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You don't have to be superhuman, superkind, superloving or perfect to be able to adopt a child - you just have to be ready. Being ready only happens when you've had time to get used to the idea - and if you are infertile, it is never too early to consider adoption. You can begin gathering information from adoption agencies even though you may not be fully committed. It is always a wise strategy to investigate alternatives in case pregnancy does not occur - after all, statistically, the overall chance of pregnancy for an infertile couple undergoing treatment is only about 50 to 70 percent after one or more years of trying.
Also, because many agencies do not accept people over a certain age as adoptive candidates, especially for infants, it is important to collect information so that you don't discover later that you are too old to fulfill a particular agency's requirements.
Can we love an adopted child as our own? Other doubts include:
- What kind of children are available for adoption? Aren't they all misfits or discards?
- Won't adopted children grow up maladjusted?
- What will our families say and do? Will they love a child we adopt?
- Won't the child go off to find its birth parents once it grows up anyway?
- Why do we have to go through so much agony to build a family? Infertility was one struggle and now adoption with its waiting list is a whole new one.
- What will society say? Will our child be accepted by friends and neighbours?
As you find yourself more ready to accept adoption as an alternative, these questions often lose their importance. Some of them disappear when you finish grieving for your biological child - the child that never was - and resolve this grief by allowing healing. Through grief, you learn to focus less on the process of obtaining children and more on the children themselves. A couple must, together and separately, come to terms with their loss - to learn to say good-bye, before they are ready to consider adoption. The other doubts disappear after you talk with adoption agencies; adoptive parents and their families; read books about adoption; and learn how adoption is accomplished. The question then is no longer "Can we do this?" but becomes " How do we do this?"
You will learn that in many ways families with adopted children are the same as any other families. You'll express love, have disputes and make compromises in your daily lives. Your child will be your child, no matter how you came to have him.
Adoptive parenting may be your second choice but it's just as good as biological parenting. It is different - don't try to compare them, one isn't better than the other. However, you will have to deal with several issues that occur only in adoptive families. Prepare yourself to discuss adoption with your child - and to truthfully deal with the myths and misconceptions that many people have about adoption. You may also find that you and your child will often be faced with questions and ignorant comments which assume that adoption is a second-best alternative for all involved.
Adoption cannot solve the problems associated with infertility - it is not a cure for the physical aspects of infertility and neither does it cure the emotional pain. But adoption will provide you with the challenges and rewards of loving and being loved by a child.
Most adoptions are closed adoption in which the biological parents and adoptive parents do not come in contact with one another. The adoptive parents have only fragmentary, if any, information on the birth parents. Furthermore, adoption agencies make every effort to keep the adoption records closed and unavailable to everyone, including the adoptive parents, the birth parents and the adopted child. Most agencies believe that the clear separation of the adoptive parents from the birth parents is necessary for the adoptive family to be "normal".
What is involved in the adoption process? Many people naively believe that adoption simply consists of walking into an agency and walking away with a baby. Of course, it's much more complex than this. It involves considerable paperwork; asking questions; solving problems; researching; spending money ; and going through emotional ups and downs. It takes time and work but remember that those who want to adopt will always succeed. These procedures have been designed for your benefit so don't be lured into taking "shortcuts" - these can hurt you in the long run. After all, adoption is not just a means of finding babies for infertile couples, but a way of finding the right family for a particular child.
Each adoption agency has different requirements so you may find that even though you are turned down at one agency, another will readily accept your application.
Most agencies suggest that:
- The age between the adoptive parents and the child be less than 40 years.
- The couple should have been married for at least five years to attest to the stability of the relationship.
- The couple should have a regular source of income.
- Neither of the partners should have a major illness which may reduce your life-span.
The professional who will be guiding you through this process is a medical social worker, who is fully qualified and trained. Find an agency where you are comfortable with the social worker assigned to you.
You should learn about the requirements for adoption; and the average waiting time for placement. You'll need to decide upon many factors including the child's age and sex - and there may be certain limitations on your choice. Costs vary widely, and you should enquire how much it will be.
Once an agency accepts your application, detailed interviews, both separately and jointly, are conducted. Agencies may ask you to supply references from relatives, employers and friends. Furthermore, an adoption worker will come to your home and evaluate your suitability as parents - the home study. At some point after the home study period, a child is identified who is or who might be available for adoption. You'll then have to decide whether or not to accept the child - it's finally your choice. If you choose to adopt, there is a supervisory period once the child arrives in your home, and this may range from a few weeks to several years. After a specified period, your child is legally adopted by an adoption decree.
When Adoption is not the answer
Infertile couples are often under tremendous pressure to adopt - friends may tire of your problem and question why you don't adopt if you want a baby so badly; and others who have already adopted may enthusiastically recommend the option to you. But you should never try to force yourself to be comfortable with adoption if the idea is disturbing - this is not a time for selflessness. There are no set guidelines to determine who should or should not adopt. Remember, adoption does not mean trying to find a baby now to take care of you in your old age; neither is it a method to try to use to keep your marriage together. Signs suggesting indecision could include denial of your disappointment about infertility; persistent fantasies about what life might have been with biological children; and the desire to keep the adoption a secret. Prospective parents may also have fears that an adoptive child may not measure up to family standards. If you have any doubts, it may be a good idea to temporarily postpone your adoption plans and discuss your anxieties before proceeding further.
Myths about Adoption
Myth: If an adoptive family really loves the child and does a good job of parenting, then an adopted child will not be curious about his or her birth parents.
Fact: Children are often curious about those who play major roles in their lives. Most, if not all, adoptive children will want to know about their biological roots.
Myth: Adopted children are better off not knowing they are adopted.
Fact: Adoptees almost always find out that they are adopted. They then discover that their family has been dishonest with them. Adopted children may build better self-esteem when they have a clearer picture of personal birth origins.
Myth: Once the process of adoption is over, it is the same as having a biological child.
Fact: There are real differences in birth and adoptive families. The adoptive child will have different questions about adoption at each stage of development.
Myth: Adoptive parents make better parents because they want a child so badly.
Fact: The degree of desire for a child does not necessarily make for better parenting.
Myth: An adoptive child belongs to his new family forever and owes them something more than ordinary offspring.
Fact: An adoptee child offers neither more nor less to his parents than a birth child.
Myth: Once a couple has decided to adopt, it is more likely they will become pregnant on their own.
Fact: It is neither more nor less likely that a couple who has adopted will achieve pregnancy.
Myth: Once adoption has taken place, the pain of infertility will cease.
Fact: The pain of infertility often lingers after the family has been established by adoption. Although happy with their adoptive families, couples may still want to pursue having a biological child. Adoption is not a cure for infertility, but it can be a cure for childlessness.
Myth: Prospective parents should adopt only after all possibilities of having a biological child have been exhausted.
Fact: Because of rapid developments in infertility management, there is no longer a clear stopping point for possible infertility therapies. It is helpful for prospective parents to look into alternative means for starting a family early in their infertility work-up - remember, taking infertility treatment and considering adoption are not mutually exclusive choices ! Just because you are taking treatment does not mean that you are not "committed to adoption"; and just because you are considering adoption does not mean that you are decreasing the chances of the infertility treatment as a result of your "negative attitude". Often, couples pursuing infertility treatment may actually begin to see how an adopted child could be a good choice for them.
Myth: It is extremely difficult to adopt.
Fact: Although the adoption process can be tedious, adoption is possible for most couples.
Myth: Since India has an overpopulation problem, with so many unwanted children, adoption is a "better" choice for the infertile couple than taking treatment.
Fact: You cannot force someone to adopt a child, and adoption is not the best solution for all infertile couples. They need to be able to make their own choice. While adoption is a reasonable solution for some infertile couples, this is a choice which they have to make for themselves.
The CARA website about adoption from India is at cara.nic.in.
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