what it is. Fortunately, adoption doesn’t have to send you to the poorhouse or require you to take out a second mortgage. It will require some financial discipline and planning on your part, but there are many ways to defray the costs and make adoption more affordable.
If you live in the U.S., you can take advantage of the adoption tax credit. As of 2013, this credit can save you up to $12,970 on your tax liability. Unfortunately this credit is no longer refundable, which means you can only benefit if you have tax liability. (Visit adoptiontaxcredit.org for more information on contacting your legislators to make the credit refundable.) Nonetheless, this can be a big help. Talk to your CPA or visit IRS.gov for more information on this tax credit.
There are also a number of adoption grants available that you might be eligible for. A good place to start is simply by Googling “adoption grants”, or ask your adoption professional if they know of any that are available. Also, many companies offer financial assistance to their employees for adoption, so check with your human resources department at work. (The Dave Thomas Foundation website is a great resource for finding adoption friendly employers.)
Also, consider fundraising. There are countless ways of fundraising for your adoption, and I’m constantly blown away by some of the creative ways aspiring parents have come up with for fundraising for their adoptions. This is where paying for adoption can become fun. Get your family, friends, and coworkers involved; most people will be more than happy to help you out any way they can. For ideas, just do a google search for “adoption fundraising”, or check out Julie Gumm’s book Adopt Without Debt for some great ideas.
What about loans? Sure, you could take out a loan if you want to, and there are many banks and credit unions that offer adoption loans. However, I would only recommend this as an absolute last resort. This is just my opinion, but I think you’ll be much better off saving up the money rather than going into debt. It will take some discipline on your part, and you may have to cut out some unnecessary expenses to make it work, but in the long run it will be worth it. However, if you feel must take out a loan, it is an option. Just make sure you can pay it off as quickly as possible.
The bottom line is, adoption can be much more affordable than you think. Don’t let the high cost scare you away. Come up with a budget and a plan, and you CAN do it!
4. I will have to wait too long to be matched with a birthmother.
When my wife and I started looking into the adoption process, we were being told that we should expect to wait at least two years to be matched with a birthparent. But the more I’ve looked into it, the more I’ve realized that this isn’t always the case. In fact, many couples are able to be matched within a few months, even weeks, of completing their home study.
The notion that you can’t control how long you have to wait for a match isn’t entirely true. There are many things you can do to help shorten the wait time. One of the most important things you can do is ask about it at the very beginning when interviewing adoption professionals. For instance, some agencies may only work with a very limited pool of birthmothers from a limited area, thus increasing the wait time for a match. Others may work with a much wider pool from a larger area, including nationwide. Also, some attorneys and agencies may give you more freedom in how you can advertise for your adoption, while others may have stricter rules in place that limit the amount of advertising you do. (You should also ask about the laws in your state regarding adoption advertising.) Always ask about this before deciding on an adoption professional.
There are other ways to help decrease the wait time as well. You could increase the amount of advertising you do if you are allowed to do so. You could consider adopting from out of state instead of just from your own state, especially if you live in a state with a small population. You could think about increasing your criteria (for instance, if you are only interested in adopting a boy, maybe you could be open to adopting a girl as well?). You can also work to improve your adoption profile to make it more appealing to birthmothers.
Of course, not all factors are in your control, but clearly there are many things you can do to increase your chances of finding a match sooner rather than later. Just always remember to be patient and understand that the right child will come along when the time is right.
5. What if the birthparents change their mind and/or try to take the baby back?
When you are matched with a potential birthmother, there is always a chance that the birthmother might change her mind at the last minute and decide to keep her child. It doesn’t happen as often as you might think, but it does happen, and it can be heartbreaking. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t let this fear keep you from adopting.
First of all, remember that the mother is making a very difficult decision, and that it needs to be respected. If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. But just because one adoption falls through doesn’t mean there isn’t another baby for you out there. Keep your head up, and don’t give up.
Secondly, I strongly recommend keeping this in mind in the beginning when interviewing potential adoption professionals. Ask them what they will do to help you in this type of situation. When asking for references, ask them to include at least one family that had a match fall through. This will give you a better idea of how that adoption professional handles these situations.
As far as the birthparents trying to take your child away years after the adoption has taken place, just forget all the horror stories you’ve heard about on Dateline and Lifetime Movie Network. The chances of this happening are practically zero. By law, once the adoption is finalized, it’s a done, irrevocable deal.
6. I’m afraid of being scammed.
Sadly, there are a lot of scammers out there, even in the adoption world. From shady fly-by-night agencies to birthmothers faking a pregnancy, some people are willing to get your money or attention by any means possible, no matter how unscrupulous they may be. This can take a devastating toll on an adopting family, both financially and emotionally.
The key here is to make sure you do your due diligence throughout the process. It all begins with the adoption professional you choose to work with. Do your research and make sure they are reputable and experienced before you start working with them, so you don’t end up with an agency or attorney who may only be out for your money instead of looking out for your best interests, as well as the birthmothers’ and child’s best interests. Also make sure they are knowledgeable about the different scams out there and how to prevent them. Ask what their processes are for screening birthmothers and making sure they are legit. If you take the time to do this, your chances of being scammed are minimal. If you are going to be dealing directly with birthmothers, it’s a good idea to have them screened by your agency or attorney. Since they are not as emotionally involved in the adoption as you are, they are more likely to be objective.
7. I’m afraid I won’t see the child as “mine”, or that my child won’t see me as their “real parents.”
I’ll admit that this is something I worried about at first. Many people feel that adopting a child simply isn’t the same as having a biological child. But I know a lot of families with adopted children, and I can tell you that they are no different from any other family. The parents and their children love each other no differently than a biological family would.
You may be wondering how you could love a child that isn’t biologically yours, and if you seriously think this will be an issue for you, then maybe you should think twice before adopting. However, I truly believe that once you hold that child in your arms for the first time, you will be so in love with that child that it won’t matter to you anymore. You’ll love that child as your own, and he or she will love you just the same.
8. I’m too old to adopt.
If you are interested in adopting an infant, but you are in your late 30’s or early 40’s, take heart. Many parents who adopt do so later in life, sometimes after trying different fertility treatments and failing, or sometimes because they couldn’t afford to (or didn’t think they could afford to) when they were younger. Even if you are older, you may still be able to adopt a newborn, but it may be harder to do so once you get to your late 40’s or 50’s. Some adoption agencies may have an age limit to how old (or young) you can be to adopt. You also have to consider that as your child gets older, you will be getting older as well. For instance, adopting a newborn in your 50’s means you could be raising that child into your 70’s.
The most important question to ask yourself is what your motive is for adopting, and whether you feel you still have the energy to be a parent. If you feel you are too old to adopt a newborn, you may want to consider adopting an older child or becoming a foster parent. If your motive is more to help a child than to fulfill your need to be a parent, this could be a great option.
9. I want to adopt, but my spouse doesn’t.
So maybe you don’t have any of the fears listed above and are 110 percent certain you want to adopt. What do you do if it’s your spouse who is reluctant, or even just completely against it?
This can be a problem. I truly believe both partners need to be all in for an adoption to work. So how do you convince your other half to reconsider?
I think it’s important to sit down with your spouse and discuss the reasons why he or she is reluctant. Maybe it’s one of the reasons listed above. Maybe it’s something else. Whatever you do, don’t try to force your partner into accepting your point of view. Be open-minded and listen to his or her reasons, and try to come to a resolution based on those reasons. If money is an issue, try to offer suggestions of how you can help. If they just don’t feel “ready”, then try to figure out why and see if you can offer a solution.
Just remember that communication is really important here. Don’t get into a shouting match or make accusations. Be empathetic, open-minded, and honest, and hopefully you will be able to come to a resolution.
10. [Insert your own barrier here.]
Everyone has their own reasons for being afraid to adopt. What are some of the things that have held you back from adopting? Do any of the reasons above apply to you? Is there anything I missed? Please sound off in the comments below!
Conclusion (And One More Tip)
Before I wrap things up, there is one more piece of advice I have for getting over your fears: Read some adoption success stories. Sometimes all we need is a little inspiration to get us excited to take action, and I’ve always found that reading an inspiring story can be very helpful.
Thank you for taking the time to read this far. I know this was a lengthy post, but I think it’s really important to face your fears. I hope this post was helpful to you and will inspire you to take action.
Image credit: feverpitched / 123RF Stock Photo