As coronavirus shutdowns are impacting nearly every country in the world, the trickle-down effect is hitting international adoption hard. It’s nerve-wracking to be sure. As a waiting parent before CoVid-19 shot your plans to h-e-double-hockey-sticks, you are already familiar with a little thing called The Wait. Only, now, it’s no small thing. It’s a big, scary, uncertain thing.
You’ve probably asked, “Now, what do I do?” a few (hundred) times in the last two weeks. Take heart. You are not alone. There are hundreds of prospective parents waiting with you all over the country. The good news is that although the wait is hard, it does give you some extra time to prepare for your child to join your family. We’ve compiled a list of preparations to consider while you wait for international adoption to get moving again.
Talk with an International Adoption Clinic
If you haven’t already, reach out to an experienced International Adoption Clinic or children’s hospital for a thorough evaluation of the child’s file and a list of specialists relevant to the child’s particular diagnoses. This search tool will help you find a pediatrician by specialty or by location.
Here are some questions to ask them:
- What services does your program provide? Pre-adoption? In-Country? Post-Adoption?
- How do I join your program?
- What is the schedule of visits?
- What parent education resources do you recommend for this child’s needs? For this child’s culture/country of birth?
- When can I set up my child’s first intake appointment upon arriving home?
- What documentation or reports will be necessary for that visit?
- Do you have a contact person or social worker to help me navigate local resources and community service providers?
Find A Pediatrician
If you don’t already have a family pediatrician, get some recommendations from the local children’s hospital or other adoptive parents. Set up a few interviews to meet their doctors. Often, health insurance policies do not cover consultations, so bear that in mind when scheduling. Adoptive Parents magazine has a few questions to ask when interviewing pediatricians. You may have to tweak the items for the age of the child you plan to adopt.
For those who already have a pediatrician, schedule a consultation to discuss the information you have on your child. Seek her advice on parent support groups, special needs resources in your area, or educational programs at the local children’s hospital.
Bring the file you have on your prospective child if you have access to it. Consider leaving a copy of the information with her to study further. Ask the pediatrician if the office has a staff person that helps families locate and access resources and services.
Seek Support for Special Needs
Most international adoption programs are now also special needs adoption programs. Familiarize yourself with the Common Special Needs in International Adoption, focusing on what you may already know about your prospective child. If you are not yet matched, use this time to learn all you can about the most common needs of the program you are pursuing. Start seeking supports for you and your family.
Trauma Is a Need
Remember that no matter the child’s diagnosis, she will have had traumatic experiences before coming to your family. Your agency likely has already offered you some trauma-informed parent training, but this delay in your process can be an excellent time to add to that education. To start, check out the books on this list for nurturing a healthy attachment process with your child.
Our recent show, Attachment 101 is a primer on parenting from a trauma-informed foundation. If you are ready to dig a bit deeper, Parenting Children Who Have Experienced Trauma is a good next step.
Practical Supports for Special Needs
These other supports for your child’s particular needs are good connections to make while you wait:
- Online Support – Join some online support groups that are established specifically for the diagnosed need of the child for whom you are expecting. Seek groups populated with parents who are living with that need daily. Ask lots of questions and form connections while you wait. Seek out the national non-profits that are focused on supporting families with your child’s needs.
- Educational Support – Call your school district and ask to speak with a member of the special education team. Explain that you are interested in learning about district supports and community resources for needs that you anticipate your child may experience. Ask about parent groups for differently-abled students or non-typical learners. While you have the school on the line, ask about registration, including evaluations they require if the child you are adopting is school-aged.
- Insurance Coverage – Contact your health insurance provider and ask to speak with an advocate or benefits representative. Discuss your insurance plan and coverage. Ask questions regarding the process to add an adopted child to your policy, when the coverage begins, information on deductibles, copays, and coinsurance, and other details regarding specialists and covered services, including any exclusions/limitations.
Connect with Other Adoptive Parents
Again, join a few online adoption groups in addition to groups that are focused on the child’s needs. It’s also a good idea to join a group focused on your child’s birth country. Learning about issues of customs, culture, and process can be so helpful in smoothing the transition for you all.
Online support is incredible because it’s “open around the clock,” but sometimes you need “real life” friendships. Finding a support group that meets in-person is a necessary part of thriving as an adoptive family. It can force you out the door on the days that you are struggling – now, while you are waiting and later when the transition isn’t going as smoothly as you’d like.
Ask your agency to put you in contact with an experienced adoptive family to “mentor” you. Having a mentor who is parenting a child with the same special need can be invaluable. Diagnosis-specific groups are good starting points if your agency can direct you to a family.
Who Are Your 911’ers?
Everyone needs a 911’er in their adoptive journey. What is a 911’er, you ask? Here are a couple of examples:
- Who is that one friend that you can count upon to handle the nitty-gritty of your anger, fear, stress, and feelings of frustration during this prolonged wait? Even if you have to tell them frankly what you are feeling and what you think you need from them right now.
- Do you have a partner or a spouse who is walking this with you daily? Don’t forget to talk about what you need and be sure to ask what he or she needs to survive this wait. Prioritize meeting those needs for each other while you wait.
- Who will let you text-rant late into the night when your agency calls back to say they have no new information?
- Is there a friend you can call in the middle of the night when your child hasn’t slept in three days?
- What about that friend that would drop off a meal on short notice or pick up your eight baskets of laundry when you are fighting jet lag?
Inquire About Post Adoption Services
Contact your local Early Intervention or Intermediate Units. Ask when they prefer to see newly adopted children for a thorough in-home evaluation of possible needs. Some counties or states have different names for these organizations, and your pediatrician’s office should be able to direct you to the right resource. If not, try the school district for direction.
Your local state or county adoption or foster care offices can direct you to the post-adoption services that your state offers (if any) and how to access them. This one might take a few calls, but again, your pediatrician’s staff can be a good starting point – as can social workers at the local children’s hospital.
Many states offer services for special needs children. Reach out to your state health department and inquire about what is available for adopted children, including the possibility of supplemental health insurance. Some states require re-applying or re-verification yearly, so make sure you stay on top of this issue.
Prepare Your Children
While you have this additional time, you can increase your efforts to prepare the kids already in your home for the coming adoption. Our Top Ten Tips for Blending Children by Birth and Adoption is a quick factsheet to which you can frequently refer as you maximize this additional time.
We also love children’s books for tackling tough topics with kids. These book lists offer some of our favorites for getting ready for a new sibling.
Dive Into Issues of Culture, Race, and Country
This series, by the non-profit Love Without Boundaries, is a fantastic resource to help you set Realistic Expectations in international adoption. The series was written about adoption from Asian nations. Still, if you use it as a starting point, you can challenge yourself to examine your expectations and think about how to adjust.
Every nation and culture has its norms, and learning in advance of traveling to your child’s birth land will help you set reasonable expectations of the travel experience. This information will also prepare you for your child’s behaviors and transition, especially if you are adopting an older child.
While you wait for your child, take this course with guest expert Dr. Gina Samuels about adopting a child of a different race or ethnicity.
While you wait for your child, search out local communities of your child’s race or ethnic background. There are lots of fun ways to tackle this learning curve:
- Attending cultural events
- Learning the language
- Visiting museums and special exhibits
- Taking cooking classes or trying out new recipes and foods at home
- Eating out at ethnic restaurants
- Seek out artists and musicians to follow or study from your child’s country
It’s also essential to develop relationships with members of the local community from your child’s cultural background. The more you immerse yourself in your child’s culture of birth, the better prepared you will be to help your child explore and embrace their story. As your child grows in his understanding of his story and his culture, it will become increasingly more important to him that you can walk with him through that process.
Creating a Family is Here for You
We get it. The wait you are facing is painful. It’s excruciating not to know when it will end. We hope this list of ideas will give you something positive on which to focus. We are here for you in this challenging time, so please, reach out if you need us.
Image Credit: Giuseppe Milo; sergio santos; David Stewart; Neeta Lind
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