12 Things To Know Before Adopting A Child

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12 Things To Know Before Adopting A Child

Adoption can be a long, complicated, and emotional ride for both potential adoptive parents and the children waiting for a stable home.

The process of adopting a child consists of emotional, financial, and legal assessment, which can be quite stressful.

However, adding to a family can be both exciting and fulfilling. It requires the same attention, commitment, and love that one expects if the child was biologically related to the family that's providing care.

RELATED: Why So Many Adoptees Are Angry

In recent months, YouTube stars Myka and James Stauffer are facing widespread criticism for adopting a two-year-old child from China with autism, then placing him back up for adoption after two years of being adopted.

According to Myka Stauffer, both she and her husband James were aware that their adopted son, Huxley, was on the autism spectrum, but "were not aware of the severity of Huxley’s needs."

However, Stauffer's own YouTube channel contradicts her previous claim made in January 2017, nine months before bringing Huxley home.

In one of her YouTube videos, she says that a U.S. physician had "almost discouraged" the Stauffers from adopting Huxley after a brain scan indicated his special needs would be severe. But Stauffer said, at the time, "My child is not returnable."

In response to criticism from YouTube followers, James Stauffer claimed that the couple had not been informed ahead of time about how severe the child’s needs were before they brought him home. He says that his wife made every effort to address Huxley’s special needs.

As you can imagine, this created outrage as well as additional concerns for adopted children who would later have to be "rehomed" and once again placed back into foster care.

Before making the decision to adopt a child, it's important for potential adoptive parents to consider these 12 things.

1. Know your reasons for adopting a child.

Deciding to adopt a child demands much thought and preparation from potential adoptive parents. You need to know and understand your reasons for wanting to adopt.

Do you want to adopt a child to love and add to your family? Or are you attempting to fulfill some desire for saving another person?

There's a significant distinction between believing you're saving a child, versus adopting a child whom you feel should be grateful for being adopted.

As parents, we make a lot of sacrifices for our children to ensure their happiness. However, just like our birthed children, they don't owe us for doing our job as a parent. Children don't owe their parents for ensuring their safety, as we took this job and responsibility freely and willingly.

2. Understand the adoption process can be a long arduous process.

The adoption process is long and stressful. Before embarking on this journey, it's critical that you receive counseling to understand what's ahead for you, your family, and the child you will adopt. 

3. Be aware that there will be both emotional highs and lows.

Adopting and bearing children is a life-long commitment that should be taken seriously. 

Unlike pregnancies that can occur unplanned, adoption affords parents the opportunity to prepare as much as possible for the arrival of a child. Seeking counseling and therapy before and during the process can be helpful. 

4. Know the potential costs of adoption.

Adopting through foster care is essentially free and often comes with subsidies. But the costs associated with other paths can be considerable.

Independent adoptions can be costly. You are responsible for aspects an agency would normally handle, such as finding a prospective birth parent through advertising and hiring an agency to conduct your home study.

5. Choose your adoption professional, carefully.

Always look into the background of the adoption professionals you decide to work with. 

6. Attend an adoption support group.

There are many support groups for adoptive parents and the adoption process in general. These groups are great for getting support from parents who are both in and have completed the adoption process.

RELATED: What Is Adopted Child Syndrome & How Do Well-Meaning Parents Unintentionally Cause It?

7. Decide how open you want the adoption to be.

Do you want your child to have information about their biological parents?

Do you want them to have a relationship with those parents?

8. Prepare for a home study.

Although it varies by state and agency, home studies generally take anywhere from three to six months to complete.

This includes several visits to your home by a caseworker, health exams, proof of income and health coverage, a criminal background check, and the names of several people close to you who can serve as references.

9. Decide which adoption path is right for you.

Do you prefer a private, international, or foster care to adoption?

There are many types of adoption, so do your research and find one that's best for you.

10. Know your personal limits when it comes to adopting.

If your first attempt doesn't go as expected, how long are you willing to endure the process?

Are you willing to keep trying until the process is successful?

11. Think about things like age and gender. 

Are you interested in only adopting a baby, an older child, a child that does not share your race, etc.?

12. Are you open to adopting a child with special needs?

Huxley’s story is a cautionary tale to anyone considering adopting a child with special needs.

Children with special needs are just like any other child — they require consistency, commitment, and unconditional love to thrive. It's not Huxley’s fault he was born with special needs.

Those needs should have been considered, understood, and fully accepted prior to his adoption. He deserves to be in an environment that's stable and all-encompassing.

His stability should not have been contingent upon whether or not the family that adopted him feels overwhelmed by his specific needs.

Although some children are placed for adoption as a result of abuse or neglect, this is not the case for all children. Some children are placed for other reasons, such as financial stressors, homelessness, teen and child pregnancies, or health and mental health issues.

There are also things to consider that are unique to children that were in the foster care system prior to adoption, like abuse, neglect, death of the parent(s), and already going through multiple placements.

Those that are interested in adoption are encouraged to do their research, have a general understanding of the process, and what to expect. Not just for your own sake, but for the sake of the children that need a stable home.

RELATED: Parenting An Adopted Child Is A Lot Easier Than You Think (If You Do These 10 Things)

Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford is a psychologist who has engaged in extensive work and research on familial relationships, family trauma, and dysfunctions. To know more, visit Family Matters Counseling Group.