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Things to Do While Waiting for an Adopted Child

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

After all approvals have been given, the most difficult step for many adoptive parents is at hand. It is time to wait for an international child to become available or to have domestic birth parents choose the adoptive parents for adoption. There is no way to rush this waiting period, which proceeds at its own pace. Although the tension can be unbearable, there are many important tasks for adoptive parents to do during this time to prepare for their child's arrival.

Choosing a Doctor It is important to find a pediatrician (a specialist in child medical care) or family doctor who will offer primary care for the child. If the family does not already have a doctor, the waiting period can be productively used to identify and interview doctors to find one whose philosophy and views regarding care match those of the adoptive parents.

Preparing the Home Normal childfree households are often not prepared to immediately receive children who will need nursery space. There may be sharp corners, unshielded electrical outlets, unlocked cabinets filled with household cleaners and other hazards that will need to be removed before the child comes home. In addition to safeguarding the house and preparing living space for the baby (including acquiring necessary equipment such as a safe crib, child car seat, etc.), the adoptive family may wish to decorate a bedroom for the child. Family members may wish to plan a baby shower at this time to help the adoptive parents acquire the equipment and clothing they will need.

Preparing a Will The adoptive parents should consult with an attorney who can help them draw up a will to legally specify the disposition of their assets (equity in a home, property, savings, etc.) and the custody of their new child in the event of their death. With a will in place, the chain of custody for the child can be immediately determined, and assets can be directed toward the child's new guardian to provide for the welfare of the child. If one or both parents should die without a will, the disposition of their assets would be handled according to state law as determined by probate court, a process that might take a long time complete and will generally not provide optimally for dependent children.

Talking to the Insurance Company Arrangements should be made to make sure that the new child will be immediately included on the adoptive parents' health insurance policy. The adoptive parents may wish to purchase life insurance if they don't already have such policies, so that their new child will be provided for financially in the event of their premature deaths. The adoptive parents should create a list of existing insurance documents, including beneficiary forms for life insurance policies, which will need to be updated once the adoption is finalized.

Talking to Employers Adoptive parents should inform their employer(s) of their plans. If necessary, a period away from work to be spent with the new child once he or she arrives should be arranged with the employer's human resources department. Parents who work for an employer with 50 or more employees and who have worked at least 1050 hours during the past year are covered by the United States Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which permits new parents to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work without fear of losing employment. In addition, many employers have special leave policies for employees who are adopting that may include permission to use vacation or sick time or other paid leave options in place of unpaid leave.

Take Parenting and Other Relevant Classes Adoptive parents, especially first-time parents, can take classes that will help prepare them for raising a child. A variety of classes are appropriate, including First Aid or CPR classes, classes for parents of special needs children, or special cultural classes (in the event of an international adoption, to become familiar with an adoptive child's culture of origin).

Finding Adoption Support Groups It may also be a good idea to locate one or more support groups of parents who are adopting a child or have previously adopted a child. In support group meetings, people going through similar life events can share their experiences. Sharing personal experiences of the adoption process with others going through the same process can be a helpful way of managing feelings and stress associated with the process. These groups can also be a good source of information and support for adoptive families.

Communicating and Documenting the Adoption The waiting period can also be a good time to prepare adoption announcements, start a baby book or scrapbook for the child, and keep a journal documenting what parents thought, felt, and did while waiting for their adoptive child to arrive.