Assess Your Emotional and Physical Status
Adoption is best entered into after a lot of thought and research. Deciding to adopt depends on myriad questions, most of which can only be answered by you and your spouse or partner. You must first determine that you are ready and able to cope with the adoption both emotionally and physically; raising a child requires all of you.
Your self-examination should include recognition of semiconscious or subconscious emotions. If you've been trying to conceive for years or have been told that your infertility is irreversible, you need to grieve over the child that might have been, as well as any pregnancy losses you suffered. It is important to understand that grief can be a complex combination of anger, sadness, and fear. Many people find it necessary to receive professional help in their grieving process to fully resolve their feelings and be emotionally available for an adopted child. Your newly adopted child will need to have his own special place in your heart and shouldn't be seen as a substitute.
Children deserve to be brought into a strong, successful marriage or a stable single-parent home. If your home life is currently in conflict or if you feel insecure about the future, now is not the best time to consider adoption. Certainly don't think of a new child as a way to fix a problem in your marriage.
Be sure that you and your spouse are in agreement about the adoption. A main reason for failed or dysfunctional adoptions is a lack of agreement between the parents. You must present a united front and be prepared to begin this journey together, ready to enjoy whatever it brings you and willing to address difficulties proactively.
If you already have a biological child and want to add to your family through adoption, be sure that you understand that your new child cannot be viewed solely as a companion and playmate for your current child. Don't let your current child's desire for a sibling be the main reason for adopting. Take into consideration the impact a new child will have on everybody in the family.
Be sure your immediate family is 100 percent in favor of adopting, because even one dissenter can sabotage the relationship. For example, the Nelson family had three children, a four-year-old boy, an eight-year-old girl, and a thirteen-year-old boy, when they decided to adopt their fourteen-year-old niece, Melinda, whose parents had lost their rights. Although Melinda had lived with them for most of two years, Sam, the thirteen year old, didn't like his cousin; he resented her taking over the eldest spot in the family, among other things. After the adoption, serious problems erupted and Melinda eventually went into foster care. Family and individual counseling, before making the adoption commitment, might have resolved issues and saved the family the tragedy of a failed adoption.
Adoption is a relationship that can create strong emotional intensity. It can be even more complex than marriage because one of the parties is a dependent child who often feels powerless and vulnerable. Being sensitive to the wide range of possible emotions that all family members may experience in the adoption process is essential. Remember that adoption is forever and should be entered into not only with optimism, but with a strong commitment to addressing the needs of all family members.
If you, your spouse, or one of your children is dealing with a serious illness, chronic condition, or other physical limitation, you need to consider how able you are to care for a new child. Parenting is a very physical job — lifting and carrying are integral parts in the first few years. People with physical limitations can most definitely be successful adoptive parents, but it is always best to consider how a new child will affect you and your family.
Your career, residence, and obligations to your family are important factors when you are considering adoption. The emotional age of your adopted child will dictate just how much time you can spend away from home, as will the availability of reliable child care. If you adopt a child with attachment disturbance, behavioral problems, or disabilities, your career (or your partner's) may have to take second place. Some children who have lost or never had safe, caring families may need time, sometimes years, to attach to their adoptive parents. You can't solve behavioral problems when you are away from your child, and a child with a physical disability needs involved, consistent care.
If you have obligations to extended family, those obligations can impact whether a particular child will mesh well with your family. For example, an aged parent who lives with you may divert too much energy for you to be able to give an infant or special-needs child sufficient attention. In the same situation, however, an older child or teen may become a support and comfort to her grandparent and you, freeing you up to be able to meet everyone's needs. However, due to early childhood stressors, an older adopted child may not be able to meet the typical expectations of responsibility or empathic understanding that parents would normally have of a child of that age.