#NAM2018 National Adoption Awareness Month: What Can Adoptive Parents Do?

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Each November adoptionland is rife with op-eds, hashtags, conferences, panels and social media blitzes by all members of the triad. #FlipTheScript was all I heard over the past few years. I listened hard and reflected on what I heard.

Some years, I wrote about my experience with openness in the context of our lives. This year I am mostly sitting it out. On average I get contacted by four to five prospective adoptive parents each month. Sometimes I hear from new adoptive parents.

Hearing the harsh realities of how adoptees process their adoption is a shocker to many. We adopt with good intentions but what if we are not doing the right thing by adopting our children they ask. It is a question I have mulled over many years now. Truth is each family, each child, each situation is unique. However, there are some universal things we can do as (prospective) adoptive parents.

  1. Ensure the agency we work with clearly lays out how they go about contacting expectant parents. How do they work with them? Is counseling an ongoing part of the process? Are expectant parents reassured they do not have to decide until they are ready to make the decision to relinquish? Are prospective adoptive parents clearly told that matching always means that the decision to place solely lies with expectant parents and they have the right to decide what is right for them post birth?
  2. Learn about open adoption and how little regulation there is over open adoption agreements. Be aware and ready to work with expectant parents on what makes the most sense for the child at the center of it all. If agreeing to openness, really understand this is for life with all its complexities and nuances.
  3. Understand what an open mindset is and how it goes far beyond actual contact. Treating everybody associated with your child with dignity and respect is the best way you honor your child’s heritage.
  4. Always knowing that your child has two families. Forever.
  5. Being honest with your child from the very beginning and working actively to make your home a safe space for your child to process questions on identity, race, and feelings for two families. It takes work dealing with your insecurities and feelings of grief from whatever path that led you to adoption.
  6. Understand that adoption is trauma. Your child will exhibit behaviors, suffer from issues stemming from this trauma of separation. As parents, being prepared and ready to advocate for your child is the best thing you can do for them. Support groups, therapy, readiness to accept and work with your child’s problems from a place of understanding, all of it go a long way.

I am sure there are a lot more things others can add to this but I feel this covers most of what I discuss with the people who reach out to me.

Peace.

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