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Getting Started With Adoption

Starting a family by adopting may be a second choice, but advocates say it isn't a second-best choice. Still, there is a lot to consider after you've made the decision to adopt a child.

The Right Route continued...

"I said, well, I'm glad to hear that, but what is your milieu? In other words, how are your parents going to feel about a black child? And how are your neighbors? And how is the school?"

Upon considering this, the couple changed their minds.

"Their job is to make that child as comfortable as possible," Creedy says. "If they know that relatives harbor prejudices, and they reckon love will conquer all, they're not doing right by that child."

There are children available for adoption in orphanages all over the world -- particularly the developing world. Adopting from another country is a popular option, given that adoptive parents tend to want babies, and babies tend to be more readily available abroad. But by adopting internationally, you'll likely create a mixed-race family, in which case you'd have to be willing to accept all that entails.

Adopting a child out of foster care is another option. In 1999, the most recent year for which data are available, 117,000 American kids in foster care were available for adoption.

Kids in foster care often have "special needs," which can mean a number of things. They tend to be older, for one. Few infants are available. There are also many sets of siblings who must be adopted together, children who are emotionally troubled or developmentally challenged, and some with medical problems.

You may be willing and able to deal with special needs; you may not.

Adoption agencies and attorneys who specialize in adoption are another route to finding a child here in the U.S. Their function is to connect you with a mother who wants you to adopt her child.

Openness in Adoption

In the past, a mother who "gave up" her child to adoption did so in a profound way. After she delivered the baby, it would be whisked away from her, never to be seen again.

Today, the birth mother can choose who will adopt her baby, and negotiate terms for contact over the course of the child's life. In some adoptions, just identifying information is exchanged. In more "open" adoptions, she is entitled to reports about the child from time to time, or she may even be allowed to visit.

"Thankfully, many, many parents today are getting into open adoption and becoming a new type of family," Creedy says. "It's a much more healthy environment for the child."

The idea of having birth mothers involved in their lives can cause anxiety for adoptive parents. But Pertman says fears of birth mothers' meddling are largely unfounded. "They've made the decision they're not going to parent the child. They've made the decision that you are."

Nevertheless, to make sure that things go smoothly, any agency you work with should provide support services before the adoption and for years afterward.

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