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Thinking of adopting?

Are you contemplating adoption? Whether doing it independently or through the use of an agency, prospective parents must exercise caution. In the world of adoption— as in everything else— if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Below, are some dos and don'ts.

Do get pre-adoptive counseling and insist upon it for any potential birth as well. Adam Pertman, the Executive Director of the Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute advocates professional counseling for everyone involved in the adoption process, including the woman who is planning to give up her child. He says, “You should understand that the woman who’s placing her child with you is going to have feelings of grief and loss. She’s not a baby making machine who’s selling you her product. She’s making an extraordinarily difficult decision for the sake of her child.” 

Counseling will help a potential birth mother know if adoption is the right decision for her and may help avoid a traumatic changes of heart later on.  Also, be wary of a potential birth mother who refuses to meet with a counselor or social worker.

Do use the Internet, but use it wisely.  The Internet is a great way to learn about adoption options, make connections, do research and form relationships. However be alert to scammers.  According to Pertman, adoption scams have always existed. The Internet just expands the possibilities. “There are wonderful things happening as a consequence of the Internet, but there’s also bad stuff," he says. "If someone can make a few bucks off of people’s sorrow and grief and desire to have children, they will.”

Do get proof of pregnancy. Once you’ve been matched with a potential birth mother, make sure you or your agency or attorney obtain medical proof of pregnancy from the woman’s doctor.  Be wary of a woman who will not supply medical records relating to her pregnancy or makes it difficult for you to get them.Do get a detailed medical history.

The information can be invaluable for your child’s health in the future. If the birth parent fill out medical history forms, look them over and ask questions about any thing that isn’t completely clear. Also, don’t assume you can get the information later — even if you plan an open adoption anything can happen and you may not be able to reach the birth family in the event of a medical emergency.

Don’t try to do it alone. You’ll need a lawyer to finalize an adoption, but Pertman strongly advise using a use counselor and attorney throughout the process. Good ones will be thinking with their heads even if you want to act from your heart. Don’t send money or gifts with out checking with your attorney or agency.  

The type of support a family can give a birthmother varies from state to state and you could inadvertently do something outside the law that could jeopardize the legality of your adoption.

Don’t worry about asking too many questions. Some adoptive families may be reluctant to ask a potential birth mother too many questions for fear of offending her or scaring her off.  Pertman, an adoptive father himself, understands the pressure a prospective parent may feel make the potential birth mother like them.

“I’ve been there. I understand that you want to be cautious— but you know, if it doesn’t work, then that wasn’t meant to be your child.”

Don’t make promises you can’t —or won’t— keep. Pertman says that honesty is a two-way street in the adoptive process.  Adoptive families need to be sure that deal in an upfront manner with a potential birth mother.  For example, don’t promise annual visits with your child’s birth family if you do not intend to follow through.

“You want to look back at this adoption and the way you formed your family in five, ten, 20 years and say, ‘I did this ethically.’ I can look at my son or daughter and feel really good about it.”

Don’t give up, even if you are the victim of an adoption scam. Even if you have done all of the above Pertman says that a good scammer may have the agency, attorney, and you fooled. “But most people aren’t dishonest, and so keep moving on and eventually you’ll wind up with who is honest and you get through the process.  Invariably, most people who want to adopt do adopt.”