What Can I Do to Prepare While I Wait?
There is a lot to be said for having the time to do things right. Adoption requires a lot of time. So. Much. Time. If you’re like me, just sitting on your hands and waiting for something to happen is not only painful, it is almost impossible—especially if I’m waiting for something I want. Thankfully, I’ve walked this road a few times now, and I can say with confidence that though the wait is long, it is worth it.
Here are some things you can do while you wait for your adoption:
1. Decorate Their Room
You may not know who is coming to your house. You may be an eager foster parent who is open to a child from any circumstances. Cases like that do make this process a bit harder, but there are still things you can do. Neutral colors are popular for any gender. If you’re waiting on a baby, you can rest assured that they will not care at all what color their room is, so you can have fun creating the nursery of your dreams. This helped me start feeling like caretaking was a real thing that was going to happen. Making beds and hanging up pictures made a real space that I could imagine a child in.
Even if you are not a reader by nature, you need to become a researcher. I found that listening to audiobooks while working on something else (laundry, drawing, making food) helped me retain information better than sitting and reading. There are some quality videos online that are extraordinarily helpful in learning about the psychology of children who were adopted. Some are especially useful if you’re planning to adopt older children from foster care. There are a lot of complicated emotions involved for both parents and children in the adoption triad, and it will be important for you to arm yourself with information.
3. Complete the Paperwork
You thought, perhaps, after you filled out the huge application at the beginning of this process, you were done, didn’t you? Me too. Like a tacky infomercial (“But wait, there’s more!”), depending on the type of adoption you experience and the process accompanying it, you could be in for a great deal of paperwork. For example, if you’re enrolling a child in school and you have a general idea of when they will be in your home, you can get them registered.
4. Figure Out Who Your People Are
The truth is, you’re going to need help, and that’s when “your people” come in. These are the people who can help you in an emergency, even if the emergency is that you’ve been listening to your foster baby cry for two hours and you might lose your dang mind—especially if you’ve been listening to your foster child curse you out and tell you how much they hate you. You may need people who can bring you dinner, sit with you while you cry, babysit for you if you need it, and give you the support you’ll require.
You might think you don’t need people, but I assure you: you will. I didn’t think I’d want anyone to babysit my kids since I had waited to have them for so long. I was wrong: so, so wrong. My kids depended on me being emotionally stable for them. That was only possible because I had shoulders to cry on.
In addition to the people who will drop off diapers at 2 a.m. when you get an emergency placement or help you organize your house when you find out your child is arriving right now instead of three weeks from now; you’ll need specialists. You need a pediatrician that is more than passingly familiar with childhood trauma. You can go interview pediatricians. Ask them questions. Find out if they know of good counselors. Ask if they know play therapists they’d recommend. Some kids need extra care that loving parents and a good doctor can’t always provide on their own. I found that while I was waiting, I found comfort in having knowledge at hand. Even if I didn’t end up needing half of what I found out, it was still good for my own peace of mind to have knowledge I could fall back on.
5. Pick Up Some “Kid Things”
This is stupid, but I had a panic attack the day my kids came. Why? My mind totally blanked on what kids enjoy. I had set up bedrooms but no kid books. Also, I had no kid toothbrushes, no tear-free soap, no soft kid towels. I didn’t have kid food on hand. Thankfully, my people showed up and helped. If they hadn’t, I would’ve been lost.
Get a toy box and a small shelf with some kid books, coloring books, crayons, dolls, Legos, and whatever else seems like an age-appropriate activity. Keep in mind: some kids who have experienced foster care are developmentally behind, so they may still enjoy things that might seem a little baby-ish.
Maybe this seems intuitive to you, but I just didn’t think about it. I knew I was going to need to get clothes. I knew I’d need to find out what they liked to eat. However, it hadn’t occurred to me to just have a few things there so they felt at home right away.
6. Write Them a Letter
This is the cheesiest thing. I am aware that I am a cheeseball, okay? It’s just part of my personality. However, something that settled my nervous heart was writing letters to my future kids. I told them my hopes and dreams for them. I told them how excited I was that I’d get to be their mom and that I just couldn’t wait to finally have them in my home. I wrote so many things. Someday, I may be brave enough to give them those letters.
7. Make a Soundtrack
I am not a “kid music” person. I enjoy all sorts of tunes, but the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood soundtrack isn’t my favorite. One of the things that helped my kids settle in well early on was a curated internet radio station that was soothing and calm. I found sweet lullabies for bedtime and cute, peppy, happy music to wake up to.
Of course, once the kids got bigger, they wanted more input, which was easy to allow. And eventually, Daniel Tiger and friends did make it into the list, along with a plethora of kid show songs that will be burnt into my brain for eternity.
So, there are some things you can do to prepare. I hope you find your wait worth it and your dreams fulfilled.
Christina (Chrissy) Gochnauer is a foster and adoptive mom of 5. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Letourneau University. She currently resides in Texas with her husband of 16 years, her children ages 3, 3.5, 4.5, 11, and 12, and her three dogs. She is passionate about using her voice to speak out for children from “hard places” in her church and community.