Host: How do families know if they are ready for adoption?
Marilyn Regier: The first thing I usually suggest is to ask yourself, Am I generally joyful about entering this process or do I still feel somewhat pervasive depression which maybe residual from all the infertility that you have experienced? What does it really mean to resolve one s infertility? How much do you have to resolve it? We saw them see people reach the point of total resolution of the sadness they felt around infertility and I usually tell families that is okay. It is okay to stay in touch with that feeling of how it felt because your child down through the years will also experience some sadness and some losses and this will help you be a more empathic adoptive parent.
But the question is do you feel generally joyful now because you do not want to enter the adoption process? If you are still feeling very sad about infertility, in that case I recommend first seeing a Counselor who deals with infertility issues and can help you to process them. Secondly, the question is have you laid aside the infertility quest for now and by that I mean, are you still engaged in perhaps high-tech medical processes? Both adoption and high-tech medical processes involve a lot of emotional expenditure and some financial expenditure and it is very hard to do both at the same time.
So, I suggest that you follow one to its logical conclusion first and then put down perhaps some medical quest why you take up the adoption process? That is not to say that you may not later resume some sort of medical intervention, perhaps state of the art will change, perhaps your family s needs will change. But when you actually begin the adoption process, it is good to put aside the other for a time. Then you need to ask yourself, Do I understand the differences in biological parenting and adoptive parenting? Adoption is not a dyad, it is a triad. There are birth parents involved.
Legal processes do not sever genetic connections and they do not sever emotional ones either. So, it is important to know that you will be enhancing what your child brings, but that they will have the genetic endowment that they bring with them. There is also the question that, Have I thought too carefully the financial issues? What is my budget for adoption and do I understand what the total cost would be, what would we do immediately and what would we do later? It is very important to understand that and it is very important to work with an adoption agency that has phased payments. You should never have to put out your entire adoption budget all at once.
Then there is a question if you are married, are both spouses on the same page? A very famous adoption expert once coined the terms dragger and dragee to imply that when you begin an adoption process, usually one is more excited than the other initially and that is true. But when you actually come to start the process, it is very important that you be on the same page because it is very sad if both parents legally adopt, but only one emotionally adopts. So, you need to give your spouse space, you could only proceed as fast as the slowest person can go.
Another important question in assessing readiness is, are you comfortable telling the adoption story to your child down through the years in developmentally appropriate ways? Can you envision yourself talking about adoption with a child? I know one very famous Judge who says, she will process an adoption, she will not pass on an adoption until the family tells her in Court what is their plan for sharing the adoption story with their child down through the years. Now, most Judges do not ask that, but it is important to think about those issues. Then the question is, are you comfortable with the concept of the kinship network?
The kinship network includes birth parents even if you never meet. When you adopt, you become part of a new kinship network just as when you marry and this is true even if you are adopting through a program where the chances of meeting birth parents are very slim and strongest adoptive parents, hold their children s birth parents in love and respect and feel comfortable talking about birth parents. Then lastly, another point in assessing readiness, do you tend to think of adoption as a one time legal process or transfer or can you envision it as a life long process? The legal piece must be exquisitely done and attorneys do need to be involved in adoption, this is very important. But there are also lifelong issues and adoption is not a one time discrete event.
It is a life time of growing and developing and loving and working through adoption issues together down through the years.