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When is adoption an option?

Adoption gives the legal responsibility to an individual or couple to care for and raise a child who is not born into their family. You may consider adoption when:

  • You can’t give birth to child.
  • You have health problems or a family history of health concerns that could keep you from having a healthy child.
  • You want to offer a home and love to children who have no one to love or care for them.

You may not be able to adopt a newborn. You need to decide if you are willing and able to raise an older child, or a child who is disabled, has special needs, or is from another country or of a different race.

You may adopt a child through a private or public agency, or through an attorney. Public adoption services are usually free. Private services charge fees that can be very expensive. Choose a licensed agency with a good reputation. Ask about their fees and ask for references. The agency will check to see if you have a stable family life, regular income, and good health. You will need to give information about your finances, health, marriage, and employment. You may need to have a physical exam, have your fingerprints taken, and have a background check. A social worker may visit your home to make sure that it will be a healthy place for a child.

A closed adoption means that the birth mother and adopting parents never know each other. Records are kept sealed. In an open adoption, the birth mother can meet and approve of the adopting parents. She may even want to share in the raising of the child. Adoption laws may vary from state to state. You need to know which types of adoptions are legal in your state.

What can I expect after the adoption?

Your child may be upset by the move to a new home and family. At first, your child will probably be excited, overwhelmed, sad, and happy all at the same time. He may behave badly or be very quiet. He may throw tantrums or behave like he is several years younger than his actual age. Do not criticize your child for acting younger than his age. Let your child know that he is safe and protected. The support and understanding that you provide can help children deal with scary emotions.

Your child may grieve for the life he left. Feelings of loss may involve birth parents, friends, foods, language, or culture. Nothing feels familiar to her. Your adopted child may feel unsure about how long you will really want to keep him, especially if he has spent time in foster care.

How can I help my adopted child?

  • Tell your child how much you wanted him. Share pictures and the story of the adoption process, just as you would a baby book.
  • Let your child help choose colors or furniture for his room.
  • Spend lots of time together giving gentle hugs, brushing your child’s hair, or reading books, even if your child does not respond at first.
  • Supervise your child's contact with other children. Your child may not know how to play well with other children, especially if he was raised in another culture.
  • Be consistent with your discipline. Don't make rules unless you mean it. Setting limits helps children.
  • If your child asks about his birth family, give what information you have. Be careful to speak with respect, since it is very personal for your child.
  • For an older child, give your child plenty of chances to talk about his life before living with you. Help your child make connections between his past and present by keeping a scrapbook, writing in a journal, or keeping in touch with friends.
  • If your child is from another culture, learn about that culture and share what you learn with your child.

How can I help myself?

  • Join a support group for adopting parents. Support groups can help by sharing common concerns and solutions to problems with other families in the same situation.
  • As soon as the child is in your home, schedule checkups to have him evaluated both physically and emotionally. Be sure any history of abuse and any physical scars are documented.
  • Recognize that your child may have fears and insecurities that birth children do not. Good communication can help you understand and support your child.
  • Accept your child for who he is. It may take some time before your child is able to return love, or show it in the way you might expect.
  • If you have another child in your family, reassure him that you still love him as much as ever. This is something you will need to tell your child often, especially at first when you give so much attention to your new child. Try to spend one-on-one time to let your other child know that he still has a special place. Be sure that your other child has special things and places that he doesn’t have to share. Try to avoid major changes for your other child (such as moving from a crib to a big bed, weaning, or toilet training) just before or after you bring your new child home.

If you are thinking about adoption, there are many community, church, and healthcare resources that can direct you to the proper adoption placement agency. If you have worries and concerns, talk with your healthcare provider or contact

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-06-30
Last reviewed: 2014-06-30
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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