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"It takes a whole village to raise a child ... "


Katherin Jones
January 1996

Venturing into the complex world of adoption can be a daunting and bewildering prospect for many would-be parents. How do you know if adoption is the right step for you? Can you adopt locally? Should you adopt internationally? How much does it cost? How long does it take?

Where do you find the answers to all your questions? You don't need to reinvent the wheel! Contacting your local adoption support group and hooking up with people who've adopted is your best first step.

You'll meet people who have adopted recently and who can give you up-to-date information on how and where to adopt. You'll get hard facts on agencies and facilitators, costs, contacts and time involved.

You'll also meet people who, like you, are wondering if adoption is right for them. You'll find that you are not alone as you struggle with your feelings. You can find about the prospects for both domestic and international adoption. And you can get a sense about how comfortable you would be raising a child of a different racial background.

Adoption is a perfectly acceptable way to build a family, but it is still not the norm. Your family and friends, though supportive, may not fully understand the questions and concerns surrounding adoption. Support groups provide a network of people who share similar experiences -- they, too, have struggled with the decision to adopt; worked with strangers to find a child; readjusted their lives after adoption and dealt with the curiosity of strangers.

Adoptive parent groups also provide on-going support once the legal adoption process is finished. Families can discuss issues and concerns they have in common about raising their children.

Support groups offer a safe and supportive place to raise questions, express uncertainty, vent frustration and brag about successes. In addition, adopted children benefit from the chance to meet one another. For children who believe adoption has happened only to them, it is reassuring to meet other adoptees.

Support groups offer a range of activities:
-- Informal discussions for parents to share experiences, concerns and advice.
-- How-to-adopt seminars and forums on topics like attachment, open adoption, parenting skills, special education and development delay, and search and reunion.
-- Parties, picnics and holiday celebrations where families mingle and relax.

Support groups deal with a range of questions:
-- To adopt or not to adopt--What agencies or facilitators should we work with? What are the differences among agencies? What types of children are available for adoption? What are we getting ourselves into?
-- Preparing--How do we get a home study done? How do we prepare family and friends? What are the costs? What are our expectations and limitations?
-- Afterward--How do we handle issues like bonding? How do we talk about birthparents to our children? How should we handle discipline? Do our child's problems result from adoption, or are they just a normal part of growing up? What do we tell teachers? How do we answer strangers' questions?

There are adoption groups in every province. They understand your concerns, can help dispel some of your qualms, and will provide moral support. Even if you can't attend meetings, you can get a sympathetic ear on the telephone. You can be a member-by-mail -- many groups have newsletters which do an excellent job of addressing adoption concerns generally ignored in the media and in child welfare literature.

According to an African proverb, "It takes a whole village to raise a child." Truly, raising our children requires the support of a community, and for many of us that includes an adoption support group. It may be an informal gathering of a few parents, or it may be the local chapter of your provincial adoptive parents' association. If there isn't one in your community, start one!

To find your support group, see:
Directory of all adoption support groups in Canada

Katherin Jones was first editor of Adoption Helper, no. 1 to no. 21 (1990-1996). She lives in Toronto with sons David (b. 1989, Peru) and Cristopher (b. 1996, Guatemala).

First published in Adoption Helper No. 19, January 1996.

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