There are plenty of myths and misconceptions surrounding the adoption process – for both the birth parents and the adoptive parents. To help separate the rumors from the realities, we checked in with Betsy Hochberg, a licensed social worker and director of adoption resources at JF&CS Boston. Here, she offers her insight on how to navigate making this life-changing decision. Read on:
What are the biggest myths or misconceptions about adoption from a birth parent’s perspective?
I think the biggest misconceptions that birth parents have is that the children they have placed for adoption will not know how much they loved them. In fact, with a more open adoption process, this is not the case. In a fully-open adoption, birth parents may be available to answer the questions their children will ask. They can explain their decision in a way the child will understand. In a less open adoption, it is possible for birth parents to write a letter to their children explaining their decision. At my agency, we have more than 150 years of adoption experience and adoption records. I often hear from adult adoptees in closed adoptions. Finding a letter written many years before from a birth parent is so meaningful.
What about from an adoptive parent’s perspective?
I think adoptive parents often worry that adoptions will be disrupted and they will lose their child. Almost every prospective adoptive parent asks me how often that happens. It is an extremely rare occurrence; I would guess maybe a fraction of 1 percent. Unfortunately, those unusual cases are the ones that often get media attention. For some people beginning the adoption journey, that is all they have heard about current adoption practices. I think the greatest assurances that a family can have will be working with a very reputable adoption agency or attorney, and being sure that birth parents have been counseled prior to making any decisions.
What news or trends should those hoping to adopt be following today?
I think some important issues to consider in adoption today are openness and also how to evaluate medical risk in domestic infant adoption. Families need to educate themselves on both of these topics, and should be comfortable with the level of openness they will have in their match. Though most babies are born without health issues, there are an increasing number of babies exposed to substances in utero. It’s important to know what the long-term effects might be.
What can adoptive parents do to prepare for the adoption process?
To prepare for the adoption process, I’d say visit agencies or adoption lawyers and ask lots of questions. Put together a list of questions and call these people if they are not near you. See how open they are to questions and how responsive they are when you call. Ask for references! I used to think people picked their agency based on fee, wait time or fit. I believe that now, most everyone has roughly the same fees and waiting times. So, fit is the big difference. Find where you feel like you fit.
What shouldn’t they do?
I guess the only thing I’d say waiting adoptive parents should not do is isolate themselves. Reach out to people you’d like to share your journey with. It may be a family member or a close friend. It will help to be able to talk with people about your adventure. Also, I always tell families NOT to create a nursery right away. Waiting is hard, and walking by an empty nursery makes it even harder.
What are the most difficult parts of the process?
The most difficult part of the process is certainly the wait. When you are in the Home Study process, you will feel like you have forward momentum and that you have some control over the process. Once the Home Study is complete, you must wait to be matched. I recommend doing the things you might not do so readily when your baby comes. Go to movies, maybe plan a vacation, or sleep late!
What can adoptive parents do to prepare for life with their adopted child?
I think it’s wonderful to find a community of other adoptive families. Some agencies offer “while you wait” groups. These groups can develop into social networks when your babies come home.
What are the best resources for parents seeking to adopt?
Some wonderful resources for families seeking to adopt will be online or print magazines like Adoptive Families magazine. They have wonderful articles you’ll want to keep for reference. Your state should have a list of licensed agencies that you can review. You can call the state agency that licenses these agencies and check on their history.
The National Adoption Information Clearinghouse has wonderful papers on a huge variety of adoption topics.
Talk, talk, talk to people who have adopted and ask for their advice.
For more information on adoption, contact us.