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                                                                                                                  Alan Saunders | LCSW  
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To Adopt or not to Adopt?

By Alan Saunders

Many of us in the United States consider at some point in our lives whether or not we would like to adopt a child or children.  There are many questions and scores of concerns about adopting.  Some of the concerns people acquire may be developed out of ignorance.  Now don’t get too nervous or get too defensive, I’m not saying that ignorance is stupidity or a lack of intelligence, ignorance is just a lack of know how!  No one is born with the knowledge of how to drive a car, we are taught that skill.  No one is born with the knowledge of how to have a successful marriage and frequently we are not taught that! Likewise, no one is born with the knowledge of how to prepare for and carry out a successful adoption.  It’s just a lack of know how.  Though some people seem to be just natural adopters – some may think that a certain person or type of person just has the adoption gene in them.  Rather, it is an acquired skill.  Successfully adopting is accomplished by developing the know how and finding out from those who do know how.  If it really is an acquired skill, it is a skill you can develop with a little more know how.

The purpose of this article is to identify some common fears or concerns that perspective adoptive families or couples may have and address how to answer those concerns.  This will aid families in better understanding adoption and more fully assist them in making a  more informed decision to be able to answer the question – to adopt or not to adopt?

With so many potential concerns, unanswered questions or even fears about adoption it can cause a person, couple or family to just give up and not pursue a course in adoption.  However, many of the fears and concerns about adoption can be corrected or eliminated with the proper know how.

A lack of answers can turn from confusion into personal fears or worries that may even cause a family to forever abandon the idea of adopting.  Listen, adoption is not for the weak and the weary but it may be just right for you! Remember, it is an acquired skill.  Here are five typical questions that people considering adoption have frequent trepidation regarding. 

Will I bond with an adopted child? Besides, they’re not really mine.

Question number one; will I bond with an adopted child? Besides, they’re not really mine is a typical and crucial question that merits an answer.  Having participated in almost 500 post placement visits, I have seen the miracle of adoption touch hundreds of families.  “Their” baby is the best one, the cutest one, the most adorable one.  During a post adoptive placement interview, often people will say something like, “Really, even if I was unbiased, if this was not my baby I would think s/he is the cutest baby I’ve ever seen!” I also hear frequently: “This baby is so much better than our biological child(ren).”  And “s/he even looks like our family don’t you think?”  Ask yourself for just a moment, do these statements sound like a lack of bonding to you?  Bonding is a natural thing that takes place between two people that have a desire for it and a desire to love and be loved.  Often the placement of a child represents the culmination of so many steps and such a roller coaster of emotion and difficulty for the adoptive couple that they become instantly bonded to the child.  In part, this is because of their hopes and dreams about receiving a child.  This is particularly the case when the baby is a couple’s first child.  Lack of bonding is rarely an issue in adoption and I’ve never had a couple give a baby back!  As to the issue of “this child’s not really mine.”  This child really is yours, the law says so and God says so because He intended it this way.  I have seen His hand in so many adoptions that it becomes obvious that He is involved. The more I’m involved in adoption, the more I strengthen my conviction that children are supposed to go to certain homes.

What about the legal issues, if she changes her mind, can she come back and get the child?

Question two; what about the legal issues, if she changes her mind, can she come back and get the child is also a common question which almost always leads to fear.  This stems in part from a tremendous fear of the “what if?”  What if I bond with the child, s/he is a part of our family and the birth mother decides she wants the baby back.  Though different states vary in their laws, Utah is a very adoption friendly state.  In Utah, when birth parent(s) decide to relinquish their rights, upon fixing their signature on the document, the relinquishment becomes permanent and irrevocable.  Birth fathers can relinquish their rights at any time during the pregnancy and birth mothers can relinquish their rights at any time after 24 hours following delivery.  This law has been challenged several times and judges always consider the best interest of the child.  Rarely is a child placed back in the birth parent’s care.

What is that six month waiting period for anyway?

The answer to question number three catches some by surprise.  What is that six month waiting period for anyway?  Some people have developed the erroneous belief that the six month period from placement of a child in their home to court finalization is a time when the birth parent(s) can change their mind and come and get the baby.  This is false.  Though many steps are taken to ensure that the adoptive family is fit and proper to meet the needs of a child, the purpose of the six month waiting period is to ensure the family’s fitness to care for the child permanently.  During this period one to three post adoptive placement visits are completed by a licensed social worker to determine the child’s progress, health and development.  This wonderful time of bonding with parents passes rapidly and the court date comes quickly for families.  The court date is a highlight in the adoption because of the permanency of the court findings.  A child would only be removed from a home if there was evidence of abuse or neglect.  In such an unusual case, the child would not be returned to birth parents since the relinquishment is permanent. The child would be placed in another home.  As one might imagine, this only happens in extreme cases and is very rare.

Am I good enough to adopt?

Question four am I good enough to adopt comes sometimes out of fear of not passing the home study – maybe there has been a divorce or maybe the family thinks that a professional person will come in to their home and judge them, and that thought can be very scary.  It may be news to you to find out that when the home visit is done, the worker is not there to find all of the reasons to deny you, but rather, all of the reasons that a child should be placed in your home.  There are many children out there and we are looking for good, nurturing and loving families to place children with.  If there is a concern or problem discovered in the process of completing the home study, you will have the opportunity to correct it. There are no secrets here. Of course you are good enough to adopt and if there are changes you need to make about your home or family you will make them!

What if I adopt a child of a different race than my own?

Question five, What if I adopt a child of a different race than my own is a common question in particular if a family is considering a mixed race child or when the family is of a different race than a child they are contemplating adopting.  The answer to this is not so easy because it tears at ones very identity and values.  To make this decision, you must search your own heart and mind to consider what you really believe and be honest with yourself. To thine own self be true said William Shakespeare. You must also consider how your family will respond.  Generally, you will be placed quicker if you are open to a child of any race. But this is not reason enough.  Do not adopt a child of a different race than your own if you have problems with this.

Since so many of consider adopting, these questions and many other concerns about adopting should not turn into fears.  Rather, recognize that you might just need to develop more know how and find out from those who do know the information you need.  Perspective adoptive families do not fear!  There are professionals available to help you through the process and they will help to alleviate your concerns.  This can dramatically help you along the path of your adoption journey.  To adopt or not to adopt? That certainly is the question but there are answers too!

Alan Saunders, Ph.D., LCSW

Alan Saunders is an adoption advocate, father of four, licensed and registered in Utah as an Adoption Professional.

Copyright 2008 ©, Alan Saunders. No portion of this article may be reproduced in part or in whole without express written consent from the author.

See more articles:

Adoption, A Paramount Decision
Is an Adoption Home Study the Best First Step in Your Adoption Process?
To Adopt or not to Adopt?


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