My wife and I have been adoptive parents for over 20 years. We have been blessed to have had great adoption professionals on our side. From agency licensing workers, to State case managers, to Court Appointed Special Advocates to adoption attorneys, we have always been surrounded by people who genuinely care about kids and who always pointed us in the right direction. The right adoption professional can make your adoption journey a great experience. The reverse is also true. Here are four ways an adoption professional can make or break your journey.
1. Manufacturing an honest home study
A home study is a snapshot of who an applicant is and what home life is like for a family who seeks to adopt a child. It is chock full of information including a biography, references, experience with children, your current home and property, a health statement, a financial statement, and background checks.
A good home study is properly balanced between good and bad, positive and negative, strengths and needs. A home study that is too heavily colored in one direction or one that omits important information can be detrimental. For example, an applicant who was raised with a developmentally disabled relative should be counted as experience. An applicant who is bilingual is a valuable resource and should be included in the home study. An applicant who is Native American and has documentation of that ancestry is also important because it will give that applicant preference in being matched to a Native American child. A thorough, detailed, and well-written home study can make all the difference in matching a waiting family to a waiting child, which leads to the second point.
2. Making the child’s history fully known
The other side of fully disclosing the family’s history is giving full disclosure of the child’s history. There is no worse feeling for an adoptive family than feeling important information was not disclosed up front about the child. The adoption professional representing the child should fully disclose everything about that child including medical, behavioral, educational, and developmental information prior to the final placement. Full information may not be available about the birth parents, but that should be no excuse for fully disclosing important details like: How did the child become free for adoption? Have there been any previous adoptive placements and if so, why did they disrupt? If the child is over 10, what are their expectations? Adoptive families can make a more informed decision when armed with this knowledge.
3. Matching the right family for a child
Finding a good adoptive match is not like choosing the right gifts in a bridal registry. There is no such thing as finding the wrong child for a family; the correct family has just not been found yet.
The goal years and years ago, was to find a child who looked like you. That seemed sensible because the child would feel like he belonged in the family. The trend now is to find a family who can care for a child’s needs. Special needs such as autism, ADHD, Bi-Polar Disorder or Reactive Attachment Disorder are just a few of the things that adoptive parents can expect to encounter, whether adopting domestically or internationally. A good adoption professional trains and prepares their clients to meet these challenges head-on, rather than being caught off guard with behaviors such as food hoarding, head-banging, and sexualized behaviors appear.
4. Making a connection to the correct resources
Your primary care physician may not be a professional in every area of medicine, but I bet he could recommend a good chiropractor or a good Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist. In the same way, a good adoption professional may not have all the answers, but I bet he knows who does.
A good adoption professional is well-networked and well-connected to others in the child welfare community. Whether it is finding a child psychologist; finding a school that specializes in your child’s needs; finding respite providers or simply finding someone who has a spare car seat, he/she should be a treasure trove of resources! An unmotivated adoption professional says, “I don’t know” in answer to one of your questions; a motivated, experienced adoption professional says, “I don’t know that answer, but I know someone who does.”
Your adoption journey can be long and tedious. I know, because I’ve been there, adopting six kids in two different states. You need someone who knows you, who will support you, and guide you in this process. A good adoption professional can make all the difference.