Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Before you adopt...

It is tempting to watch the story of a child that needs a home and get this idealized fantasy of what adopting is like. You may call the agency to find out about "Joey" that was just featured on your local news. It might be discouraging when you find out that you can't just go down and sign the kid out of the "orphanage".

When my husband and I were going through our training and background checks, which took the better part of a year, I would get asked questions like: "aren't there all kinds of kids waiting for homes?" "why do you have to jump through so many hoops when they need a family so bad?" "what takes so long?"

The time it takes to prepare for bringing these children into your home is worth it. While going through 10 weeks of training , Kirk and I were better able to understand our choice and solidify our decision to "foster to adopt". During training we got all kinds of ideas on handling various behaviors. We met other people with the same interests. We gained a better understanding of how the "system" works and how to use it to our advantage.

The state wants to do everything they can to make sure they are placing theses children into safe homes. Sometimes families get through the cracks. We learned in class that 25% of foster homes end up being abusive homes. That is one reason why it is so important that we take the time to go through the screening and training. 

In preparation for you decision to adopt:

Step back and get a realistic view of adoption.
Be patient. You don't want to hurry this decision.
Think about it. Do research.
Decide if you want to adopt an infant, an international infant, an older child. Find out what agencies are in your area.
Talk to people you know, who have adopted.

One thing that was hard for Kirk and I is that we didn't know anyone who had adopted older children. Most people we talked to were afraid of that, thinking that children are somehow stamped and sealed by the age of 3. Sometimes television and internet stories that tell worst case scenarios, stereotype older children "in the system". The thing that finally turned our opinion was meeting someone who had adopted an older child, and going to the agency that they had gone through.

Make sure your agency has a good support system. Prepare family members for the change and see if they can help out. You do not want to be alone! Adopting older children comes with its own unique issues. Most of your friends will not understand how special these kids are. You almost have to experience it to believe it. My husband grew up with 17 different foster kids in his home as he was growing up and we were still shocked at some of the things we experienced.

Adopt for the sake of the child, not to fill a hole in your heart. Become satisfied with who you are, without children. You will set yourself up for disappointment and exasperate the child if you expect the child to fill your own personal needs.

Prepare yourself for what I call "post placement depression". When you choose to invite these children into your life, nothing will be the same. Kirk and I had been alone for 16 years and then brought a brother and sister into our lives. Our personal space and everything else was suddenly invaded. Some the idealistic ideas I had in my mind went out the window pretty quick.

It is hard work. The children will be going through their own shock and grief cycle as they adjust to your family. It took our family about 8 months of hard work before we started enjoy being a family. I had an eye twitch most of those 8 months-I laugh about that now. It was totally worth the hard work. They gradually bond. Give them time. After all, you are all strangers when you meet.

Sure these kids have unique needs, but they are just kids. They want to be wanted and loved. They want a stable family. What better thing could you do with your life than to give a child unconditional love.