Costs to adopt range from nearly nothing for some social services adoptions to $35,000 and up for agency or international adoptions. It can take anywhere from several months to several years to adopt a child, with the longest wait — up to five years — usually involved in adopting healthy Caucasian infants, according to the NAIC. International adoptions usually take at least a year, while adoptions of minority children, hard-to-place or special needs children may take less time.
Meeting the Challenges
As with any family, adoptive families face certain challenges. Some of these challenges start long before they even begin considering adoption, from dealing with infertility, to deciding on which type of adoption to pursue, to helping their child deal with his or her own questions about adoption. Some advice from Pertman and Berger for families considering adopting a child:
- Get Educated on Adoption "People still too often perceive adoption as second best and generally lack knowledge about what they are getting into, no matter what type of adoption they choose," Pertman says. By contrast, when people conceive a child they often do research without even realizing it. "They read books, talk to friends, watch TV shows. They go to Lamaze classes, and they might subscribe to a parenting magazine," says Pertman. "Too often when we adopt we think, 'Well, I'll pay the fee and then I'll be a parent.'" Instead, adoptive parents need to invest time in research upfront, which can be difficult given the secrecy that has always surrounded adoption. "We don't have enough personal experiential contact with adoption to feel comfortable and have good instincts about it," Pertman says. "And because it has been so stigmatized, we tend not to know the extent of the preparation that is needed."Despite the stigma that still exists, "adoption is a wonderful thing to do if you want to do it. And if you do it properly and ethically, it's just as complete and just as whole and just as loving a way of forming a family as any other," says Pertman. "But it's different," he adds. "Not better or worse, just different." Doing it well and making good decisions requires preparation. "Read a good book, use the Web as a resource, talk to friends who have adopted and figure out if it is for you. It may or may not be, but make the decision based on good information," advises Pertman, who is an adoptive parent himself.
- Be Prepared to Educate Others While much of the stigma surrounding adoption has eased, some still exists, says Pertman. Consider this: In a survey conducted by the Adoption Institute, 90 percent of respondents had a positive view of adoption, but about one-third said that adopted children and their parents don't love each other as much as parents who have their children biologically. "It's simply not true," says Pertman. "But it's hard to break through those stereotypes because of the decades of secrecy that surround adoption. We keep secrets about things that we are ashamed of, so as a result a lot of people assume viscerally that there must be something to be ashamed of." With such misconceptions, it's not surprising that people often view adoption as a last-resort option.Not only does the stigma affect those considering adopting a child, but everyone involved in adoption also has to deal with a general lack of understanding from those who haven't dealt with adoption themselves. For example, adoptive parents may be asked how it feels not to have children of their own. "We DO have children of our own," says Pertman, who explains that most people don't realize that the language they use can be damaging. "When adoptive children hear that they are not our children, they take that to heart." Adoptive parents, therefore, have an added challenge of helping their child become comfortable with his or her own identity and dealing with a lack of understanding from others.