Thinking About Adoption? 3 Things To Consider
1. What are the most common legal obstacles to the adoption process?
Birth parents and consent
Seeking to adopt a baby can potentially present complications for adoptive parents. Sometimes a birth parent will change their mind and challenge an adoption. Most states allow for birth mothers to revoke or withdraw their consent to give up their children for adoption. The laws around consent can pose an obstacle, however, a birth parent who has been proven to have deserted their child has no legal right to give or revoke consent.
What does the federal law have to say about a difference in ethnicity between parents and their prospective adopted child?
The Multi-Ethnic Protection Act (MEPA) of 1994 states that no adoption agencies that receive federal funds can deny or delay an adoption match based on race or ethnicity. As long as you’re working with a reputable agency and knowledgeable lawyers, you shouldn’t have to worry. If you do experience issues of discrimination in your adoption process, you should speak with an attorney to figure out what steps you can take.
2. How can you emotionally prepare for adoption?
Adopting parents also have to consider how newly-adopted children will react to their new situation. According to an eye-opening article in the Huffington Post, adoptees want their adoptive parents to be emotionally prepared before bringing them home to a family: “Adoption is not a substitute for having a biological child, nor is it a way of “replacing” a child who dies.” Adoptive parents should be ready for the reality of their new family, rather than their own expectations.
Adoption is hard. Like everyone else, adoptees strive to find connection and acceptance.
Like any child, adopted children need the encouragement and support of their parents, as well as consideration for their unique circumstances. Adoptees might want to spend time with other adopted children, or, for children born outside of the U.S, time with kids from their birth country. Parents should not only understand that impulse but support their child in seeking to understand themselves and their place in the world.
Another search for connection common among adoptees is a search for their biological family.
Many adoptees deny their desire to search for their biological family, due to a fear that their adoptive parents will feel rejected. Take the extra step to remind them that you are emotionally prepared for their search and put their fears to rest. Adoptees may or may not want you to assist in the search—no matter what, this is an opportunity for open communication.
While adopted children face a number of unique challenges, they don’t add up to an argument against adoption. If anything, it’s a roadmap for adoptive parents to be informed and prepared to give their adopted children exactly what they need.
Early disclosure is important. Timing is sensitive.
While it’s important to have a conversation with your child about being adopted, experts disagree on the optimal timing—some experts suggest that the ideal time is between the ages of six and eight. Others, including adoption workers, advise parents to introduce the word “adoption” as early as possible and have the disclosure conversation between the ages of two and four.
The disagreement partly hinges on whether a child under the age of six years old can understand the meaning of adoption and cognitively process the loss of being raised outside of their original birth family. If your adopted child is of a different race or has very different physical features, then you need to be emotionally prepared for this conversation before your child is jarred by insensitive comments by classmates or outsiders.
Most experts agree, however, that adolescence is too late for disclosure and can devastate a child’s self-esteem.
3. Which type of adoption is right for me and my family?
Open adoption allows the birth family to have visitation rights with the child and the adoptive family. An open adoption requires that both the adoptive and birth parents sign an agreement that is approved by the court. Open adoption procedures vary from state to state and require careful consideration by all parties. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of open adoption, outline and communicate concerns early in the process.
The closed adoption process stops all interaction of any kind between birth and prospective adoptive families. No identifying information is provided either to the birth or adoptive families.
There are multiple potential advantages of a closed adoption. For birth parents, there may be a sense of closure; for the adoptive family, a closed adoption eliminates the potential complications that can arise from birth parent interference, particularly if birth parents or family members are less emotionally stable.
A semi-open adoption allows the birth family to have non-identifying interaction with the adoptive family through a third party, generally the adoption agency or lawyer. In most cases, interaction is limited to letters or cards.
If you’re looking for an option that places limits on both communication and information with the birth family, semi-open adoption is the option because all communication is funneled through the adoption professional.
A downside is that if questions arise, there can be a delay in getting answers as a result of third-party processing. Another potential disadvantage is that your adopted child may develop the perception that it is unsafe or wrong to interact with the birth family, due to the limitations placed on communication. In some cases, your child might have a slightly increased tendency to become preoccupied with adoption issues.
With a private adoption, parents looking to adopt a child work with an agency that pairs them with a biological parent or parents looking to place their child up for adoption. Because it takes place outside of state social services, private adoption can be both quicker and more expensive than foster care adoption. However, there is the risk that the child’s birth parent(s) change their minds and pull out of the adoption process
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