Helpful Tips for Adoptive Parents

By Shay Bilchik, president and CEO, Child Welfare League of America

(ARA) -Today, nearly 1 million children in the United States call their adoptive parents “Mom” and “Dad,” and this year 120,000 more children will be added to that growing family. The decision to open your home to a child will certainly change your life in every way imaginable -- and a few ways that you probably can’t imagine. But if you’re considering adoption, know that your unique decision will put you in good company, in more ways than one.

In fact, according to the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, a majority of Americans have been personally affected by adoption: Six out of 10 people have either adopted a child themselves, placed a child for adoption, or know a family member or close friend who has done so.

Many prospective adoptive parents have heard myths about the need to hire an attorney before even considering adoption, or rumors about the thousands of dollars in legal and administrative fees. In reality, the cost to adopt a child in foster care can range from nothing at all to a very minimal expense -- for a relationship that’s often priceless.

A 2002 study conducted by Howard and Smith (Howard and Smith, in press) found that most adoptive parents believe that adoption agency personnel prepared them quite well for the challenges they faced, and they agreed that adoption has affected their family very positively. Most adoptive parents find the experience of raising their children a rewarding one that has helped them forge a close bond to their adopted children. Like most mothers and fathers, when asked about parenting, they’ll tell you the experience can be delightful and joyful, yet sometimes challenging. Of course, adoptive parents need to be realistic and open to asking for post-adoption services and supports if they anticipate potential problems.

The Child Welfare League of America offers the following tips for adoptive parents:

* Start the process by doing your homework. Learn all you can about how adoption works in your state. Seek the advice and services of the state or county child welfare agency or an established, licensed adoption organization in your community.

* Ask for all the information that can legally be provided about your child and his or her birth family; this information will be invaluable to them later in life.

* Be open and honest about everything from the very beginning. Tell your child he is adopted; tell the child what you know of his birth family. It’s much easier to tell the truth than to try to work through lack of trust later.

* The child’s desire to know his or her birth parents is natural and has nothing to do with their relationship with you. Remember a child cannot be loved by too many people -- the birth parent is not your enemy.

* Treat the adopted child the same as you would a birth child by providing the same expectations, the same nurturing and support.

* Assure the child that that you will always be there for him.

* Adolescence is difficult for most children and their parents, but can be especially troubling for some adopted families. Find other adoptive parents to spend time with, at least until your child is grown. They will be a source of strength, support and wisdom.

* Continue to attend training related to adoption issues. You may find some answers, or you may be able to help other adoptive parents with your insight and solutions.

* Spend special time with your spouse, significant other, or best friends. Give the kids and yourself a break!

* Remember to keep an open mind and heart -- your child is depending on you.

Adoption can bring all kinds of rewards, not just to the new parents, but to the extended family as well. Right now, there are hundreds of children in your community just waiting to become part of a family. For more information about adoption, visit the Child Welfare League of America’s Web site at .

CWLA is the nation's largest and oldest membership-based child welfare organization. We are committed to engaging people everywhere in promoting the well-being of children, youth and their families and protecting every child from harm.

Courtesy of ARA Content