November is National Adoption Awareness Month. For those who are considering adoption and are at the onset of the process, it’s important to know there’s no one universal size that fits all. There’s not necessarily a right way to navigate the journey, but avoiding these mistakes and stumbling blocks can definitely circumvent some frustration and heartache.
MISTAKE: Not doing your homework
There are many options and variables including cost, how long the process will take, the kind of paperwork required, a child’s or birth mother’s medical condition, etc., says Lori Barkus a family law attorney in South Florida. And not researching these important issues can lead to heartbreak if you don’t have the funding to complete the process or are unable to complete the process due to a lack of information. “In the middle of our second adoption, we hit a snag because my husband’s company was transferring him to Canada for a year,” says Beth Lowe, a Chicago-area mom of two adopted children. Leaving the country for a year triggered all sorts of problems we never anticipated and delayed us having our second child by almost 18 months.”
MISTAKE: Forgetting who your reader is
When completing your adoption profile, don’t forget to take your reader into account. While a profile is meant to be autobiographical, it is also a marketing tool with the purpose of attracting prospective birth parents to “buy” you as their biological child’s new mom and dad.
When writing your profile, make sure your words directly address the birth parents’ needs. Instead of filling pages with details of your wedding and the names of all your godchildren or friends’ kids who are like your own, tell birthparents what they really want to hear. Share concrete details about the level of contact you’re hoping to have with them (whether that’s a lot or none at all) and how you plan to do it. Explain what you’ll tell the child about them and how you plan to do it (would you like photos to show the child when he’s older, etc.).
It’s also important to not focus on your problems. Many turn to adoption as a result of infertility issues. And while that’s OK, it shouldn’t be the focal point of your letter or profile. A prospective birth mother doesn’t want to read that her baby “will make your life complete” or “be a gift” because she’s wrestling with her own emotions regarding her child.
And don’t try to make yourself sound perfect.
Many going through the adoption process think the only path to parenthood is one where they’re perfect people with the potential to be perfect parents. So their profiles wind up reading like fairy tales or as though a high-priced PR firm polished them. Instead, make your letter as individual as you are. And remember, birth parents aren’t perfect, and no one is expecting you to be, either. While casting yourself in a positive light, be careful not to overdo. Consider asking a trusted friend or loved one to read over the profile to offer an honest critique and assess if it sounds too saccharine sweet or just sweet enough.
MISTAKE: Being gender-specific
Not being open to a child of either gender can slow down the process, says Julie Snyder, communications manager of The World Association for Children and Parents, a non-profit adoption organization in Washington state that has placed more than 10,000 children into adoptive families across the United States since 1976. “There are generally many more boys available for adoption.” But hopeful parents who request a girl could wait longer or be shut out of parenting altogether if they don’t consider both genders.
MISTAKE: Being adverse to age
Snyder says those unwilling to consider a child older than age 2 might want to reconsider. Often, being open to kids older than newborns and infants can open the door to parenthood faster than waiting for a child that’s only a day or two old.
MISTAKE: Not seeking professional advice
No matter how desperate you may be to bring a child into your life, never try to arrange an adoption on your own. Seek out the help of an attorney, adoption agency or someone who is licensed to handle adoptions.
A lawyer familiar with the adoption laws of your individual state can help mitigate some of the most common mistakes that are made when adopting a child. He or she can assist you by finding the best licensed agencies to work with to further help facilitate the adoption process.
Barkus says it is important to know your state laws to avoid the need to wage a costly legal battle at a future time due to a mistake in properly obtaining consent of the birth mother. “The manner in which parents can relinquish their parental rights depends on the law of each state.” And there are time periods by which consent can be obtained by the parents, as well as specific manners in how consent must be legally obtained. For instance in many states, birth mothers cannot consent until after the baby is born. It would be a huge mistake to obtain the consent of the birth mother and later determine that such consent was unlawful.
And should you or your child want or need to contact the birth mother, a lawyer can also help. Barkus says an adoption attorney can advise you as to which states do not allow people to conduct their own search for birth mothers.
MISTAKE: Falling for scams
Many people seeking to adopt are emotional and those perpetuating scams know this and can take advantage of your desire to be a parent. Never give money to someone upfront, and always have a qualified adoption professional handle financial transactions, cautions Barkus.
Are you an adoptive parent? What advice do you have to offer? Share it with our readers in the comments section below.