MY TOP 20 ADOPTION TIPS
Updated: Aug 27, 2020
I have openly shared about my adoption journey with my Facebook community and over the past 5 years, I have had many people reaching out to me about the adoption process, the legal, emotional, spiritual of it all and nothing makes me happier than getting those enquiries. When I started this journey, I wanted to start this blog so that I could leave a trail for the next person but I chickened out because I was scared of internet trolls…we are finally here! It was not easy finding information so I just winged it and fumbled about. I put together my top 20 tips that I generally share with those that contact me, things I have learnt over the years and I aim to unpack them further on this blog.
1. Go through an accredited adoption agency/social worker. You can find a list of accredited agencies on adoption.org.za. I used Abba Adoptions in Pretoria. There is an admin fee payable for their professional services. YOU SHOULD NEVER PAY FOR A CHILD! The admin fee is determined on a sliding scale based on your income and can range from nothing to about R17 000. The Department of Social Department is in the process of amending the Children´s Act which may impact the fees levied for professional services, keep a keen eye on these developments. You do not have to be rich to adopt, as long as you can prove that you will be able to adequately provide for a safe, healthy upbringing.
2. You WILL get anxious, read about adoption horror stories, and work yourself into a frenzy. Remember that your anxiety is no different to any other expectant mother who watches birthing videos and reads up on everything wrong that could happen, it’s normal. BUT LEAVE THE HORROR STORIES ALONE! I cannot stress this enough! It is already an emotionally charged time, you don´t need to add to the stress.
3. Being adopted is not a disadvantage to your child. Your family is not inferior because you do not share DNA
4. The circumstances of their life that led to being adopted are THEIR story, you do not owe anyone that explanation. No-one knows my baby’s story, not even my mom. I have photos of her from before the adoption which I will only share with her when the time is right. People are curious by nature, they will ask, an you will learn to kindly but firmly tell them that you will not share that information.
5. Do not allow anyone to judge the birth mother, especially in front of your child. Comments like “who wouldn´t want such a sweet baby?" are harmful to you and your child. You also cannot and should not judge her. This is very important because one day you will have to tell them their story and if you have any negative feelings about the birth parents, you will pass them onto the child, even if it’s unconsciously.
6. Have compassion for the birth mother. As you grow in your journey, you will understand the double edge sword that is your blessing because she lost so you could gain. You will embrace that without her, you would not have your family, that you are all part of the same story. There’s an exercise we did at the workshop where we were given 3 twines and had to weave them together in a 3-strand plait. We took them home to remind us that we are all ONE! You cannot despise the one strand because it flows into the other 2 - you and your child.
7. You are not your child´s saviour, you did not save them from a disastrous life. Do not allow people to say things like “s/he is so lucky to have u”, no-one walks around telling biological children they are lucky to be born. This also burdens the child and makes them feel like they owe you for saving them. You are a parent, nothing more, nothing less.
8. Mind your language: Do not “demote” yourself by using words like “real mom/dad”, you are the only mom/dad. Be concious in using positive language when talking about adoption, for eg. instead of saying "given up for adoption", you say "released for adoption".
9. Post Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS) is as real as postpartum depression. Don’t be worried if it you don´t fall in love at 1st sight, you did not make a mistake. I was so preoccupied with keeping my daughter alive, that the overwhelming feeling of love came about a week or 2 late. Be patient with yourself and with your child. If you feel like you could be suffering from PADS, seek professional help, do not be ashamed.
10. When people discuss their pregnancy journeys and things that you would not have experienced, resist the urge to feel left out and “incomplete”. No journey to motherhood is more special than the next.
11. If you adopt as a single person, the father/mother question WILL come, from her, from strangers. Stranger: “Where’s the dad?” Me: “It’s just me and my daughter”, The only person you owe an explanation to is your child.
12. When the child starts asking, it is a good time to start introducing their story to them in an age appropriate way. This is where an agency is also useful, they will coach you through this.
13. Abba Adoptions has a week-long workshop for adopting couples and a separate one for adopting singles because they found that there are some dynamics that differ between single parents and couples that require sufficient attention and depth, eg. the father question.
14. For single parents, do not be afraid of or dread the “father/mother question”. Kids are amazing, smart people who understand more than we give them credit for. The adoption conversation is not a once off, it is constant, and it varies in reactions, questions, understanding, don´t get fatigued. Remember, fathers also come in many forms, and not just the body you share a bed with. I co-parent with my brother in a beautiful way, he is sometimes called “daddy-malume”. Those 2 share a bond, I even get jealous of sometimes.
15. The workshops are VERY useful Whichever agency you use, make sure they have something like that, where it’s not just about the legal process but the emotional, social and psychological aspect of the journey. You will receive so many tools and information, your anxieties will be calmed down & you will be prepared. If they do not offer the workshops, find other 3rd party organisations who do, like Oasis Haven.
16. The child gets access to their file at the Department of Social Development once they turn 18. Do not hide that they are adopted. When the child knows about their story, shared with them lovingly, it takes away the ability for other people to use it to hurt them, and it prepares them to be able to deal with any negativity. It roots them in love, in being wanted and chosen.
17. Openly sharing their story with them also helps in removing the fear of being rejected should they one day decide to connect with the birth family. When you have legally adopted a child, no-one can claim them back, the law only recognises you as the parent.
18. SUPPORT! SUPPORT! SUPPORT! As a single parent, a major part of your screening will revolve around your support system. You will soon realise that it goes beyond the nice reference letters they write about you. Be intentional in creating a strong support system around you.
19. These aren’t Superparent Olympics, raising a child is not easy. Ask for help, accept help! Just because you have chosen to be a single mom/dad does not mean you have to do it alone.
20. Lastly, when it comes to raising a child, listen to the advice of those close to you (and internet moms if you are so inclined) but ultimately ALWAYS TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS!