If you’re searching for “how to adopt a baby”, you are one of 10,000 people who are looking for infant adoption this month! Here’s the basic foundation of what you need to know about infant adoption in the United States and Canada. I spent weeks researching tips for adopting babies when my husband and I found out we can’t have kids naturally. Our fertility treatments (intrauterine insemination) didn’t work, and we wanted to know if infant adoption was possible.
Are you a single woman? Read Things to Consider When You’re Single and Want a Baby. I wrote that article for a reader who was considering infant adoption, but wasn’t sure if she should wait for the “right man.”
The first thing you need to know about adopting a baby is that different states and provinces have different laws and regulations. Most US states and Canadian provinces have a variety of different ways to pursue infant adoption. For example, some adoptions are based on personal relationships, such as when a stepmother adopts her husband’s child. Other couples who want to adopt a baby use a domestic or an international adoption agency, or they go through their provincial or state’s Department of Social Services. Perhaps the most efficient and smart route to infant adoption is to hire an adoption lawyer who can help you understand the complicated legal process…but this is also the most expensive way to adopt a baby.
In the province I live in, most birth parents put their baby up for adoption through a licensed agency. Birth parents can decide how involved they’d like to be in the adoption process. They can help choose the adoptive family and stay in contact after the adoption process is complete.
In the case of infant adoption, there are two options for placement:
- Placement with an adoption agency: Birth parents place the child with an adoption agency until they find an appropriate adoptive couple, parents, or family.
- Direct placement with an adoptive family or parent: Birth parents work with an agency to place the child with someone they know – who is not a relative. The prospective adoptive parents will have a pre-placement assessment completed by the adoption agency. Both the birth parents and the adoptive parents have joint guardianship until the adoption order is granted.
In my province, Social Services does not get involved with infant adoption very often. To find out how to adopt a baby in your state or province through Social Services (which is often free or at a very low cost, compared to private adoption agencies), you need to search your government’s website. For hours.
10 Things You Need to Know About Adopting a Baby
As a couple coping with infertility, we considered adopting a baby because of male infertility issues (my husband has azoospermia, which means no sperm count. It’s hard to make a baby if you don’t have sperm!).
Feel free to comment below on your reasons for searching for information on infant adoption. I’d love to hear from you. If you’re like us – riding the infertility roller coaster – you might find it healing and strengthening to share your story. Infertility shouldn’t be a secret, and it’s not a “bad” thing…unless, of course, a couple doesn’t know how to cope with the problems that not being able to get pregnant brings.
1. The legalities of infant adoption in the States and Canada can be complex
For example, there are minimum legal considerations for adopting a baby. And, you’ll need to find the right approach to adoption (eg, government agency, private adoption, international infant adoption). Private adoption agencies can be super expensive, especially if you hire a separate adoption lawyer to give you advice and information about the legalities of infant adoption.
Adopting a baby can be stressful, expensive, and time-consuming…but it will ultimately be worth it. If you learn as much as you can about adopting children and how different families are created (eg, foster care adoptions, closed adoptions, open adoptions, overseas adoptions), the better prepared you’ll be to handle the stress and expense of infant adoption.
2. Learn what to expect when you parent your adopted baby
“The truth is that the very act of adoption is built upon loss,” writes Sherrie Eldridge in 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed ..Discover the Unique Need of Your Adopted Child and Become the Best Parent You Can.
“For the birth parents, the loss of their biological offspring, the relationship that could have been, a very part of themselves. For the adoptive parents, the loss of giving birth to a biological child, the child whose face will never mirror theirs. And for the adopted child, the loss of the birth parents, the earliest experience of belonging and acceptance. To deny adoption loss is to deny the emotional reality of everyone involved.”
3. Be prepared for mixed feelings about adopting an infant
Eldridge adds that the adoption triad – birth parents, adoptive parents, and adopted children – have unique life stories, but there are common threads of grief, joy, and anger. Also, your definition of personal and parenting success may change when you adopt babies – and success doesn’t depend on your child’s response to your parenting. Your definition of success may change dramatically after your experience as an adoptive parent.
As an adoptive parent, you’ll experience a wide variety of both positive and negative feelings – and so will your children. “If parents welcome their children’s talk about their feelings, everyone will realize that they are a normal part of adoptive family living and no one will have to suffer in silence,” writes Eldridge.
4. Learn to accept and honor your child’s feelings about being adopted
Know that your adopted child’s perception of adoption may different than yours as a parent…and accept that. Your goal as an adoptive parent is to bring out the best in your child – and that involves feeling uncomfortable at times, accepting constructive feedback from others, and realizing that having a a lot of information about infant adoption doesn’t guarantee good parenting.
When some couples who are coping with infertility decide to adopt a baby, they look at infant adoption through rose-colored glasses. They try to to make it a cheerful win/win situation for unplanned pregnancies and infertility, never giving a thought about what effect the actual adoption has on the child. Some children are perfectly happy knowing they’re adopted, while others struggle with feelings of indescribable loss and grief. When you’re adopting a baby, it’s important to be aware of all the possibilities in you and your child’s future.
5. Learn how to talk about adoption with your family and friends
Know when and how to talk about your child’s birth and adoption. Most “adoption experts” recommends talking about adoption from the very beginning. Make adoption language part of your everyday conversation.
Yes, I’m Adopted! by Sharlie Zinniger is a fantastic way to start telling your baby about his or her adoption. “Yes, adoption makes me special, it means that I am loved…”
This brightly colored children’s book illustrates how adoption is brought about by love. It’s written from a child’s point of view; the rhyming verse takes you through an adoption journey from start to finish. It is perfect for anyone – young or old – whose life has been blessed by adoption.
At the same time, remember that your baby’s date of adoption may have a different slant than your own memory of adopting him or her. “Adoptive parents often say about adoption day: ‘It was the happiest day of our lives!'” writes Eldridge in 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed. “While most [adopted children] are happy to be adopted, our own hearts tell us that adoption day was the most painful day of our lives, because the person with whom we shared deep intimacy suddenly disappeared from our world.”
6. Evaluate your emotional health
This is one of the most important tips for adoptive parents: don’t pass the pain from your inability to conceive children naturally to your adopted kids. Don’t talk about your past marriages, failed relationships, or pain from your childhood with your children. You need to find healthy ways to deal with the pain of your past so you can respond to your child’s physical, spiritual, and emotional needs.
For example, a man’s past vasectomy can create unforeseen problems in a marriage. If you’re searching for tips on how to adopt a baby because of your husband’s past, you might find How to Cope With Your Husband’s Secret Vasectomy helpful.
7. Settle the “real parent” questions
This is complicated for both adoptive parents and adopted children – but it will come up in most families. Is the birth mother more real than the adoptive mother? Are the biological kids more real than the adopted kids? There are no cut-and-dried answers here, which is why reading books for adoptive parents is so important!
8. Be confident in your abilities as an adoptive parent
There is a special place in your adopted baby’s heart for you as well as for his or her birth parents. Don’t let feelings of inadequacy or confusion undermine your parenting skills. Start early; learn now how to deal with the fact that your child will struggle with her complex identity as a baby who was adopted. Take parenting classes for couples who are adopting a baby. Connect with other parents who know what infant adoption is like. Be honest and open about your questions, struggles, and successes as the parent of an adopted baby.
“You realize you’ve never walked in another person’s shoes,” writes Eldridge. “Never have. Never will. The same is true in adoption. There are three sets of adoption shoes sitting at the end of the boardwalk. The adoptees…the birth parents’…and the adoptive parents’. Each is unique and each has a story to tell.”
9. Grieve your pain of not conceiving a child naturally
It is normal – and even healthy – to recognize any signs of depression when you can’t get pregnant. However, it isn’t healthy to ignore those signs or pretend that adopting a baby will stop the pain. Some women never “get over” the disappointment and grieve of not conceiving a baby naturally. Infant adoption is a wonderful gift and experience, but some women really want to know what it feels like to have her own baby.
So, whether you lost a baby through miscarriage or stillborn birth, placed your own infant up for adoption, or never got pregnant because of infertility, make sure you grieve your infertility before you adopt a baby. If you don’t work through your grief and loss, you may find yourself surprised to be dealing with feelings of grief and loss after the adoption.
10. Establish a strong support system for your family from the beginning
Read Reclaiming Hope: Overcoming the Challenges of Parenting Foster and Adoptive Children by Marcy Pusey to start your family off on the right foot – especially if you’re thinking about adopting a baby in the next year or so.
In this unique blend of memoir and guidebook, Marcy shares the lessons her family has learned about adoption and fostering kids, the problems that have nearly flattened them, and the successes they won. She covers the greatest challenges, as revealed through her own experience as a foster mother, adoptive mother, and professional counselor. Whether you are considering foster parenting or adopting, or are already in it and drowning, or you just want to throw a lifesaver to a foster parenting/adoptive friend or family member, then this book is your must-read resource.
Whether your support system is from your friends and family because the adoption and parenting was seamless or from a family therapist because you need a bit of help – make sure you’re not isolating yourself or your children. Reach out to support groups, online forums, or community activities that are designed for adoptive families.
Quick tips from 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed
- Discover what comforts your adopted baby.
- Strive for parent/child intimacy.
- Redeem insensitive remarks about adoption.
- Honor your child’s birth parents.
- Don’t go on guilt trips.
- Deal with perfectionism.
- Stay hopeful and faithful.
- Celebrate your family!
- Assess your stress levels.
- Know that being different is good.
This book is pure encouragement for adoptive parents! Most adoptive parents don’t know that their child has a different “heart language” than theirs. They need a translator, which author Sherrie Eldridge is.
In this book, you’ll read real-life accounts from 100 adoptive parents who understand what adopting a a baby is really like. In 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, Eldridge gave voice to the very real concerns of adopted children, whose unique perspectives offered unprecedented insight about what it’s like to be adopted. This is a different perspective to help you understand the unique needs of your adopted baby, and become the best parent you can be.
For more information about being an adoptive parent, read The Benefits and Drawbacks of Adopting a Child. Also, search the internet for “how to adopt a baby” and include your exact location in the United States or Canada. This will help you find adoption information that is specific to your area.
If you have any questions or thoughts on these tips for adoptive parents, please comment below…I can’t offer advice or help with any part of the process of adopting a baby, but you may find it helpful to share your questions. And, if you are part of an adoption agency or group for adoptive parents, please feel free to share your information below!