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Adopting?: Do You Have What it Takes?
By Alfred J. Garrotto
Last edited: Monday, July 22, 2002
Posted: Monday, December 03, 2001

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Prior to adopting, parents need to assess their ability to meet the challenges of loving a child not of their own flesh and blood.

(Note: This article is directed primarily at those preparing for an international adoption. However, many of the questions dealt with apply equally to domestic adoptions.)

If you're like I was when going through the adoption process, you're pretty sure you can meet all the paperwork qualifications. You're willing to jump through home study and INS hoops. But, have you taken a personal inventory to see if you are made of the right stuff to be an adoptive parent?

Let's take a look at the kind of person best suited for adoption.

The following list is not presented to scare away candidates for adoption. You don't have to be "Super Saint." Thank goodness! No one is. Nor do you have to exhibit all these traits all the time (24/7, as my kids say).

It's just that the more of these qualities you can bring with you to the adoption adventure, the better for you, for those around you, for the child awaiting you, and for the long-term success of the adoption.


You must be highly motivated, which means wanting this adoption with all your heart. If you are a couple, BOTH of you must want the adoption with equal passion. The lifelong emotional, financial, and time demands are too great for anything less than a total commitment.


You've seen that there is a lot of work involved in an adoption, work that only the adopting parents can do. This is true , even if you contract with a child-placing (liaison) agency to find a child for you and handle many of the details and arrangements abroad.


There's a great deal of paperwork and correspondence to manage in the adoption process. By the time you finish, you'll have a file drawer and many computer folders full of documents related specifically to the adoption. From the beginning, get a handle on organizing all those papers, correspondence, and receipts before it gets to be such a job that you give up. You'd be amazed to know how often you'll refer back to those files, even years after you've completed the adoption.


It's fine to know exactly the kind of child you want, even the exact country. But, the more you narrow your search, the longer it may take to find a child meeting your criteria. The more open you can be about the country, race, age, and sex of the child--including skin color, travel, accommodations, etc.--the easier it will be to find a child to adopt.

Accepting Frustration and Delay

It has been said--and truly--that adoption is not for the faint of heart. The road to a successful adoption, whether international or domestic, is a rocky one at times. There always seems to be one more document to submit, one more requirement to fulfill. Make up your mind that the unexpected will happen and do your best to "go with the flow."

Patience Under Pressure

Pursuing an international adoption is like riding a roller coaster. There are emotionally exhilarating highs and terribly depressing lows. The down times can be tough to handle, such as the seemingly endless waiting for your case to snake its way through the court system. This is when you need to be at your best, not one of those clients who releases pressure by screaming at the agency staff when there's no one else to vent your frustration on.

Accepting Your Child "As Is"

Will you be able to accept and love a child that may look very different from you (and your other children)? Often, this is the make-or-break issue for those deciding whether or not to go forward with an adoption, particularly a foreign adoption.

Extended family issues and race-related pressures come into play around this question. It takes a lot of honesty and love to deal with these in your own heart and within your local community. It's perfectly all right to decide and admit you can only parent a child of your own race and similar complexion.

We all want our children to be healthy, beautiful, bright, high achievers. But, what your child's IQ and future career will be is far out of your field of vision at the time of the adoption. The key question is: Can you accept and love a child without any guarantees about the future?

On Your Good Days

If you can read down this list and say, "I can do that, at least on my good days," you probably have what it takes to be a successful adoptive parent. Go for it, then. And keep this article handy to remind you on those inevitable days when you aren't at your tip-top best.

- - - - - - -

Alfred J. Garrotto lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two adopted daughters, now in their late teens. His novel, Finding Isabella (Genesis Press, 2000) is the story of an adoptee who returns to her native country in search of her birth mother.

Copyright (c) 2001 by Alfred J. Garrotto
- - - - -
For permission to reprint this article, contact Mr. Garrotto at

Web Site A. J. Garrotto's Home Page

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Reviewed by Carrie Ostrea
Another very good article!

Author of "Family Bound: One Couple's Journey through Infertility and Adoption"

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