The most important thing you will do in preparing for the complicated adoption process is to gather and research the most current information available.
Part 3 of: Adoption is Extremely Complicated. Don’t do it (without doing your homework)!
My last two articles on the complicated adoption process have been things to do before you choose and adoption agency and information about choosing the right adoption agency. This article will be about the fun part of adoption preparation (that is, if you look at it in the right light).
For me, the fun aspects of the complicated adoption process were the parts where we directly prepared for our children. Of course every parent loves preparing beds and bedrooms for their new addition. Fresh coats of paint, new comforters and pillows, artwork on the wall and anything that creates an atmosphere of calmness and safety make us feel like we are actually doing something while the process drags on. Additionally, it makes us believe we are accomplishing something that will help our child and to make her feel welcome; and so we are. You don’t need help understanding these preparations; your heart will lead you. Just don’t let it lead you beyond your budget! When spending money on renovations and “things,” is the only thing you can do that shows progress in your adoption, it’s easy to get carried away.
I was very fortunate during this aspect of our waiting in that I stumbled upon some web sites and blogs that were very much against adoption. Most were written by birth mothers (who I like to call first mothers) and adults who had been adopted and had come to disagree with adoption in almost all (or sometimes, completely all) cases. At first I was enraged with the negative rhetoric toward adoptive parents and adoption. The complicated adoption process was difficult enough without a bunch of naysayers making things worse.
I learned many things about the complicated adoption process from those who are either against adoption or who are at least very outspoken when it comes to the need for adoption reform.
I’m a pretty practical person, though. And the likelihood of one person being correct increases proportionally with the efforts others are applying in attempting to prove them wrong. I decided that I needed to research what made these people so angry if I was to help the children that I would adopt to have happy lives. The first thing I learned was that the Golden Rule applied. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I realized things that should have been obvious, but I also learned other things about the complicated adoption process from those who are either against adoption or who are at least very outspoken when it comes to the need for adoption reform.
You would not have wanted adoption agencies or potential adoptive parents pressuring your birth mother to “give you up” during one of the most vulnerable times in her life. If you play a part in such a complicated adoption (even if you just provide the financial incentive) your adopted child may never forgive you. And if you think a vulnerable and manipulated birth mother will stay quiet forever, you need to follow Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy. I would add that adoption is very complex and that there are no simple solutions that fix the pain when a child learns that her birth mother didn’t keep her. While I am neither for nor against open adoption as an institution (I believe that there are times and places for open and closed adoptions), there is plenty of evidence that it is not a Holy Grail. Kat Stanley was raised in what we would call an open adoption long before anyone called them “open adoptions.” She is very clear about the openness of her adoption being no better for her than had it been closed. That is in no way to indicate that she is a proponent of closed adoptions. She’s not.
Truthful information is the one consistency that seems to come as a desire by the time that people who have been adopted become adults. Unfortunately, the complicated adoption process makes it all too easy to conceal the truth with whitewashed stories a loving birth mother who loved her child enough to give him up for a “better life” with no reservations. A story like that will not satisfy your child forever. Even if the first mother was completely committed to placing the child for adoption, and remains committed to her decision, the child will almost assuredly arrive at a day when he wants to hear it from her own lips and have a chance to reconcile feelings.
If you are preparing to navigate the complicated adoption process, gather as much information as you possibly can. My children from Russia came with birth certificates that contain false information (just as birth certificates for adoptees from the United States). Those certificates show my wife, Amy, and me as the actual birth parents of these children in parts of Russia that we would not have even been allowed to enter at the time they were born. We didn’t use Soviet Styled bureaucracy or the complicated adoption process as an excuse to withhold information from our children. We know the names, birth places and situations of their first parents. We have pictures of the places our children came from. We know the culture that they lived in their first country and we share that information when the time is right.
I am not convinced that there is ever a time to hide the fact that a child was adopted. Our children have grown up looking at pictures and hearing stories of their adoptions since their first moments in our family. We never had to have “The Talk” that crushes a child (or for that matter, adult) when they are slammed with new knowledge that they were adopted. However, the full story was not provided in the beginning.
The complicated adoption process is not the only complexity that should cause us to always proceed with caution and planning.
My youngest son found himself in a Russian orphanage when he was about a year old because both of his parents had chosen to end their own lives. We didn’t know how or when to share that information with him but his therapist gave excellent advice. He told us to never force information on our son, but to always truthfully answer his questions. My son wasn’t very old at all when he learned that both of his first parents were dead. He was ten when he was finally ready to learn how they died. In fact, the last several years, when he was in inquisitive moods and would mention the death of those parents, I would even tell him that I knew how they died. Then I would offer to tell him if he ever wanted to know. For years he simply said, “OK, but I don’t want to know.” The complicated adoption process is not the only complexity that should cause us to always proceed with caution and planning.
Gathering as much information as we could during the complicated adoption process proved to be something that significantly contributed to helping our children to cope and to trust us as parents. Giving that information to them truthfully and unvarnished (though without unnecessary graphic detail) turned out to be the best advice our son’s therapist could have given us. It turns out that our children’s imaginations are often far worse than the truth, anyway.
While you are preparing during the complicated adoption process, remember that you are preparing for your child, not so much for you. Furthermore, this time is the best, easiest and most efficient for gathering as much information as possible. Make sure you have everything you can possibly get so that you will have it when the questions come. After all… that is exactly what you would expect if you were in your adopted child’s shoes.
Often, readers receive as much help from other readers in the comments section as they do from the blog article, itself. Please be generous with your thoughts and experiences in the comments section. There are lots of people who need what you have to share. This is your chance to help them.
Read more articles by John M. Simmons about Adoption
Return to John M. Simmons’ blog
Register to ensure you don’t miss anything. Click here to sign up for notifications. This is all you need to be qualified for occasional giveaways like the Kindle Fire that Kristy Goulart won in July!