Adoption is nothing to take lightly – it’s a lifelong commitment that brings profound changes to your life and that of your child. Before you plunge into the process, it makes sense to examine your situation carefully and weigh both the positive and negative aspects of the journey you are about to take. Here are some things to consider before beginning the adoption process.

1) Examine Your Motives

What are the reasons you want to adopt and what are your goals in doing so? You may feel that you need a child to make your life or your relationship complete, but you also need to be aware that the child has needs as well, and these should become of primary importance. What is going to happen when the child’s needs conflict with yours? How will the introduction of this new life affect the other people in the family? Do you have enough support systems to make this new situation work? Are you prepared for the emotional demands as well as the physical costs involved with raising a child? Be honest with yourself about what you can handle in an adoptive placement — for example, dealing with the child’s medical needs, the challenges of adopting siblings, or adopting a child from another culture or race.

2) Be Aware of the Financial Costs

Adoption can be quite expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are adopting privately, through an attorney, or adopting a child from another country, the costs can, but do not have to be, high. Adopting a child through foster care can cost almost nothing.

According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, adopting a healthy newborn or baby through a private agency or from another country can cost $5,000 to $40,000, although some agencies use a sliding scale based on income. Working with an attorney without an agency may have similar costs.

Adopting from foster care usually involves going through a county, state, territory, or tribal public child welfare agency. There are few fees, and out-of-pocket expenses can often be recouped from federal or state programs afterwards. In addition, adoption assistance may be available in the form of medical assistance and monthly maintenance payments provided by the federal Title IV-E Adoption Assistance Program.

3) Prepare for Red Tape and Practice Patience

The adoption process is lengthy and complicated, depending on many factors, such as whether or you are adopting domestically or internationally, whether you only want a healthy Caucasian infant or are open to all races and ethnic backgrounds, older children or children with disabilities. The more flexible you are, the larger the adoption pool, and the shorter the waiting time.

In any case, figure that adoption will require time, patience and emotional and psychological support, as there are ups and downs in the process, and roadblocks can occur at any time due to paperwork or court decisions.

4) Consider Pre-adoption Counseling

Adoption involves trauma and changes, and it pays to seek professional help and connect with other families who have gone through the adoption process. Counseling may help you work through any issues and ambivalent feelings, provide insight into the process, prepare you for potential problems, and make you more emotionally prepared to parent your future child. This is especially important if you are adopting older children or children from foster care who may have experienced neglect or abuse and have strong emotional needs. Some available resources are AdoptUSKids and the Child Welfare Information Gateway, and adoption groups on Facebook that help you connect with local meetings and resources.

5) Prepare for a Period of Adjustment, Bonding, and Growing Attachment

It takes time to get to the point where you make the parental bond with your child and the child identifies you as the parent. It also takes time for your child to adjust to new surroundings and for you to adjust to having a child in your home. Be patient; use this time to learn to be a family and recognize that some children (and their parents) adjust quickly, while others need more time. And be aware that in order to meet your child’s needs, you need to take care of your own basic needs as well.

Copyright Wolfe & Stec, Ltd.