Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What I've learned

My opinion on adoption has always been, What a wonderful way to form a family. I grew up with cousins who were adopted, there was never any "difference" in our family who was a biological member and who was adopted. It was just another way children joined the family. I was pretty young when I first got the idea to adopt, deciding that I would wait until I turned 35 and see where my life was (husband? career? home?) then. As things worked out, I filled out the application for my first adoption agency on my 35th birthday.

That first agency was a summer hosting program. I was dreadfully unprepared for the experience, and blamed myself for much of what happened. Years later, as I learned more about adoption preparation, I put some of that blame on the agency that didn't prepare me. I've done A LOT of research since then. My first bit of advice to a potential adoptive parent is to read everything you can get your hands on about raising children, attachment and bonding, and raising children who were adopted. Some of the stories will scare you to your core, but they are essential reads. I'm now of the philosophy that it's better to know just how bad things can actually be (and know that there's STILL worse out there), so that I can prepare myself and be happily surprised when things aren't quite as bad. I want to be the best parent I can be for my child, and that means having a roadmap for when things aren't picture-perfect. Remember that children who have been relinquished, abandoned, or taken away from their first families might have experienced severe trauma that can affect every aspect of their lives. I want to believe that love will save all, but now I realize that there will be some tough times on that road to salvation.

My second adoption agency, that adoption was for me. I wasn't looking to "save" a child, and I made the difficult decision to be a little selfish with the type of child I requested. My second bit of advice to potential adoptive parents is to be completely honest with yourself about what you can and cannot handle. All children come will a distinct personality, every child is completely different, and there's no such thing as a "perfect" child. If you know that you will not be prepared to parent a child with a stated special need, DO NOT let an agency try to convince you that the child will be fine when he/she is in a stable home. (For many children, special needs are correctable over time and with the proper treatment and supervision. Be 100% honest with yourself because that time may be much longer than you were led to believe, and the situation may be more stressful than you could have ever imagined.)

I chose my second adoption agency because of the director's personality. Someone recommended this agency (a person I "met" online, on a list of adoptive parents), I contacted this agency and several others, and felt that this director was the most sensitive. She was compassionate, she seemed to understand everything I was saying and was anticipating my needs and concerns. She was friendly and I really thought she was always looking out for the best interests of the potential adoptive parents and the children. "What a great job she has," I thought. "She gets to help unite children and parents!" My third bit of advice to potential adoptive parents is to get A LOT of feedback before selecting an agency. One person isn't enough, especially if it's a person who hasn't completed an adoption yet (things can go horribly wrong at ANY point during an adoption process). Join e-mail groups that are country-specific and ask about the agency, check out forums like http://www.adoption.com/ and ask about the agency, search for blogs by clients of the agency and see what people are posting. (Hint about http://www.adoption.com/ - feedback must be done in private, but you can get an idea of someone's experience by looking at the timeline of their process.) You will hear good and bad about every agency, and it may be tempting to brush off the bad experience as an isolated incident. If you're questioning the bad feedback, just ask yourself what YOU would do if you were that parent. (In my case, would you have given up the referral of a child who already fell asleep in your arms and your trusted agency promised the problem would work itself out any day? For how many days would you believe the problem would work itself out? At what point would you give up on that child? And what would you expect the agency to do when you finally said, "Enough is enough?")

My fourth bit of advice is to remember that adoption is a BUSINESS. Even the best agency, the most ethical directors, the most compassionate social workers, this is still their JOB. There are some out there who really are in this business for the "right" reasons (the children), there are some who have lost sight of the right reason, and there are some who just take advantage of the situation. In my opinion, the middle group is the worst because they truly believe they are doing the right thing and that the potential adoptive parent is completely out of line. As a potential adoptive parent, you are entitled to everything that is outlined in your contract, you are entitled to be treated with respect, you are entitled to timely communication with your service provider, and you are entitled to know the truth about the legal process you are paying for. If an agency director chides you for asking a question or for inquiring about your process, this is NOT acceptable as this is their JOB. You are a paying CLIENT, they are not doing you any favors by helping you process an adoption. Do not be intimidated by an agency director who can't be bothered to treat you with respect. If your hairdresser dyed your hair blue but you only asked for a trim, you would probably find another hairdresser, right? And you might even demand a refund, or file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, right? Why should you expect any different from the company that you've paid money to help you form your family? Surely your family is more important than your hairstyle!

My last bit of advice to potential adoptive parents is to keep your eyes open at all times. If you think the agency is lying to you, they probably are. If something doesn't sound right, it probably isn't. The Internet is a wonderful way to connect with others. Create a separate e-mail, not tied to any blog or list or anything that your agency knows about and give NO distinguishing information about yourself through this e-mail. Use it to follow up on those things that aren't quite adding up. Hopefully, you'll find out that you're just worrying too much. But if not, if you're one of the 5% of adoptions that are like mine was, you'll be happy for the anonymity. Five percent may not be a lot, but if it were YOU...

1 comment:

Dawn & Joe DeLorenzo said...

Thank you so much for sharing your opinion, your experience, and your advice Stacy! Well said :)