What to Expect #1: Preparing for International Adoption

By Our International Adoption Coordinator Megan Montgomery


Being realistic…

This is a hurry up and wait kind of game. You control what you can at the start of the process but, once your documents are collected, your home study written and finalized, I800A approval received and dossier submitted, you are just waiting.

But, there is more to waiting than meets the eye. There are things to be done…reading, updating your will, doctors and daycares to research, and learning about the culture of the country from which you are adopting.

But, then a few weeks later when you have looked into these things, stocked up on books and cultural activities, selected a pediatrician and gotten on the list at a local daycare, what do you do for the rest of the seemingly never-ending wait?

Your child may not get nearly as much time to prepare – in fact they may be too young to even understand what is happening to them or if they are old enough to be prepared, this doesn’t mean they have been. Orphanage staff may have seen situations where a family and child were matched but the family never ended up completing the adoption, now they may feel overly cautious about letting a child know that they have a family coming to adopt them. Since there are likely other children in the orphanage who are not yet matched with a family the orphanage staff ay not share adoption news so as to protect the other children who are not yet chosen.

Whatever the reason it is important to recognize that your child may not have had much time to prepare for meeting you. They may be scared and timid, hesitant to go with you or hysterical to be placed in your arms. What they have been told about their new family, may not be comfortable for you: that the need to be “good” or they will be sent back to the orphanage. There was a family I worked with, who adopted a young girl about 12 years old. Although she was aware that she was being adopted, she was scared and nervous. On the bus ride back to the hotel with her new family she was physically sick numerous times, and she cried when it was time to sign the adoption paperwork. The family was worried and not sure what could be wrong with her. Why did she not want to be adopted? What they had forgotten was that she knew nothing other than her life in the orphanage. So, as wonderful as they believed their family was and this girl’s life would be with them, she could not even imagine it.

In an instant everything is changing for them…the sights, the sounds, the smells.

This you need to prepare for. Take your free time during the wait to meet your child as a time to put yourself in their shoes. Sit down and imagine their life and what it might feel like if you were to be uprooted from everything you have ever known and thrown into a whole new world.

How can you help make them feel comfortable?

How can you check your feelings at the door and tend look at things from your new child’s perspective?

You cannot ever fully prepare for the addition of a new child to your family. There is always more to learn and tools to be collected for future use. Try not to feel overwhelmed and embrace the excitement of learning and exploring this new world of adoption.

This series was inspired by a series of blog posts written by Amy Eldridge, Director of Love Without Boundaries on their blog.

Read the entire What to Expect Series:

Read More on International Adoption:

Five Classic Myths About International Adoption , Is International Adoption for You?, Curious about International Adoption, but not sure where to go for reliable information?