Gather Information About Adoption
Begin the process by learning about adoption so you can determine if adoption is right for your family. While the process can be time consuming, it is necessary for ensuring the safety and well being of children. The steps in the process help prepare you to nurture and support the child that you bring into your family.
As you read about adoption, you will see the term “special needs” often. This phrase is used in the US to classify children who, for various reasons, may be considered more difficult to place for adoption. As a result, the government provides adoption assistance to their adoptive family. It does not mean that a child has a disability.
Often special needs include factors such as age, background, and physical, mental, or emotional challenges. Typically, children who have special needs have been separated from their birth families, live in foster care, are school-aged, and may have physical or mental disabilities. Children may also be classified as having special needs if they are part of a sibling group that is being placed for adoption together, or members of a racial or ethnic minority.
Every state or province sets its own special needs definition. Visit NACAC’s adoption assistance page to see how your state or province defines special needs. More than 80 percent of children adopted from foster care in the US meet the definition of special needs.
There are many websites with resources about adoption. Here are just a few with information to help you explore adoption:
- Adoption Today and Fostering Families Today Magazines
- Adoption Council of Canada
- Canada’s Waiting Children
- Center for Adoption Support and Education
- Child Welfare Information Gateway
- Child Welfare League of America
- Creating a Family
- The Donaldson Adoption Institute
- EMK Press
- Family Helper (Canada)
- The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption in the United States or Canada
- Jessica Kingsley Publishers
- Pact, An Adoption Alliance
- Perspectives Press
- Readers’ Guide to Adoption-Related Literature
- Tapestry Books
Read About Common Issues
Before you adopt, it’s important to learn as much as you can about some of the challenges that can be more common in children who has experience abuse, neglect, or trauma. You also need to understand the grief and loss that are a part of all adoptions.
Before deciding to adopt from foster care, prospective parents must honestly evaluate their desire and ability to successfully parent children who have experienced trauma. Many of these children are thriving, but many children and youth also have conditions caused by past trauma or prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs. These conditions can affect their physical, mental, or emotional health and can result in behavioral challenges for parents.
Our website has numerous articles on these topics as well as links to some excellent outside sources.
While You Wait
NACAC has many articles written for prospective parents with information about children in foster care, preparing to foster or adopt, and advice from other parents in the Resources section of the website.
NACAC annually hosts a conference held at different sites in the US and Canada during late July or early August. The conference has sessions designed to inspire, inform, and encourage all members of the adoption community, including adoptive parents, professionals, adopted persons, and others with personal or professional connections to adoption.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway maintains a calendar of national, regional, and state conferences related to child abuse and neglect, child welfare, and adoption.
NACAC maintains a listing of adoptive parent support groups across the US and Canada, as well as other good sources of information about adopting from foster care. We encourage you to explore the parenting section of our site.
Complete a Self-Assessment
Children don’t need perfect parents, just one or two individuals willing to meet the unique challenges of parenting and make a lifetime commitment to caring for and nurturing their children. Prospective parents do not have to be rich, married, straight, under 40, highly educated, or home owners to adopt.
What children do need in parents are:
- The ability to make a life-long commitment to a child
- Patience and perseverance
- A good sense of humor and talent for keeping life in perspective
- A love of children
- The ability to roll with unexpected changes, stresses, and challenges
- The ability to deal with rejection without taking it personally
- The ability to accept without judging
- Tolerance and understanding for your child’s conflicting feelings and your own
- An awareness that healing doesn’t come quickly, all wounds cannot be healed, and your child may not attach to your family
- The strength to be consistent and set limits
- Desire to parent even if your parenting expectations go unmet
- A willingness to learn new parenting techniques and advocate for your children’s educational and medical needs
If you have all or most of those qualities, then ask yourself these questions:
- Why do I want to adopt?
- If married or partnered: Do we work together as a team? Are we both committed to adoption?
- Does my lifestyle allow me the time necessary to meet the needs of child? Am I willing to change my lifestyle to accommodate the needs of a child?
- If currently parenting: How will adoption impact my family?
- Is my home stable and emotionally able to support a child?
Think carefully about your answers to these questions and discuss them with friends, families, and others in your support system. Your answers to these questions may lead you to:
- Pursue a different type of adoption
- Investigate foster care
- Realize that adoption really is not for you
- Find other ways to advocate for child and support those who do foster or adopt
Taking the time to make a good decision is crucial. It is a decision you, your family, and your adoptive child will live with for a lifetime.
To go through a more structured and detailed self-assessment, try out the Iowa KidsNet Foster Care and Adoption Self-Assessment Guide. The guide is a useful tool to help individuals make better-informed decisions about fostering or adopting a child.