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This Is What Adoption Feels Like

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Redbook Adoption Collage

Why do I want to adopt?
There's one reason above all others to make this choice: You should do it, say experts, because you want to be a parent and love a child. If a personal concern for less fortunate kids is part of your motivation, then that may affect how you adopt — but it shouldn't be your driving impulse; adoption is about creating a family, not "saving" a child.

Can I handle an open adoption?
Twenty years ago, virtually all adoptions were "closed" — meaning that records were sealed and birth parents never had contact with the new parents, or with their children, after the adoption. Some professionals thought this preserved privacy for birth parents, secured the role of adoptive parents, and ensured that adopted kids didn't feel "different." In fact, many states still deny adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates.

Today, most domestic adoptions are "open" or "semi-open," meaning there's some contact between the adoptive family and birth parents. A growing number of experts now view openness as healthy for several reasons: It reassures birth parents that their child is doing well; it gives adoptive parents information about their child's history as well as a sense of security (studies have shown that adoptive parents in closed arrangements are more anxious about losing their child than those in open ones); and it allows adopted children and adults to have longed-for connections to their biological family and roots.

What kind of child am I ready to adopt?
This question can be a very uncomfortable one. Does seeking a child of your own race mean you're a racist — or does it mean acknowledging that it can be tough for a child to look different from her parents? What would adopting a drug-exposed child or a child with disabilities mean to your family?

Be honest with yourself and do research before making your decision. If you're considering the adoption of a child with special needs, or a transracial adoption, explore your resources. Do you have access to services that a child with disabilities requires? Do you live in a multicultural neighborhood, or would you move to one? If there are multiracial families in your community, especially those formed by adoption, consider asking them for their perspective.

"People worry that their children might be confused by an open relationship with the birth parents," says Brenda Romanchik, director of Open Adoption Insight, a nonprofit organization in Michigan that provides resources and support for people involved in all sides of the adoption equation. "But if you're not confused about the roles and relationships, then your children won't be either."

Have I come to terms with my infertility?
"Infertility is a grief that's revisited many times throughout life — for instance, when you see the birth family and know your child looks like them, not you," says Romanchik. "Can you handle that? You have to be able to accept that adoption isn't the same as having a child born to you." To get to that place, first understand that feeling ongoing pangs of loss over infertility doesn't mean you love your adopted child any less. Find support among parents who have adopted or are trying to — many have been down this path.

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