If your parents are adopting a new child, my hope is that they have kept you involved throughout the process. However, even if you have a lot of information about the adoption process, you can still have emotions and feelings about the process that can cause it to be quite intimidating or scary. It is normal to feel nervous about the process or prospect of bringing a new sibling into your home. There are a lot of unknowns and many things that you will want to find out before the new child comes home. There may even be questions that you have but are afraid to ask. Know that it is completely normal to feel some hesitation or trepidation in regards to your parents adopting a new child. You may feel excitement as well throughout this time. Take some time to ask your parents questions. The adoption professional that your parents are using would likely also be open to answering any questions that you may have.
While you are thinking of some questions you might want to ask your parents or any adoption professional, let me lead you through some of the general information that can be provided about adoption and what that entails. The biggest thing to know about adoption is that there is no set timeline typically. Depending on what type of adoption your parents are pursuing, the whole process can take a couple of months to a couple of years. If your parents are adopting from foster care, the process can move quite differently than if your parents are adopting a baby through private adoption. If your parents are adopting internationally, it may involve some travel which you may or may not be involved in. If your parents are adopting a baby, there may be some issues that arise where birth parents change their minds about adoption in what’s called a “failed match.” It is important to explore all of the what-ifs to help you understand a bit more if these come up in the adoption process.
The adoption process will vary based on what type of adoption your parents are pursuing. However, most adoption processes begin generally the same. Your parents will decide what type of adoption they would like to pursue and then would hire adoption professionals to help them through the process. If your parents are adopting internationally, they will likely sign on with an adoption agency that handles international adoption. If your parents decide to adopt domestically, they will likely deal with an adoption agency, an adoption attorney, or both. If your parents are adopting from foster care, your parents will likely just work with a foster care placing agency, and that agency will help to facilitate a match and also the placement of the child.
Once your parents have chosen which type of adoption they will pursue, they will undergo a series of interviews and paperwork called a home study. This home study will allow the adoption agency or adoption professional to make sure that your home is fit for the placement of a child. Your parents and anyone in the home over the age of 18 will undergo a federal FBI background check. A social worker will come to your home and interview anyone who lives within the home. Do not be intimidated by this as the social worker wants to place a child in a safe home. The point is to make sure that you are all informed about adoption and on the same page. The questions they ask you will not hard, but rather just in general about your feelings about adoption and having a new sibling. Most are social workers who are very friendly and just want to make sure that you have all of your questions answered. This is a great time to ask any questions you might have that have not already been answered by your parents.
After the home study has been completed, the process may vary based on what type of adoption your parents are pursuing. If your parents are pursuing domestic infant adoption and have not yet been matched with a child, they may begin the process of waiting to be matched. “Being matched” usually means that an expectant mother has chosen your family as the family with whom she would like to place her child. This may also mean that a child has become available through a closed adoption situation where a mother has already given birth.
Once your family has matched with a child, the speed in which the process will move will depend on how far along the expectant mother is or if she has already given birth. In domestic infant adoption, a child is typically placed with her adoptive family shortly after birth. This is when the situation of a “failed match” typically occurs if it is going to. A birth mother may change her mind about her choice to place her child for adoption after the child is born and before her parental rights are terminated. While this can be a crushing experience for a prospective adoptive family, it is important to understand and try to accept this possibility. Feelings and circumstances can change once a child has been born, and birth parents have the right to express their change of heart.
In international adoption, your family will also wait to be matched with a child. However, this type of match is usually facilitated by the adoption agency rather than expectant parents. Many of the children who are adopted through international adoption may already be over the age of one and be presently living in an orphanage or group home environment. Once your family is matched, there will be a process that occurs which involves a lot of paperwork submitted back and forth through the country in which the child resides and the United States. This process is unfortunately not usually a fast process and can sometimes take months to years. During this time, your parents or your family may travel to the child’s home country multiple times to facilitate the process and eventually bring the new child home.
If your family is adopting from foster care, they may already have chosen a child who they plan to adopt or the child may already be living with them as a foster child. If the child is already living with your family as a foster child, the process may move quite fast and a home study has likely already occurred for your parents to become foster parents. From here, when the child is legally free to adopt, meaning her birth parents’ rights have been terminated and no family members have been located who are able to take placement, it is mostly a waiting game for a finalization date for the adoption to be scheduled.
If your parents have found a child who is still within another foster home, there will likely be a transitional process for the child to move into your home full time. This may include day trips or outings for your family to get to know the child and the child to get to know you. Eventually, this will include overnight visits to your home, weekend visits, and then an official move-in date. The transition period can differ from agency to agency and state to state. This would be a great question to ask your parents or a social worker to find out what that process or timeline might look like in your situation.
Once the child has been placed in your home, there may be a few months before the adoption is finalized. During this time, a social worker will likely check in with you once a month to see how everything is going. This might involve in-home visits where the social worker really is just checking to see how the child is doing and how the family is doing. This is kind of like a home study except that it is less formal. The social worker may just take some time to answer any questions you may have and see if there are any concerns they might address. Feel free to ask more questions at this point. Your questions will not end just because a child has been placed with you. You may have more questions after this point, and that is perfectly okay. Make sure that you ask any questions that you may have or address any fear that you may have.
Once the adoption has been finalized and your new sibling is home, it is okay to feel some uneasiness. Everything might feel great, and you might still be excited, and that is wonderful. However, if your feelings do not reflect excitement or happiness or bonding right away, understand that it takes time. Even if your parents had a biological sibling, bonding still takes time. It still takes time for a child to get comfortable in your home. If the child who joined your family is an older child, this process can take a bit more time as he had a whole life before he came to you. Try to understand that adoption is not always easy and can be quite traumatic for a child who is older. Give her a little grace as she acclimates to her new home.
Once your new sibling has come home, your parents attention may shift quite a bit. This typically happens whenever any new sibling is introduced to a home. It is not that your parents no longer care, it is simply that their attention needs to be elsewhere at the moment. Communicate with your parents if you are feeling left out or alone during this time. It is common and in no way about you, but rather simply all of the changes that are occurring in your family with the addition of a child. This may be especially true if a child is older and has to make more adjustments in order to feel comfortable in your new home. This is yet another situation where you may need to extend some grace and understanding.
Change is typically not easy though not always a bad thing. It is incredibly exciting and can be an amazing experience to be a part of an adoption story. Adding a new child to your home is incredibly exciting and can be one of the best things to happen in your life. However, it is okay to have questions, and it is okay to have doubts. Try to communicate with your parents any questions or fears you may have. Understand that it is okay to ask questions throughout the process and even after the new child has come home. It is likely that your parents or other siblings also have lots of questions about the adoption process and lots of feelings surrounding this process. Take some time to communicate as a family and go through the process together.
If you would like more information on the adoption process in general, websites such as Adoption.com and Adoption.org are great resources to explore. You can search through thousands of articles about adoption. You can also spend time looking through these articles to find information about what it is like as a sibling in an adoption situation. You may find that the forums on Adoption.com are very helpful and provide a lot of insight for you. You can even ask questions to others about the adoption process. These sites are great resources even after your new sibling has come home. First and foremost, communicate with your parents about any of your questionings but know that there are other outlets out there available to you. Your parents and the adoption professionals whom they utilize are very likely more than happy to talk to you about the adoption experience and what to expect moving forward. Stay informed throughout the process by asking questions and communicating your feelings so that you can remain in a positive state for the beautiful experience of adoption!
Lita Jordan is a master of all things “home.” A work-from-home, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five. She has a BA in Youth Ministry from Spring Arbor University. She is married to the “other Michael Jordan” and lives on coffee and its unrealistic promises of productivity. Lita enjoys playing guitar and long trips to Target. Follow her on Facebook.