Adopting one child won’t change the world: but for that child, the world will change. –Unknown
Adoption has changed my life. My son was adopted at birth and in one moment my life was forever changed. I know how fortunate I am to have the resources and opportunity to have this precious baby come in to my life and change my focus from me… to we. Unfortunately, thousands of children are still waiting for their forever home.
Adoption takes many forms – from adopting a child in foster care, step-parent adoptions and consensual adoptions.
Each year, November is recognized as National Adoption Awareness Month. While all adoption-related issues are important, the particular focus of this month is the adoption of children currently in foster care. In North Carolina there are over 11,000 children in foster care. The Department of Social Services, in each North Carolina county, provides training for foster parents and services for potential adoptive parents. Foster children are generally older and may have health or emotional challenges, but this doesn’t make them less lovable or less deserving of a loving and safe home. Visit NC Kids Adoption & Foster Care Network to find out more about these services and “meet” the children waiting for homes.
Step parent adoptions are also an avenue to give a child a sense of love and permanency. At New Direction Family Law, we can provide the services and support to families when a mom or dad remarries and the new spouse wants to adopt his or her step child. For many families this brings a sense of permanency and inclusion. If the noncustodial parent consents to the adoption and the child has lived primarily with the custodial parent and stepparent for at least 6 months, the process can be streamlined and less stressful. However, if the noncustodial parent does not consent, but meets the requirements for termination of parental rights, the stepparent can receive the court’s permission to adopt the stepchild. It’s important to remember that the adoption will terminate the legal relationship of the biological parent and child. If the step child is 12-years-old or older, he or she must also agree to the stepparent adoption. For many families, counseling can provide much needed support for these new transitions. For the child being adopted, it may feel like a great loss even if the parent was absent, and it can bring up many issues of abandonment and guilt. But with therapeutic support, unconditional love and support by all members of the family, a bond can be formed that will withstand any storm.
Whatever process you consider for adoption – private, foster or stepparent – It is a life changing decision not only for the adoptive parents but also for the child. Some things to consider are:
- Why do you want to adopt? If you’re out to save the world or a child all the noble intentions in the world may not be enough. Parenting requires patience, understanding, unconditional love, self-awareness and empathy, not to mention time… lots and lots or time. Make sure you do your research and dig deep within to be secure and confident that adoption is the right decision for you and your family.
- Are you considering adopting an older child or a baby? This is truly a personal decision. Older children have a history and have a say so in the decision making process. But they also yearn for stability and a loving home and can bring so many advantages to the process and to your life. With an infant, it’s a clean slate. You are there from the beginning and have the opportunity to build early and strong parental bonds.
- Your world will change. Just like with biological children, adopted children change your life in every single aspect – social, emotional, sleep, financial and the list goes on. Adoption can be challenging, it takes time, effort and endless love and patience. Talk openingly and honestly with your partner or spouse about the reality that adopting a child will bring to your current relationship and interactions.
Adoption is not a decision that you should come to lightly. It’s a life changing and lifelong commitment. It’s not like buying a new dress and then deciding to return it because it doesn’t fit just right. It’s not right for everyone. Children, whether biological or adopted, are living, breathing, loving and emotional beings. There’s no difference there, just perhaps a few more challenges.
I’m never prouder than when I introduce my sweet boy as my son. Adoption was just a process. The true journey is in the lifelong commitment and absolute joy of having the privilege to watch this child grow into a caring, loving, smart, independent young man and knowing that I’m a better person to my core because of him.
New Direction Family Law