You’ve completed the approval process for adoption, including training classes, paperwork, and your home study. You’ve prepared a profile and registered with AdoptUSKids so that caseworkers of waiting children can consider you. As you search through photolistings, send out inquiries about children, and wait for a match, your emotions may feel like a roller coaster ride. You may feel anxious, impatient, and hopeful—all in a single day.
“The wait time for matching with a child can vary, and it’s normal for families to experience a range of emotions while they wait,” says Elizabeth Brescia, a senior foster care and adoption resource specialist with AdoptUSKids.
In any situation where a wait is involved, it’s helpful to have support and a sense of purpose. These six actions can help you as you wait.
1. Find support
Families may find themselves interacting with several different support people as they navigate approval and then adoption. “Depending on the agency, the family support person may not be a social worker, but someone in another role in the office,” Elizabeth explains. “Adoptive children have their own case manager who interacts with the family, reaching out about potential matches and remaining involved through the adoption process.”
No matter what your contact’s title, they can be a source of advice and referrals, helping you navigate the process of adoption. Talk with them about finding an in-person or virtual support group for foster and adoptive parents—or being matched with a buddy parent, an experienced adoptive parent.
“You can learn so much from other people who have walked this same path—and you can share your wisdom later on,” Elizabeth says. The AdoptUSKids podcast is another way to learn from experienced adoptive parents.
Some agencies or nonprofit organizations also offer “while you wait” groups for families. As an alternative, follow up with other prospective parents from your training classes and start your own group.
2. Learn about parenting resources
Many states offer additional resources to families who provide foster care or adopt from the foster care system. As you wait, you can learn more from your social worker or agency about the kinds of help available. This can help you plan ahead for your life as an adoptive parent.
Your state may provide adoptive parents with access to respite care, which can enable you to take time for yourself when needed. “Every parent needs a break sometimes,” Elizabeth says. “Respite care is part of self-care, just like going to the doctor or exercising.”
Some states give financial assistance—known as adoption assistance or adoption subsidy—to support medical care, mental health care, daycare, after-school care, and other support services for children adopted from foster care.
Knowing about available resources can help you with long-term financial planning prior to adoption. For example, teens adopted at age 13 or older are considered independent students when they enroll in college. They’re eligible for additional financial aid, without their parents’ finances being considered.
“The wait time for matching with a child can vary, and it’s normal for families to experience a range of emotions while they wait.”
3. Know what you can change…and what you can’t
As you inquire about children, you may wonder when a match will finally happen. While you can’t predict when a match will happen, you can improve how well you match with the children who are available for adoption. For example, there may be more teens or sibling groups available for adoption in your state.
Adoptive families who share their stories with the AdoptUSKids blog often describe how their feelings about adopting teens or sibling groups changed. Assumptions and fears faded away once they met the actual children who needed a home. A good fit often depends more on the connection between the child and the adoptive family, rather than the child’s age.
While they wait, some parents find that it’s helpful to serve as respite care providers for other families. Providing respite care gives you more experience caring for children of different ages. Families can specify which ages they would like to work with and can gain experience mentoring teens.
4. Believe in yourself
“People have a lot of vulnerability about adoption. They worry that they won’t be approved or chosen,” Elizabeth says. Common reasons people cite include being single, working full-time, not owning a home, not being the right age, and more. None of these are barriers to being approved for adoption or being matched with a child.
Although you may be concerned that adoptive parenting will be challenging for you, the reality is that all parenting involves challenges. “Every parent feels overwhelmed sometimes,” Elizabeth says. “Stay close with family and friends who will be supportive—not judgmental—of you as a parent,” she adds.
Don’t put your life on hold while you’re waiting. Continue to do activities you enjoy and take care of yourself, physically and mentally.
5. Build new parenting skills
Whether adoptive parents are new to parenting or experienced, many have concerns about parenting children who have experienced trauma. One of the best ways to prepare is to learn more about child development and trauma and to know parenting techniques. Podcasts, webinars, books, additional classes, and talking to experienced adoptive parents can all help.
“Even when they’ve experienced trauma, children are children, with strengths, interests, and favorite activities,” Elizabeth says.
6. Find positive ways to anticipate your child
Although there’s learning involved in preparing to welcome a child, there’s also anticipation. Learn about local activities and fun destinations for children of different ages and get to know local schools. Preparing your house for a larger family can also be a positive activity, from decluttering to getting a child or children’s rooms ready.
Although the wait can feel long, remember that your future child or children are also waiting. Once the adoption is finalized, you’ll have a lifetime together.