1. Do I really want to adopt?
When you bear or raise children, you step into the unknown. If you adopt, you take a step further. You can’t predict what baby would come from your own genetic mix, but you might recognize traits as the child grows up: “He’s got Grandpa’s ears.” With an adopted child, there’s an element of mystery: “Where did that nose come from?”
The parents who read Adoptive Families magazine say that they love watching their children’s traits and talents unfold: A family of clumsies embraces an award-winning gymnast; bookworms welcome the math genius. Before you adopt, understand that it means loving your child for who he or she really is, not as your own small replica.
“The love I feel for my son is real. Who cares if I didn’t give birth? When he looks at me with those beautiful brown eyes and says, ‘Mommy,’ that’s all I need. Like the saying goes, you didn’t grow under my heart but in it.” —Nancy
2. Can I adopt?
The practical answer is: Yes, almost any American adult can adopt a child. The real question is: When you think about adopting, what kind of child do you imagine? A baby? A toddler? A teenager? A child who looks just like you, or a child of another background?
The decisions may seem overwhelming at first, but you can make them one by one. We’ve taken this journey ourselves—and so have the hundreds of other adoptive families who tell their stories here. These experiences will help you answer what may be the most important question of all: Are you ready to adopt?
3. Will I love a child who “isn’t mine”?
Most adoptive parents secretly worry that they won’t be able to bond with a child who’s not related by blood. In our 30 years of experience at Adoptive Families, we have found that this worry disappears once the child is home. In fact, we have heard from hundreds of parents with both biological and adopted children who say they often forget which they adopted and which they birthed.
“Although I knew I would love our new baby deeply, I was secretly worried that I would love my biological son more. Now that our daughter is home, it is hard to believe I ever felt that way! I am so attached to her and love her so deeply that I don’t know how I would cope if something ever happened to her.” —Kiara
“From the minute we received our daughter, we had comments that she was meant to be with our family. Her personality, likes, and interests are, amazingly, the same as ours. I often say that she just naturally fit into our family. She was destined to be ours.” —Karen
“It feels like we four are peas in a pod, and I can’t imagine our little family garden blooming any other way.” —Dawn
4. Are adopted children more likely to be “problem” kids?
While the “troubled adoptee” is a soap-opera staple, academic study offers a different picture. The Sibling Interaction and Behavior Study, launched in 1999 by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Twin and Family Research, is the most comprehensive, authoritative study ever conducted that includes adoptees. Each round of data has shown that the vast majority of adopted children do just as well psychologically and socially as children raised in their biological families.
Believe it or not, most adoptive parents bring their children home within two years of submitting their paperwork. However, this doesn’t mean your adoption will take a year; timelines vary. (One author of this article, through a combination of special circumstances and sheer luck, completed an adoption in three months, from the first, tentative phone call to an agency to actually bringing the baby home.)
“There are so many ‘ifs’ I cannot possibly list them all. But there is one fact with no if, no uncertainty, attached: My daughter is simply, positively my daughter. As she snuggles by my side, she feels like a pure miracle—whether placed there by mere chance or by divine intervention.” —Bonnie
You can spend tens of thousands of dollars on your adoption, or you can spend next to nothing. An annual survey of more than 1,000 Adoptive Families readers shows that the average cost of an adoption is about the same as that of a mid-size car. For many, reimbursements from employers and the federal government brought the net outlay down to a few thousand dollars. Lack of money won’t stop you from adopting, though it will affect the kind of adoption, and possibly the kind of child. (Yes, we agree, that’s not fair, but it is reality.)
7. How do I avoid scams?
True adoption frauds are rare. Adoption incompetence is the real problem; there are well-meaning adoption facilitators, consultants attorneys, and agencies who want only to help, but who simply aren’t equipped to do the work.