Adoption is a beautiful process in which a new member is welcomed into your forever family. Knowing how adoption works will better inform your decisions moving forward. Adoption has the ability to better the lives of many individuals, including yourself, the adoptee, your other children, and the biological family. No matter how long the adoption process takes, how much it costs, or how messy it might be, it’s 100% worth it all to welcome a beautiful child into your home. 

That being said, you might have already researched the different kinds of adoptions and agencies and may have already started the ball rolling to prepare to be matched with a child. Now, it might be time to let other people know about the adoption, especially if you’re nearing communicating with an expectant parent. Unless those close to you have also been through the adoption process, they will likely have many questions about how adoption works. These questions might include the following:

“Why did you decide to adopt?”

“How is that going to affect your life?”

“How does adoption work?”

Granted, some of these questions are from genuine curiosity and understanding, while others are from pure obliviousness. It’s also a good idea to be prepared for some of the other questions such as these: 

“What about your other kids?” 

“What if the adoptee has issues?” 

“Can you really love someone that’s not biologically yours?” 

It’s highly recommended you surround yourself with supportive people. Don’t let naysayers bring you down. This is ultimately your choice and yours alone. There is no room for negativity during the adoption process, especially for the sweet kid(s) that will enter your home. A good place to start explaining how adoption works to the various groups of people that will want to know is with a foundation of knowledge.

How Adoption Works for Children

If you have other children in the home (or have friends and family with children), they might be naturally inquisitive and ask a lot of questions. Depending on age, your explanation might vary. When all else fails, look for a good book to help explain adoption to children. Some great examples are How I Was Adopted by Joanna Cole, God Gave Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergen, and You Were Always in My Heart by Steven and Mary Beth Chapman.

Younger children probably won’t have a great understanding of how someone can place her child for adoption. You might explain to a child that sometimes a mommy or daddy can’t take care of their baby, and someone else offers to take care of their baby for them. Our family is going to have a new baby soon, and that baby will become a part of our forever family.” Obviously, children rarely need to know the gritty details of the case. However, adoption isn’t and shouldn’t be made secret. It’s okay to say that the child needed a different mommy and daddy to take care of him, to keep him safe, and to love him.

Older children and teens will probably have a stronger conceptualization of why children are adopted by other families. As crazy as it may seem, they’re not as sheltered as we think they are! They may have read books, watched TV shows or movies, or have friends that talked about adoption and maybe even WHY someone was adopted. It’s important to know that some information may be too much for an older child to handle, and that’s completely up to the parents’ discretion. However, if you take the opportunity to explain, your kids will have a better grasp on what the process is, how long it might take, and what changes will be made after the adoption is over. 

I was 11 when my parents started fostering children. During the four years that they were active foster parents, we had about 20 kids come into our home, all from different walks of life. I have a naturally sensitive heart, and since I was always the oldest, I really wanted to know the details of some of these cases. I wanted to be more mature and grown-up so I could be a part of those tough conversations. Coming from a background of loving parents, I couldn’t imagine what some of these kids went through. You can imagine the shock and heartbreak as I was introduced to what unfortunately is considered “normal” for these kids. But once we got to court and I was able to have new siblings join my family, I was so relieved and excited that they would never have to be hurt like that again. At the same time, I knew that there were others out there who fell through the cracks of the system. This is one of the big reasons why I wanted to be an advocate for adoption—to see more kids adopted, fewer kids failed by the system, and to ensure that every child ends up in a safer home environment.

“Ignorance is bliss” is a famous quote that many know, and some may even abide by. Not every case is going to be like the ones that I saw as a child where kids were abused, neglected, or even taken away at birth. Not every adoptee has a scary backstory. Older children and teens should be made aware that some of these kids have had very hard lives, so they are more cognizant of how to treat their new siblings. After all, we’re trying to raise the future generations to be decent human beings, right? Again, they don’t need to know all the details but don’t leave your older kids in the dark. 

One thing to point out is that after the adoption is over, the newest member of your family will share your last name. I always thought that was the coolest part of adoption. The kids who were adopted have the exact same rights as the biological kids! Not only that, the adoptive parents’ names are on the birth certificates like they were the birth parents. How awesome is that? That always made me smile knowing that it was “official.”

How Adoption Works for Adults

A technical definition from Oxford Languages describes adoption as “the action or fact of legally taking another’s child and bringing it up as one’s own, or the fact of being adopted.” Unfortunately, adults tend to be ruder and more judgmental than children. You don’t have to answer their other questions if you don’t want to. However, you can definitely make the best of it if you choose to do so.

Here are some examples…

Q: Will you actually love them like your biological children?

A: Of course I will. They may not have grown in my tummy, but I love them like my own. 

Q: What if they have issues?

A: It wasn’t their fault how they were brought up. What matters now is that I’m going to give them the best life I can.

Q: What if you get too attached?

A: That’s a risk I’m willing to take. I’d rather love and lose than not love at all. 

Q: Why in the world would you want a relationship with the birth family?

A: I want our child to be able to know who she is and where she came from. 

Q: But they GAVE UP their baby!

A: Actually, they made an incredibly selfless decision to let their child have a better chance at life. They chose us specifically to parent their child. The least I can do is let them have a relationship with us and the baby. (It also might be a good idea to address positive adoption language here of “placed their baby” instead of “gave up” their baby. Birth parents do not “give up” their children.) 

Most adults will likely want to cheer you on and help in any way that they can. Even though the answer varies within states, and depending on the case, they may want to understand how adoption works. You might even inspire some friends or family to adopt as well! 

If you’re adopting a baby, it’s possible that you have already met the expectant mother and are building a relationship with her. You can explain that even though you’ve been selected to parent the baby, there is still a certain amount of time until the rights are legally terminated. If the adoption is open or semi-open, the birth family can still be a part of the child’s life as much as both parties are comfortable with. You will have all the parental rights, but the birth family will still have a relationship between them and the baby.

Adoption through foster care has different aspects from a traditional adoption that determine how long or short the process will last. Again, every state and case varies, so there’s no simple answer. If the parental rights have already been terminated, then the state will either look to extended family or the foster family to adopt. That, usually, will take a year at most. If not, it can take longer depending on if the biological family is doing everything they can to reunite with their child. It’s imperative to make sure the people in your life treat a foster child like she or he is part of the family and not some random stranger. No matter if the foster child’s stay is temporary or forever, she or he needs to be shown love and care from everyone. In some cases, the adoption will be closed due to abuse or neglect. The safety of the adoptee should be the most important aspect of any adoption. 

Social media is a great way to keep people in your life connected with you, especially if you choose to be open with your adoption journey. However, there are some circumstances that publicly posting information or pictures of your child could put them, or you, in danger. In some states, you might have to blur your child’s face until the adoption is final if you choose to post pictures on social media. You also won’t be able to share certain information about the case out of respect for the birth family or for safety reasons. I’ve seen so many great adoption posts on social media where the adoptee’s face is no longer blurred! It may seem like such a small thing to some, but now, nothing has to be hidden anymore! What a great way to show new beginnings by opening up about your child.

If there are family and friends who make it obvious that they are not supportive, it may be necessary to set boundaries. They may not acknowledge your foster or adoptive child as part of the family, and that’s not beneficial for you or the newest member! People are allowed to have their own opinions, but if they refuse to help your little one transition, then they shouldn’t be a close part of your journey. I mentioned before that you need a good support system in your corner. Fostering and adopting is great and beautiful, but it can also be difficult. You can get support from other families who are fostering or adopting in your area. Not only do they know exactly what you’re going through, but they’ll also usually be more willing to help out and lend a listening ear. 

Final Thoughts 

Regardless of age, humans are innately curious creatures. Ultimately, it was YOUR choice to adopt, and hopefully, it wasn’t one that was quick and rash. Depending on the case and state you reside in, how the adoption works and how much information you can give out will vary. It’s completely up to you who to share information with and how you choose to share it. That being said, some people will shower you with their support, and others just won’t. Unfortunately, you can’t make someone approve of what you’re doing (even though what you’re doing is an amazing thing!) Just remember that you absolutely need support before, during, and after the adoption is over. It’s tough enough having to go through the process feeling like you’re by yourself; you don’t need someone giving you unsolicited advice and opinions if that person is not willing to be accepting of the child you adopted. There are a lot of people who will support you and help you whenever you need it. You can find other adoptive parents and support groups here.

Emily Perez is a stay-at-home mama to 2 sweet boys and wife to a handsome electrician living the small-town life in Idaho. She has a BS in Elementary Education from Eastern Oregon University and loved teaching 2nd grade. When she was younger, her parents did foster care and adopted 5 kiddos from all walks of life to be her siblings. She hopes to do foster care and adoption in the future. Along with adoption, her other passions include advocating for mental health and special needs. Emily enjoys being with family and friends, snuggling her babies, playing the piano, singing, reading, and writing. Coffee is her go-to drink for fuel and she loves anything chocolate!