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Adoption for Dummies

(Paperback - Aug 2003)
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Overview

An informative guide covering the ins and outs of the adoption process. The thousands of Americans who consider adoption each year face a host of tough questions. Should we adopt within the country or internationally? Should we adopt through an agency, foster care system, or independently? Should the adoption be open or closed? To say nothing of the anxiety of being evaluated as potential parents. Adoption For Dummies walks readers through every step of the adoption process, from deciding whether or not they are ready to adopt a child, to choosing the right form of adoption, to deciding whether to meet with birthparents. This comprehensive, compassionate guide covers money-saving techniques for dealing with adoption and legal fees, as well as time-saving tips on cutting through the red tape and speeding up the adoption process. Adoption For Dummies also deals with the difficult situation of what happens when dissolving an adoption and offers tips and advice on dealing with the first 12 weeks spent with an adopted child.

Details

  • SKU: 9780764554889
  • SKU10: 0764554883
  • Title: Adoption for Dummies
  • Series: For Dummies
  • Qty Remaining Online: 135
  • Publisher: For Dummies
  • Date Published: Aug 2003
  • Pages: 358
  • Illustrated: Yes
  • Weight lbs: 1.28
  • Dimensions: 9.18" L x 7.40" W x 0.85" H
  • Features: Table of Contents, Price on Product, Index, Illustrated
  • Themes: Theometrics | Secular; Topical | Adoption; Topical | Family;
  • Category: GENERAL INTEREST
  • Subject: Adoption & Fostering

Chapter Excerpt


Chapter One

Adoption Basics

In This Chapter

* Understanding adoption: What it is and what it isn't

* Knowing what happens when you adopt

* Getting to know the people involved in the process

* Preparing to spend time and money

* Anticipating issues you'll face as an adoptive family

* Becoming a fearless parent

Some cultures believe that children visit their parents in dreams before they are born - that the child's soul somehow recognizes its parent's soul and is drawn to it, despite the boundaries of time and space and even physical existence. Whether you accept this belief or not, it is a compelling idea, don't you think? That something other than conventional ties - genetic ties, historical ties, racial or ethnicity ties - joins people together and that this connection exists beyond time. Maybe adoption is simply what this mystery looks like after bureaucrats get hold of it.

Part of adoption is the practical stuff: the filling out of papers, the home studies and interviews, the things you cross off your list and store away in your closet as you wait. But the other part is the indefinable thing that makes adoption - having a child who is so completely yours that your heart seems to beat in time with his or hers - as mysterious and miraculous as conception and birth.

The mechanics are slightly different, true. After all, sex is optional in adoption (but then, nowadays, it is in some conceptions, too), the wait may be a few weeks or a few years, and your child may come to you in the gangly body of a preteen or the teetering one of a toddler. But in the end, your child is your child. This chapter gives you a quick tour of what adoption is, what you do when you adopt, what you need to know, and where to go to get more detailed information.

Defining Adoption

Most dictionaries define adoption, in more or fewer words, as the creation of a parent-child bond where one wouldn't exist naturally. In other words, when you adopt, you legally become the parent of a child born to someone else. That means, in the eyes of the state, you assume legal and custodial responsibility for the child, and the child has the same legal rights (inheritance and so on) as any child born to you.

Of course, the legal aspect of adoption is important because it confers rights and responsibilities where none would have existed otherwise. And this definition is technically accurate, as far as it goes. But it doesn't go far enough. When you adopt, you become more than the legal parent of a child. You become that child's mom or dad - in your heart, in your mind, in your body, and in your soul.

Conceiving and bearing children is one way to build a family. Adoption is merely another way to accomplish the same goal. In that way, adopting a child is different only in the process, not in the result.

Exploring common myths

Many people have misconceptions about adoption. And who can blame them? If you form your opinion about adoption from how it's often portrayed on sitcoms or in film or - heaven forbid - on daytime talk shows, you'd think that the whole enterprise is filled with a bunch of crazy adults, confused kids, and annoying social services personnel. The following sections cover some of the more potent presumptions about adoption. Of course, these explanations are no match for Jerry Springer, but then, what is?

Myth 1: It's a lesser relationship

Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone.

Blood is thicker than water.

Blood will tell.

He's blood.

All of these phrases speak to one thing: the presumed primacy of the connection between people who share the same bloodline. The concept that a genetic link is one of the main, if not the main, foundation of human relations leads to one of the biggest misconceptions people have about adoption: that it is, in some way, a lesser relationship because the parents didn't conceive and bear their child. Without the physical link, the thinking goes, the same deep bond can't exist between adoptive parents and their children.

Yes, adopting a child is different from bearing a child, but not in the ways you may think. True, adoptive parents don't share a genetic link with their child, but don't mistakenly assume that this is the only physical bond between parents and their kids. Tell an adoptive mother that she didn't labor for her child, for example, and she can probably rattle off reams of things she had to do, publicly and privately, to bring her child home. Or tell an adoptive father who falls asleep with his baby on his chest that he doesn't have a physical connection to that child. Or dare to suggest to the woman standing at the bus stop on the first day of kindergarten or the father who watches his daughter walk across the stage at her graduation that the tears they're holding back are less real or less genuine or in some way less heartfelt because the only thing they haven't shared with their children is DNA.

It's not genetics that creates the parent-child bond. It's love and shared experience and commitment.

Myth 2: It's a secret

Once upon a time you didn't talk about adoption. It ranked right up there with unwed mothers and extramarital affairs as a taboo topic. Not only did you not talk about it, but sometimes you didn't even share the information with the most important person involved: the child. And if you did share it, you waited until he or she was old enough to "take" the news. The reason for the secrecy? Fear of the stigma of being "illegitimate" and the whole notion of the sins of the fathers tainting the sons.

Adoption arrangements themselves often were closed - that is, the birthmother and the adoptive families were kept absolutely separate and their identities secret. Birth moms had no say in adoptive placements, and adoptive parents who wanted personal information, beyond what the agencies provided, had little or no recourse. Court records on adoptions were sealed, making it difficult even for the child to discover the identity of his birthparents.

Thankfully, things today are a lot different:

  •   The stigma of adoption is, if not dead, hopefully taking its last painful breath. First, the idea of illegitimacy - of a child somehow not being "right" because the people who conceived him weren't married - is going by the wayside. Also becoming outdated is the notion that children somehow are receptacles for their parents' sins. These changes are good because every child should be able to embrace his life story, however it began.

  •   Most adoptions in the United States are open or semi-open, meaning that birthmothers and adoptive parents can arrange to have the contact that they feel comfortable with. (To find out more about open and semi-open adoptions, head to Chapter 2; Chapter 15 covers the types of contact that can be arranged.) In addition, all adoption professionals and nearly anyone else who knows anything about it agree that children have the right to know about their adoption, and the adoption story - the story you share with your child about how she came into your family - is a great way to share that information.

  •   Many states have taken steps to help adopted children find out information about their birthparents. Some have opened all adoption records; others provide registries for people wanting to be reconnected. For details on how to conduct a search for birthparents and the type of information you can get, head to Chapter 19.

    Myth 3: It's a competition

    Adoption is both happy and sad. One family's loss is another family's gain. One woman will have empty arms, and another's will be full. Because of this paradox, many people mistakenly assume that the birthparents and the adoptive parents are, in some way, competing or at cross-purposes. Who is, after all, the "true" parent - the one who bears the child or the one who raises her?

    Before you answer, think about this: All parents - birth and adoptive - want the same thing: for their children to grow up happy, healthy, safe, and loved and for their children to fulfill the potential within themselves. The only possible answer, then, is that true parents are the ones who give that opportunity to their children. If you recognize that birthparents and adoptive parents achieve this goal together, then you understand the nature of adoption.

    Getting the language right, PAL

    The phrases that people commonly used in the past (and that less informed people still use today) to describe or define adoption have negative connotations. How would you feel, for example, if someone asked, "Why didn't your real mom want you?" The language in this question implies that 1) the mother you have isn't the one you really belong to and 2) that you weren't placed for adoption because your birthmother wasn't prepared to be a parent; you were placed for adoption because she didn't want you.

    So in comes PAL, which stands for Positive Adoption Language. This is the language you'll hear when you talk with adoption professionals, and it's the language you should use when you speak about adoption. Table 1-1 lists some phrases and terms that you should use and that you should avoid.

    Distinguishing between adoption and foster parenthood

    Many people mistakenly assume that adoption is like foster care, in that the role of the adoptive parent is to care for the child until he or she is grown or until the "real" parent can resume that responsibility. Although there are some similarities between adopting a child and fostering a child (both result in people caring for children born to others and both are arrangements based on love), the goals are different.

    In adoption, the child's legal relationship with the birthparents has been ended, either voluntarily or by court order (see Chapter 11 for details on how children become available for adoption). The adoptive parents become the child's parent in every way and permanently. The goal is the creation of the adoptive family.

    In a foster relationship, the foster parents care for a child in need while the state agency works with birthparents toward reunifying the family or, barring that, toward terminating the parents' rights. Foster parents care for the child's physical and emotional needs with the understanding that the state's goal, if all goes well, is to return the child to his or her birthparents.

    Many states require or recommend that people adopting through state agencies first become foster parents for the following reasons:

  •   The arrangement helps state agencies, many of which are in dire need of loving homes for children in the child welfare system.

  •   If you're interested in adopting an older child, as the foster parent, you may be able to adopt the child in your home if he or she does become available for an adoption.

  •   Remaining in the home they've already adjusted to, rather than being taken to another placement, is much better for the older children who become available for adoption.

  •   You may be more comfortable committing to an adoption of an older child if you've already parented that child as a foster parent.

    If you're interested in adopting from state agencies or fostering children in their care, call your local welfare office for information. Keep in mind, though, that fostering isn't a substitute for adoption. It takes a special mind-set to foster a child. You have to be able to put aside your needs as a parent so that, if the time comes, you can let that child go.

    Looking at the Adoption Process: What Happens When?

    One big question people have when they begin the adoption process is "How do things work?" - meaning, what happens when? Basically two important things happen separately:

  •   You decide you want to adopt and take the steps necessary to qualify and prepare yourself for a child.

  •   A child becomes available either because the state has terminated the birthparents' parental rights or because the birthparents have voluntarily relinquished those rights.

    In all U.S. adoptions (both domestic and international), those processes remain separate and don't converge until the end, when a child is actually placed in your home.

    Although in open and semi-open adoptions and in many attorney-facilitated adoptions (explained in Chapter 2), you may have an agreement or an understanding with a particular woman that she will place her child with you when that child is born, nothing can compel or force her to follow through. So, although you may be very involved with her and feel connected to the child she carries, her decision is her own, and you have no legal or moral say in what she decides. And she could very well decide to parent her baby herself.

    The following sections briefly outline the process you follow when you adopt, and explain what makes a child available for adoption.

    You: Working toward adoption

    Obviously the first thing you need to do when you adopt is to make the decision that adoption is a good choice for you. It isn't for everybody (head to Chapter 6 for things you should think about before you decide to pursue adoption). Some people, in their heart of hearts, don't want to or don't believe that they can truly be the parents of children born to someone else. That's okay. All people have a right to their own dreams of a family. But if this describes you, don't adopt.

    Once you decide that adoption is a good choice for your family, you need to hook up with people who can help you bring that dream to fruition. That means that you need to find an agency or an attorney to work with. Choosing an agency or attorney to help you is one of the most important decisions you make because these people have such a huge impact not only in how the process goes but in how you feel about what happens. For these reasons, you need to shop around, do research on the options available, and make an informed decision. Chapter 7 explains what you need to look for in the agencies and attorneys you're considering.

    After you find an agency or attorney to work with, you're going to find yourself very busy with the process (see Chapter 9). If you're working with an agency, you have the home study to look forward to, the assignments (like putting together a profile of your family, filling out all sorts of necessary forms, and amassing all the documentation you'll need). If you're adopting internationally, you'll also be preparing for your trip to your child's birth country. You also have the wait - the time you spend waiting for the call that your child has been born or is available and ready to come home.

    Continues.

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