Adoption-readiness refers to your state of mind when you feel ready to explore adoption. The adoption mind-set is an attitude in which you not only want to adopt a child, but you need to adopt a child, and you plan to act on this need.
A person's readiness to adopt is based on rational as well as completely emotional issues, fears, concerns, and constraints. You need to achieve a state of adoption-readiness, which enables you to then become very proactive and directed—what I call having an adoption mind-set. However, not everyone who experiences adoption-readiness moves into the adoption mind-set. This can happen for a number of reasons—perhaps a spouse doesn't want to adopt, or they decide that they can't afford the fees. Conversely, some people jump into the adoption mind-set without ever going through the adoption-readiness phase. These people may not be ready to adopt.
Here are just a few of the issues you must confront before moving into the adoption mind-set—many of which are the same or similar to issues people face (or should face) if they are thinking about biological parenthood:
- Marital issues. If you are married, is your marriage stable?
- Lifestyle issues. Can you change your life to accommodate a child?
- Your health. You don't have to be an Olympic athlete, but can you manage the hard work involved in parenting? Also, is your health good enough that you can reasonably expect to be able to parent a child for the next 18 years or until the child's adulthood?
- Financial issues. Can you afford the costs associated with clothes, toys, furniture, child care, and other expenses?
- Your job. How does a child fit with your career?
Let's explore some of these issues in more detail.
Adopting a child primarily because you are unhappy with a spouse is a bad idea. Here are just a few of the problems that can occur if you adopt to “save your marriage”:
- The child might sense that he or she's supposed to hold your relationship together, a burden that no child should feel.
- If your marriage does fail, the child will feel that he or she failed you. (Children think a lot of bad things are their fault.)
- Parenting is hard work. If your marriage is under strain already, adopting a child could be the final straw.
- Children need a stable environment in which they feel emotionally safe.
Does this mean that if sometimes you get annoyed with your spouse for snoring or for forgetting to pick up bread and milk on the way home from work, your marriage isn't good enough? Of course not. All marriages have ups and downs. What matters is that you and your spouse feel a strong, positive, lifelong bond to each other.
Whether you adopt an infant or an older child, you can be sure that your life and your lifestyle will change. Is that okay with you?
Are you ready to devote yourself to your child? When you become a parent—whether through birth or through adoption—there's this other person who needs constant attention and care. Are you prepared to fulfill a child's physical and emotional needs on a daily basis? Will you resent forgoing the night out on the town with friends when your child gets ill or the babysitter cancels at the last minute? Scientists say that children are born with temperaments—outgoing, shy, and so forth. What if you're very outgoing and carefree, but the child you adopt turns out to be shy and clingy? A good parent must adjust to the child's personality. (If you think this is only a problem for adoptive parents, think again! Many biological parents are baffled by their children's personalities, which are radically different from their own.)
Is Your Partner Adoption-Ready?
By now you should have a good sense of whether you're adoption-ready. If you have a partner, now it's time to think about whether he or she is also ready to consider adoption as an option. One way to do this is simply to ask. But sometimes people, especially those we love, don't want to hurt our feelings or make us angry with them and so tell us what they think we want to hear, rather than what they are really thinking. That's why you and your partner should take the Adoption Readiness Quiz. The questions are designed to elicit true feelings as well as to encourage you and your partner to actually think about adopting.
It's good for couples to try to imagine their lives as adoptive parents and then to talk about those visions. You might be surprised to learn that your partner will be happy only with an infant. Or an older child. You might find out that your partner is receptive to adopting a child with special needs or a child from another country. You might also find that your partner doesn't want to think about this imaginary child at all—maybe your partner isn't ready to make a decision about adoption yet, or maybe he or she is dead set against the idea. No matter what you learn from this process, it's much better to find out before you begin the adoption process than after.