5 tips for the curious...

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16 years ago, I took part in my first adoption.

It was a nerve-wracking process. First time experiences usually are!

This wasn’t one of my usual fads. A new hobby that I would pursue vigorously for a few months before moving onto something else. This was much more important. This would be a new life entering our family!

But this was different…

Like any big experience, it was a steep learning curve. So, drawing on this, here are some snippets of advice to anyone considering adoption…

  • Ask yourself why you’re thinking of adopting – there are no perfectly “right” reasons. No-one is totally altruistic. Few are completely self-centred. But there will be a mixture of reasons. It will be partly about your own desire to be a parent. It will also be a bit about helping a child have a future in a family. Something they may not otherwise get. Asking the question “Why?” and answering it honestly to yourself, will help you sift your thinking. As I say, everyone has mixed motives – this is normal. This is fine.
  • Remember: enquiring is NOT a commitment to go ahead – Local Authorities and other agencies involved in helping people to adopt will make sure you know what you’re taking on.  Most agencies offer an initial session to answer your questions and help you decide if the timing is right for you, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask. Making an enquiry has no obligation with it.

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  • It may feel like vetting… because it is! – regardless of the language of the professionals working with you, you will enter a process of vetting for approval to adopt. It’ll feel like it too, at times. But most social workers are very adept at putting people at ease and giving lots of reassurance. They will make it feel more constructive than merely vetting. However, we have to remember that we are asking the state to trust us with the life of a child. The assessment and approval process is a necessary safety measure, for the child and for you.
  • Remind yourself that adoption is for life – whilst this is obvious when you think about it, it’s easy to lose this thought. It all starts with a process of being approved to adopt a child. But adoption really starts when the child moves into your home. And your lifetime relationship begins…
  • Love isn’t biological – one of the pressing questions for me at the beginning was, “Will it feel the same as having biological children?” Now the really honest answer is, “I don’t know.” I’ve never had biological kids. But my own experience after two adoptions is this: that I cannot imagine loving another human being more than I love my children.

Final thoughts…

These are just a few thoughts. They come from my own experience, so clearly they are not complete. But they are an honest attempt to lay out some of the things that I would like to have known at the beginning.

I hope they are helpful!

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What do you think?

  • As someone who has already adopted, what would your advice be?
  • If you’re thinking about adopting, what questions do you have?

Please contribute to this by adding your own thoughts and experiences. You can leave a comment by scrolling down, or just click here.

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© Jonny Matthew 2016


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  • Michelle W

    I would add that love can take time. Oftentimes in adoption, placement happens very suddenly. Sometimes you have time to prepare. Having been on both ends of the timeline (1st one we had 3 months, the second about 10 days with a 5 day camping trip crammed in there) it creates very different situations. I realize now that part of the “plan” of pregnancy is to give parents time to bond with their baby, or at least the idea of their baby and life with baby. Although some adoptive parents do have the instant rush of overwhelming feeling for their child, it’s not abnormal not to feel it, it may even be atypical. I don’t know. But during what can sometimes be a challenging period of adjustment to a new family, adoptive parents shouldn’t feel they’re somehow failing because they aren’t feeling the “right” things immediately.

    • jonnymatthew

      This is really wise advice, Michelle. When we adopted, I bonded immediately but it took my partner a little time. I guess the other issue is that we shouldn’t expect obvious signs of affection back from baby either – they too need time to adapt, feel safe, develop affection, etc. thanks for commenting!