Both before receiving the child and after the child's placement, adoptive parents need to be sure to take care of themselves. Adoption often is an emotionally charged experience with many highs and lows.
Participation in adoption support groups can be helpful while you're waiting for a child, and is especially important following adoption. These groups are designed to help adoptive parents cope with the challenges of raising adopted children through the sharing of experiences by fellow adoptive parents. Groups may have been formed independently or under the auspices of an adoption agency. Cost generally is minimal.
These classes may, in some instances, be required as part of the adoption home study process. Since adoption is a life-long process, many parents also find it helpful to continue to learn about adoption issues and parenting as their children reach different stages of development. You may wish to attend workshops or seminars that focus on telling your child about his or her adoption, dealing with common parenting problems such as bed wetting or fighting, or working effectively with teachers and the school system to be sure your child's needs are met. Classes frequently are sponsored by an adoption agency and a small registration fee usually is required.
Respite care programs are designed for adoptive parents who need an emotional break. Typically, this involves someone else taking care of the child for a short time, such as a few hours, a weekend, or more. When families use respite care, they need someone who has the expertise to care for their child or children -- someone with more experience than your neighborhood teenage baby-sitter is likely to have. Some government subsidies may be available to pay for respite care for those who adopt waiting children, but parents usually have to pay for this themselves.
If you don't have a will, this is the time to have one prepared. Once the child is placed in your home, you'll want to see an attorney to add the child to your will or to any trusts you may have. Mentally or physically disabled children can raise unique legal and financial issues. Think carefully about who will take care of your adopted child should something happen to you.
Financial planners generally recommend that parents not name their children as direct beneficiaries to their insurance policies, retirement plans, individual retirement accounts, investments, and so on. That's because minors are restricted by state laws in their access to funds. However, your circumstances may call for naming the child as a beneficiary (and almost certainly as a secondary beneficiary). Talk with a financial planner or other specialist to determine the most appropriate actions.
If you adopt a child with a physical or emotional disability who might never be self-sufficient, you can arrange for a special-needs trust. This is a trust established by parents for the benefit of their child. Families with adequate income can fund the trust with life insurance, for example. A trust can be useful in allowing family financial support for the child without affecting the child's eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from the federal government. This is a highly technical area and an experienced attorney and financial planner should be consulted.
It is natural for an adopted child to be curious about his or her biological parents or siblings. Some adoptees will want to search for their roots or have a reunion with their biological parents or siblings once they reach adulthood. Some states may make the records available to the adopted child when he or she is age 18 or 21. Even then, state laws vary considerably regarding the circumstances under which information can be released. Other states keep the records permanently sealed.
By collecting as much background information as you can during the adoption process, you may be able to satisfactorily answer some of your child's questions until he or she is old enough or able to get further information on his or her own.