How and When to Share Your Adoption News

Who should you tell that you've decided to adopt, and when? Use these tips as your guide.

Sharing Your Adoption News with Family and Friends

When should I tell friends and family?

Our adoptive families recommend that you share your plans in stages. While adoptions take, on average, one year from the date your home study is accepted, you won’t be in control of the timing. And if yours drags on, the last thing you want is daily phone calls asking, “So … any news?”

When you are preparing your home study, tell your closest relatives and friends (who may be writing your letters of reference). When your home study has been approved, tell extended family and key coworkers. Put off making your news public until you accept a referral or a match with an expectant mother.

When do I tell my other children?

If you already have children—biological or adopted—you’ll need to think carefully about when and how to tell them about their new siblings.

  1. Resist the temptation to ask your child if they want a new sibling. Even if the answer is an enthusiastic “yes,” children shouldn’t bear this kind of responsibility.
  2. Tell the child as soon as you start your home study, if not before. Children can sense when something is being withheld. If you are worried that your home study will be declined (it almost never happens), then just tell the child that the social worker is there to help you make the decision about adoption.
  3. If you are doing a private infant adoption, prepare your child for the possibility that the birth mother will change her plan. If your first child came from a similar adoption, be very clear that, once an adoption is finalized, it is forever.
  4. Involve your child in the adoption planning. He or she can help announce the news to friends and family, and can choose equipment, toys, and clothes.
  5. Reassure your child about his or her own security. Children understand that adoption involves loss. For some, the new adoption may make them worry about what happens if you die or become ill. You should explain why and how you are different from the new child’s birth family (better health, more resources, greater maturity). Depending on the child’s age, you might also explain your plans for guardianship, in the unlikely event something does happen to you.
  6. Help your child prepare for questions and remarks he’s bound to hear about his new sibling, such as “Where’s her real mother?” Let your child know that he needn’t answer every query. Decide in advance what information should be public and what should be shared only with close family and friends, and talk to your child about privacy issues. In addition, think ahead about what to share with your older child about your new family member’s history. There may be details that shouldn’t be shared with anyone, even older siblings.

When do I tell my employer?

Our families recommend that, before you tell your boss or coworkers, you research your benefits. Is your company big enough to be covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act? If it is, you are entitled to the same unpaid leave given to your colleagues who give birth, and to get your job—or an equivalent one—back when you return to work. How much leave is offered? Is your employer one of the rare (and blessed) companies that offers paid adoption leave? Can you get adoption fees reimbursed? Keep an eye out for executives or human-resources staff who are themselves adoptive parents; they will likely be your best source of information. Once you’ve done your research, and your home study has been approved, tell your supervisor and your colleagues.

It’s important to understand the difference between disability leave and family leave. Women who give birth get paid short-term disability leave for 6-12 weeks. All new parents—adoptive, biological, fathers, mothers—are entitled to unpaid family leave if the company qualifies.

How should I tell them?

Bear in mind that some of the people who will hear your news won’t have any personal connection to adoption. Use your announcement to educate them. Provide as much general information as you can, making it clear that you have thought long and hard about this step.

How do I deal with hurtful comments and intrusive questions?

Every adoptive parent will tell you that, after they announced their adoption plans, two things happened: First, friends and colleagues came up to say, “You know, I adopted, too,” or “I’m adopted too.” Second, someone made a silly—or plain rude—remark. Welcome to parenthood. This is a chance to practice a skill you’ll need for the rest of your life: defending your child from inappropriate comments. Resist the temptation to respond by explaining too much. Our families say it’s good to share general information that will help others understand adoption, but your child’s own story is his or hers to tell. Keep information about birth family and the reasons your child was available for adoption to yourself. If your child chooses to share them later, that is his or her choice.

What do I do next?

Announce! Start telling family and friends about your plans.

Plan. Find a “regular” pediatrician close to home. If you have any reason to believe your child may have medical or psychological issues, line up support now. If you’re adopting a school-age child, contact your local school system.



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