Is Adoption for Me?

By Virginia Spielmann, B.Sc. (Hons) Occupational Therapy and Erica Liu Wollin, Psy.D.

Growing your family through adoption is a profound and life changing experience. If you are thinking about adoption as a choice for your family, there are some significant considerations your family should discuss with each other and seek advice on. This document is a quick introduction to some of these topics; although it is impossible to cover everything one should consider, we hope some of the points below will help you in your decision­ making process.

Am I Looking for Adoption to Cure My Infertility?

Adopting a child as a result of infertility is a difficult journey. For most, adoption may solve the issue of not having a child, but it does not heal the grief, identity issues, and lost dreams of infertility. It is strongly recommended that you intentionally seek support for your grieving process before moving to adoption, and again process your infertility grief throughout your journey of healing even after adoption, if beneficial. It is important that your adopted child does not hold the weight of your unmet expectations and dreams arising from infertility.

Do I Equate Adoption to Giving Birth?

Adopting a child is not the same as giving birth to a child. As obvious as it may seem, it is important to realise adoption – while wonderful and beautiful when successful – is immensely different to parenting a child who was born into a family. Conventional parenting books and advice from neighbours will often be less than relevant for adoptive parents, as adoption has unique challenges and demands that will take up brain space and energy in surprising ways.  (1)

Am I Educating Myself on Bonding and Attachment in Adoption?

Love at first sight is not guaranteed. It often takes time to bond with the newest addition to your family. Whatever the age of a child when s/he comes home, the equilibrium of the household will be disrupted. While this massive change in schedule and routine occurs, you may find this new human being does not immediately reciprocate your feelings of love. Children who have experienced multiple disruptions or previous placements, or who are toddlers, or older can also experience tremendous fear or resistance to attach due to previous trauma. Others will go through an initial honeymoon period and then their insecure behaviors will begin to show. These require a tremendous amount of patience, emotional health and security on the part of the parent (and sometimes professional intervention) as you will not feel your love requited immediately or it will be inconsistently felt.

Have I Considered My Relationships?

Parenting puts additional strain on a marriage relationship, adoption sometimes even more so. Make sure that you and your partner are both fully aware and fully committed to this journey; if one of you remains hesitant about adoption, it may not be the right time for you, or it may be helpful to meet with a counselor about these hesitations before moving forward with adoption . If you decide to proceed with adoption, we encourage you to find a community of people who can support you throughout your family’s journey. If you are a single parent, you will need a community of people to support you and will be available at a moment’s notice to lend a hand.

Have I Examined My Financial Resources and Time Commitments?

Just as parenting is expensive – adoption can be expensive too. In some cases even more so than parenting biological children. In addition to agency fees, court fees, and citizenship, immigration and passport costs, which can be more complicated for adoptions, costs of additional therapeutic or educational services for your adopted child may be more than you would have anticipated. Parenting is also time­ consuming. No matter how many parenting books we read in preparation, most people agree the reality of parenting is quite different. Adoption can be even more time consuming because an adopted child needs extra time, care and support for his or her story and identity to develop in a healthy and robust manner.

Am I Aware of Invisible Special Needs and How this Might Impact My Family and the Way I Should Parent?

Even if you have not opted to adopt a special needs child, it is very possible your child will indeed have tangible or invisible special needs. Children who have been adopted often need extra support from specialists in child development in order to develop to full potential, and children who have been in institutionalized settings, have experienced frequent moves or inconsistent care, or experienced early neglect or abuse, may carry lasting developmental and emotional trauma. The therapeutic parenting needed for such children may mean frequent trips to speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, mental health professionals, tutors and more. Some of these extra support services may request the whole family attend in order to achieve the maximum benefit.  These unanticipated special needs can impact the entire family, as siblings may experience a different atmosphere around the home for a significant transition period, or less time or attention available from one or both of their parents on a more lasting basis.  It is highly important that you be willing to take the initiative to engage in ongoing conversations with all family members about how changes may impact them and discuss the various feelings that may arise.  At times, children from difficult beginnings might need specific parenting approaches. Adoptive parents need to be willing to reconsider their parenting strategies and philosophies if these strategies are not working for their child.

Am I Willing to Let Go of My Own Timeline and Achievement Expectations?

Parenting is a lifelong endeavour; we all know this. Children may move out of the home at 18, 21 or 35 in some cases. But, because of early trauma, children who are adopted may take longer to move through developmental stages than we might expect. Milestones may not be achieved according to the usual trajectory, or not at all. This can also mean that we have a child living at home past the expected ‘norm’ – requiring adjustment of educational expectations and notions of independence.

Am I Prepared to Talk About Adoption Openly?

There is a general understanding now that children who are adopted need to be aware of their whole stories. Keeping adoption a secret from a child or keeping part of a child’s story a secret can be very harmful to the sense of self and mental wellness. You need to be comfortable with your child’s story and with sharing that story in a way that honours the child and the child’s history, even when a story contains trauma. Adoption professionals can assist you to learn these skills, and your commitment to communicative openness will contribute to greater security and trust for your child.

Am I Secure Enough to Allow My Child’s Birth Family Be Part of Their Story and Possibly Part of Their Life?

Some day your child may need support to search for his or her birth parents or birth family members. This process is always a unique journey that requires open and supportive communication, willingness to put your child’s needs over yours, hard work, and resources. Adoptive parents must understand that a desire to trace one’s roots is not a reflection of the adoptee’s love or loyalty to the adoptive family.

Have I Thought About the Implications of Transracial Adoption for Me, My Family, and My Sense of Privacy?


Adopting a child of a different ethnicity carries with it certain considerations. Learning to respond appropriately to other people’s comments and opinions on your family’s appearance and composition will become important to you and your children. You will need to become comfortable with empowering your child to handle surprising or intrusive questions, and talking about his or her experiences on the playground and in the classroom. The balance between ensuring your child feels loved and one of the family, and affirming the cultural heritage requires a commitment which needs to be beyond superficial. It may involve serious consideration of school and neighborhood demographics and who you choose to spend time with. It is important that your child have the opportunity to interact with other transracial adoptees, as well as people from your child’s culture of origin (not just other adoptees from that culture but also natives who will help your child to develop and own his/her identity).

Am I Willing to Continue to Educate and Equip Myself?

Adoption is a wonderful and beautiful experience and journey for a family. It is important to be aware of the high level of support you will need before and during the process; that this is different to mainstream parenting and that the demands placed on you are significant. The highs and lows of an adoptive parent’s journey can be extreme. We know many adoptive families who would never change a thing and who value every part of their experience; usually these are families who are intentional about dealing with the unique challenges of adoption and who received support from their extended family or community in meeting these challenges. We commend you for reflecting on these important matters and encourage you to be involved in organisations such as Adoptive Families of Hong Kong where you can continue to discuss and learn about these issues within a supportive community.

我適合領養孩子嗎?

領養孩子是意義深遠、改變生命的經歷,是一個終生的承諾。如果你正在考慮領養孩子,你和你的家人必須就著幾個要點互相商量,徵求意見,並達成共識。這是一份簡明的介紹,雖然無法概括所有議題,但希望其中有些要點能對你的決定有所幫助。

領養能解決我的不育問題嗎?

如果把領養孩子當作不育的補償,那麼這段旅程就會變得相當艱難。領養也許可以解決沒有孩子的問題,但卻不能撫平因不育而帶來的悲傷、身份認同和夢想失落。強烈建議你在領養前,請先尋求支援來協助處理自身的哀傷;而即使在領養孩子後,如果有需要,亦請你也繼續尋求輔導,處理悲痛。記住重要的一點:領養孩子,並不是為了填補你因不育而帶來的失落的。

我把領養孩子等同於生育孩子嗎?

領養孩子不同於生育孩子。顯而易見,請明白,如若成功領養孩子,這的確是非常美妙的一件事;但與生育孩子有着極大的不同,傳統的育兒書或鄰居給予的育兒建議,並不適合領養父母。領養有其獨特的挑戰和要求,且需要驚人的智力和體力,去面對很多令人驚訝的挑戰。

我是否有足夠的認知和知識,去與領養孩子建立親密關係?

領養並不保證會有一見鍾情的發生。當一個家庭來了新成員,大家都需要時間來互相認識和融洽。不管孩子在什麼年紀時加入家庭中,家庭的平衡都會被打破。當巨大的改變在日常生活和細節中發生時,你可能會發現這位新成員並未能對你的愛立時有所回應。經歷過多次與信任的成人(父母或照顧者)分離、或多次搬遷,無論是蹣跚學步的、還是年長一點的孩子,都會因為過往的創傷,而產生了有巨大的恐懼和不安,變得不敢輕易去依附和信任他人。有些孩子會有一段蜜月期,但潛藏的不安會以行為表現出來。當愛得不到即時回應或者感覺不一致時,這需要父母有極大的耐性、穩定的情緒和安全感去慢慢處理,有時甚至需要專業人士的介入。

我有考慮到自身的婚姻關係嗎?

養兒育女的確會對婚姻關係帶來額外的壓力。有時候,領養產生的壓力更甚。你要確定你和你的伴侶對領養孩子都有足夠的心理準備和承諾。如果你或伴侶對領養尚有疑惑,猶豫不決,那麼現在可能還不是適當的時機;或者在領養前,先諮詢專家意見,解除疑慮。如果你決定領養,我們建議你找到一個能支持你們家庭的團體或機構。如果你是單親,你更需要支援的團隊,,準備隨時給多支援,能幫你一把。

我的財政和時間是否足夠?

生養孩子所費不菲——領養孩子也一樣,有時甚至比親生孩子更昂貴。輔導、支援團體、領養機構、法院、居民證、移民局、護照等費用,額外的醫療、教育等支出,比你預先考慮的可以更多。為人父母,也需要付出大量的時間。不管事先讀了多少教養孩子的書籍,大多數人都同意現實的育兒情況是相當不同的。領養的孩子需要家長付出的可能更多,因為他們需要家長額外的時間、關懷和情緒去盛載孩子自身的成長故事,去建立健康而健全的身份認同。

我是否了解到孩子潛在的獨特需要,並準備好面對因這些需要而可能影響到我的家庭及育兒理念?

即使你不是領養一個需要特殊照顧的孩子,他們亦很可能存在着可見或隱性的獨特需求。被領養的孩子在兒童發展期,通常需要一些專業人士的額外支持,才能達致全面發展。而曾居住於院舍的孩子,經歷過多次變遷、不同的照料方式、或早年曾被疏忽照顧、虐待等,都可能存藏著長期的發展或情緒創傷。養育及幫助這些孩子,意味着有需要進行多次言語治療、職業治療、物理治療、精神健康輔導等等。這些額外的支援服務,有時需要全家人一起的參與,以取得最佳的治療效果。這些不曾預料的特殊需求,會影響整個家庭。在一段明顯的過渡期間,兄弟姐妹或會感受到家中的特殊氛圍,包括父母或其中一人對自己的關注少了很多。所以非常重要的是,你願意主動、持續地與所有家人傾談,告訴他們有哪些改變可能會影響他們、以及談論他們的感受。同時,不同年齡進入家庭的孩子可能需要特別的教育方式。所以,父母需不時重新思慮教育方法和理念是否合適自己的孩子。

我是否願意放下自己的時間表和成就期望?

我們都知道,為人父母是一輩子要竭力而為的工作。孩子可能在18、21或35歲時決定獨立生活。但是,因為早年的創傷,被領養的孩子在各個成長階段,需要的時間可能比我們預期的多和長。每個里程碑他們不能如期逹標,或者完全不能達致。這意味着家中的孩子會錯過「正常」的期望——這需要父母調整對教育成就和獨立觀念的期望。

我準備好開放地談論領養嗎?

現時一般的共識是要讓領養的孩子知道自己的身世。隱暪領養的身份或部分身世,對孩子自我的認同和精神健康非常不利。你要坦然面對孩子的身世,即使故事中隱含創傷,也應以開放、正面的態度去分享他的往事,並尊重孩子的故事。領養專家可以協助你學習這些技巧,而你開放地與孩子談論,能給予孩子強大的安全感和信任。

我能否坦然接受及容讓孩子的親生家庭是孩子的親生命中的一部分?

或許有一天,你的孩子可能需要你支持他去尋找自己親生父母或家人。這是一個獨特的過程,需要開放且正面的溝通,並願意把孩子的需求置於自身之上。過程中需要各種資源,甚至專業人員的介入,是一個不容易的工作。領養父母必須明白,孩子尋根的願望並不表示他們不愛或不忠於家庭。

我是否考慮到跨種族領養,對我、孩子、家庭及各人的隱私的影響?

考量領養與自己不同族裔的兒童,需考量一些特定的問題。學習如何正確應對別人對你家人的評價和審視,這對你和孩子都很重要。你要幫助孩子去應對別人好奇或唐突的疑問,和孩子談論他們在遊樂場或學校可能遇到的經歷。讓孩子既感受到愛、是家裡的一份子,同時能肯定自己的文化傳承,並要取得兩者的平衡點。你可能要考慮到學校和鄰居的人口分佈和你想交往的社群。很重要的一點是,讓孩子和其他同時跨種族領養的兒童、或者和孩子本族的人交往,這並非一定是和孩子擁有相同文化背景的社群交流,和孩子相同族裔的人也能幫助孩子自我身份的認同。

我願意持續學習和裝備自己嗎?

領養孩子是家庭中精彩而美麗的經歷。要留意的是,在領養之前和過程之中,你需要強大的支持;你與主流的家長不同,你的需求顯而易見。成為領養父母,過程中情緒的高低起伏可能很極端。許多領養家庭能不改變初衷、珍視每一份經歷,他們努力處理領養帶來的獨特挑戰,並能從家人和社群中得到支持。我們建議你思考這些重要的因素,參加能支援的社群或組織——例如「香港領養家庭」,繼續討論和學習。

若有更多的問題,可參閱以下網址:http://www.motherschoice.org/en/ourservices/adoptionservices/readinesstoadopt/


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(1) For more on this subject, see the following articles: https://creatingafamily.org/adoption­category/adoption­child/

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2007/dec/15/familyandrelationships.family

http://adoptionvoicesmagazine.com/parents­perspective/adoptive­parents­dont­love­their­childre n­the­same­way­biological­parents­do/#.VkaTUK4rJBw


Bibliography

BabyCenter. (2007). What I wish I'd known before starting the adoption process | BabyCenter. Retrieved from

http://www.babycenter.com/0_what­i­wish­id­known­before­starting­th e­adoption­process_1381362.bc

First4Adoption. (2014). Single and thinking about adoption? ­ First4Adoption. Retrieved from

http://www.first4adoption.org.uk/being­an­adoptive­parent/how­do­i­d ecide/single­thinking­adoption/

Forbes, H., & Dziegielewski, S. (2003). Issues Facing Adoptive Mothers of Children with Special Needs. J Soc Work, 3(3), 301­320. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/146801730333003

How To Adopt. (2015). Questions to Ask Before Adopting ­ How To Adopt. Retrieved from

http://www.howtoadopt.org/is­adoption­for­me/questions­to­ask­yours elf/full­list­of­questions/

Infertile People Don't Have A Moral Obligation To Adopt. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.mommyish.com/2014/11/04/infertile­people­dont­have­a­ moral­obligation

Rachelsblatherings.blogspot.hk. (2011). Rachel's Blatherings: So You Think You Should Adopt? Please Don't. Retrieved from http://rachelsblatherings.blogspot.hk/2011/06/so­you­want­to­adopt­pl ease­dont.html 



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