transracial adoption

10 Questions to Consider When Thinking About Adoption

Recently I came across a list of ten questions to ask yourself if considering adoption on How Stuff Works. I thought I would go through the questions here, tell you what I think about them, and explain how these questions played into our decision to adopt.

1. Why do I want to adopt?
I think this is a great question to ask, but also a pretty hard one to answer. For us, the decision to adopt just felt right and was something we had discussed for many years. I can’t say I ever felt a “calling” to adopt, but somehow we just knew this was the best way to grow our family.

2. Can I handle the commitments that go along with adoption and parenthood?
This wasn’t much of a consideration for us. We already had our daughter, so we knew the kind of commitments involved with childrearing. We considered the impact of a second child, of course – especially the financial impact – but overall this aspect didn’t require any extra thought than it would if we were trying to have a second biological child.

3. Can I handle not being biologically related to my child?
An interesting question and one I think is very important to be honest about. Honest with yourself, I mean. No one wants to think they might think less of an adopted child, but we all know people out there who do. Hopefully, you would figure this out early and not make it far into the adoption process.

4. What kind of adoption do I want?
This question did not apply in our situation. Adoptions through the foster care system are closed. No options.

5. What age child do I want?
This one is a biggie. We didn’t enter the process wanting a baby – and because of that we were far more likely to be connect with a child quickly. Everyone wants babies. In the foster care system especially, there are so many older children waiting for families. In our case, we wanted a child under the age of five. This would make him younger than our daughter and allow us to avoid transferring and adjusting to a new school situation.

6. Do I want a child of a certain race or culture? Do I want a special needs child?
It is absolutely ridiculous that these two questions were lumped into one, as they are so incredibly different. I’m going to answer them separately.

6a. Do I want a child of a certain race of culture?
Our answer to this was no. From the beginning we were open to transracial adoption. I realize this can be a controversial subject in the adoption world, but we knew that in our area young Caucasian children were easy to place. We were open to welcoming any child into out home.

6b. Do I want a special needs child?
My husband and I discussed this question at length and our final answer was no. We didn’t feel like we were prepared to take on the massive challenges of raising a special needs child. For this reason, we asked for a child older than 1 1/2 or 2, so many of the early issues would have already appeared. DHS doesn’t really listen to what you request though and when our worker showed us a photo of a four-month-old baby born with cocaine in his system . . . well, it was just right.

7. How will I talk about adoption with my friends and family?
It is just a fact that some people are not supportive of adoption. Some people are supportive of adoption, but just not in their family. Other people are supportive of adoption, but couldn’t imagine a child of another race. You need to be honest with yourself about this. Regardless of whether you agree with the naysayers or not, if they are a big part of your support system you need to be prepared for the fallout. Or accept that you cannot handle the fallout. Interestingly, the issue I run into most with friends and family is not a lack of support, but the tendency to raise us up on a self-sacrificing pedestal. I’m constantly fighting the image.

8. How will I talk to my child about his or her adoption?
We always intended to tell our adopted child about his past and what we know of his biological family. Once we accepted an African-American child placement, it was 100% clear that we could never hide it if we wanted too.

9. How would I feel if my child wanted to learn about his or her background?
I think I am prepared for this and, overall, I am very much against hiding their background from an adoptive child. Now, I understand this is a delicate situation. In the little man’s case, his biological mother is . . . not a good influence. I will not tell him the details I know until I feel he is ready to hear them. I do not know if the little man will ever be able to comprehend the concept of adoption, so much of this is still up in the air for us.

10. What support network do I have in place for problems that may arise?
Support, support, support. I cannot stress the importance of a good support network for a parent – any parent at all. Raising children is hard. Raising special needs children is hard. Adoption is hard.

Adoption without infertility

*Warning: This is a pretty short post, but I am about to write about a very touchy and sometimes triggering subject. I’m also going to make some sweeping generalizations that in no way apply to everyone. Don’t panic.

We have a biological daughter and an adopted son. We did not struggle with infertility. We did not decide to adopt because we felt a calling to help children in need. We wanted another child. We wanted to adopt. I wasn’t thrilled about being pregnant again. So everything fell into place and we adopted through our local foster care system. It was a transracial adoption. Our son has cerebral palsy – but despite the noble sacrifice label many want to put on us, we did not know about his disability when we added him to our family.

This isn’t usually the type of situation that dominates the adoption scene.

Sometimes I find myself on the outside of adoption conversations because they connect so closely with parents’ struggles with infertility. Sometimes I can see the pain in a mother’s eyes when she discovers that I had it so easy with my first child. [No one would verbalize this, but you can see it there.] I leave out the fact that our first child was unplanned; I don’t want to make it any worse. Other times I find myself trying to talk down an acquaintance that wants to praise me for welcoming a disabled child into my home. I’m not a saint. I’m a mother. I’m no different than any parent finding themselves in the same situation.

Does the world think I adopted for purely selfish reasons? Is that bad? I’m not sure how to answer the questions or how to find my appropriate “label” in the adoption world.

This is why labels suck. Most people just don’t fit into a neat little category – I found myself unexpectedly pregnant at the age of eighteen. I married my daughter’s father prior to her birth and we have enjoyed nearly eleven years of wedded bliss. I chose to adopt my second child simply because we wanted to. We adopted an African-American disabled boy. Where do I fit in?