If I could have written a letter to myself before we started the international adoption process, here are some things I wish I would have known. Some I already knew, but after adopting (or going through the process) others became much clearer to me.
Adoption and parenting in general are selfless.
Keep in mind that you are not just adopting a family member, but there is a mutual merger of birth and adopted families, culture, and country.
Melissa Fay Greene recommends The Complete Guide to Foreign Adoption by Dr. Barbara Bascom. Don’t discredit the positive stories of adoption, but try to get a well-balanced, realistic view.
Use forums boards on the internet when researching agencies. This is how we ended up with the agency we chose. You probably won’t find an agency without issues, but there will be agencies that stand out as being ethical and some that are known for being extremely unethical.
Socialize to a minimum on forums.
Forums are awesome for getting basic adoption agency questions answered. The larger the group, the greater the variation of thoughts and the more drama, which seems unnecessary. If you want to connect with local adoptive families, ask your homestudy or placing agency or find a local small board for arranging meet-ups.
Find a doctor who specializes in international adoptions.
There is probably one in your area, but if there is not, most will review referrals and request blood work once the child has come home. Remember, regardless of age at adoption, trauma has occurred. There is the possibility even with an infant to have an attachment disorder. Be prepared.
Start asking yourself how you are going to answer commonly asked questions about adoption.
This thought process is a bit of an evolution, but it is okay to start thinking about it. It is also okay to decide to give certain helpful information about your family and adoption to others and keep other information private. Do not think because you have offered up some information that it entitles people to be given answers to questions you feel violate your family or your child.
Adoption is different than gestating a child.
The love of a biological and adopted child is equal, but the truth is that adoption is different than gestating a child in the sense that there are some obvious differences in adoption that do not apply to a biological child, and vice versa. For instance, pointing out how much your biological child has his father’s eyes may seem benign, but pointing out genetics when that is not what connects your other child to the family is extremely important to note and treat delicately.
Adopted children and families are considered special needs.
I like to think of adoption as something rare and fragile. There is special attention needed. An attuned and observant family will be thriving, each in its own way.
Open adoptions in international adoptions are possible.
Lovely, beautiful, and very possible. However, understand that there are many cultural differences that may make you feel uncomfortable. There should be boundaries in place in regards to aiding the family financially or anything else that may cross the line for human trafficking laws. However, with a good translator (if needed) and clear direction, a slow, steady relationship can benefit the entire family.