Choosing to adopt is a major decision that can reap rewarding and unfathomable benefits of giving an orphaned child a place to call home. Adoption is "the social, emotional and legal process in which children who will not be raised by their birth parents become full and permanent legal members of another family while maintaining genetic and psychological connections to their birth family," according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, Administration for Children and Families (http://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption). The agency offers extensive resources on the adoption process, summarized below:
Prepare yourself and your family
Before you make the first call, ask yourself why you want to adopt and if you are ready. Discuss your thoughts with family, friends or church members. Research the different types of adoptions, and adoption expenses and assistance.
Make a plan
Depending on if you are adopting a healthy infant, a child from overseas or a waiting child, the process can take six months to several years. Select an appropriate agency for the type of adoption you wish to pursue, and determine if you will need a facilitator or an attorney as well. With a plethora of adoption laws, you'll need someone to help guide you through them.
Home study and paperwork
The purpose of the home study is for the adopting entity to gather information about you and your family, evaluate your reasons, desire and commitment for adoption, and help you begin your paperwork.
Pre-adoption classes or parenting classes
In response to the home study or as required by the adopting entity, you will need to take pre-adoption or parenting classes. These classes will help prepare you to add a new member to your family, and connect with others who have adopted or are going through the same process.
Be matched or locate a child
There are many different ways of being matched with a child. The most important aspect of the process is that the child and family are the right fit for one another, and that what you have to give is what that child needs.
Your child's arrival
You are at the home stretch, and you're ready to welcome your new child into his or her new home. If your adopted is an infant or toddler, you'll need to make all the preparations any new parent-to-be would. If your child is older or has special needs, make sure to enroll him or her in school and line up all the necessary services. You'll need to determine how to integrate your new child into daily routines. Take lots of pictures to start building memories right away. Be patient. It might be slow going at first; attachment is a process built on trust.
This step may happen before or after your child arrives in your home. To finalize your adoption, you must attend a court hearing where a judge orders that the adoptive parents become the child's legal parents. Depending on the needs and circumstances of your child, this can be a large family gathering or a small intimate affair.
Remember that you are not alone; you are now part of a larger family. Research adoptive-parent support groups, workshops, conferences and social activities in your area. If your new child is struggling to adjust, seek a children's support group or therapy.
Cross-cultural, Cross-racial Adoptions
The Howard M. Metzenbaum Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994 prohibits agencies receiving federal funding from delaying or denying placement of a child because of race or ethnicity. Therefore, the focus can be on finding a loving home for a child, regardless of the race of the child or adoption family. Debra G. Smith, former director of the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, offers these tips for cross-cultural, cross-racial adoption:
• Make sure that you have examined your beliefs and attitudes about race and ethnicity. You must be prepared to have these types of conversations with people around you and your adopted child.
• Look at your lifestyle. It is vital that you value diversity in the various aspects of your life—neighborhood, social activities, food, friends—and essential to strongly model that in your home. It is important to surround yourself with a supportive community of family and friends.
• Create a safe environment for your child where no racially or ethnically biased remarks will be tolerated.
• Be open. Talk about race and culture in your family. Celebrate holidays and customs from various cultures and expose your child to positive role models from his or her ethnic group.
Find more help in, "I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-Conscious World," by Marguerite Wright (Jossey-Boss, 2000, $15.95)
Books on Adoption
• "The Adoption Decision: 15 Things You Want to Know Before Adopting," by Laura Christianson (Harvest House, 2007, $13.99)
• "The Complete Adoption Book: Everything You Need to Know to Adopt a Child," by Laura Beauvais-Godwin and Raymond Godwin (Adams Media, 2005, $18.95)
• "Adopting After Infertility," by Marilyn Crawshaw and Rachel Balen (Jessica Kingley Publishing, 2010, $39.95)
• "Adoption Is a Family Affair!: What Relatives and Friends Must Know," by Patricia Irwin Johnston (Perspectives Press, 2001, $14)
• "Handbook on Thriving As an Adoptive Family: Real-Life Solutions to Common Challenges," by David Sanford (Tyndale House, 2008, $14.99)
• "Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches," by Russell D. Moore (Crossway Books & Bibles, 2009, $15.99)
• "The Open Adoption Experience," by Lois Ruskai Melina (Harper Collins, 200, $15.95)
• "Adopting the Hurt Child," by Gregory C. Keck and Regina M. Kupecky (NAV Press, 2009, $17.99)
• "The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family," by Karyn Purvis, David Cross and Wendy Sunshine (McGraw-Hill, 2007, $16.95)
• "The Whole Life Adoption Book: Realistic Advice for Building a Healthy Adoptive Family," by Thomas C. Atwood and Jayne E. Schooler (NavPress, 2008, $15)
• "Adopt Without Debt: Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption," by Julie Gunn (Black Boot Publishing, release date of May 2011)
• "Adoption For Singles: Everything You Need to Know to Decide If Parenthood is For You," by Victoria Solsberry (CreateSpace, 2010, $29.95)
Resources Mississippi Adoption
• Catholic Charities, Adoption Department (601-355-8634)
• Mississippi Adoption Resource Exchange (1-800-821-9157; 601-359-4753)
• Mississippi Children's Home Society and Family Service Association (601-352-7784)
• Mississippi Department of Human Services, Adoption Unit (1-800-821-9157; 601-359-4753)
• Mississippi Families for Kids (1-800-241-5437; 601-360-0591)
• Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth, Harden House Adoption Program (1-800-748-3005; 601-960-2655)
• Intercountry Adoption, Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. Department of State (http://www.adoption.state.gov)
• Show Hope (http://www.showhope.org)