Five well-known adoption professionals were interviewed in the latter part of 1993-early 1994 about the link between adoption readiness and infertility resolution. Those interviewed were: Diane Michelsen M.S.W., an attorney who specializes in adoption, Sharon Kaplan M.R., author of the books “Cooperative Adoption” and “The Open Adoption Experience,” Kathleen Silber M.S.W., author of “Dear Birthmother” and “Children of Open Adoption,” Lynne Fingerman M.S.W. who is director of the Jewish Family Services program in San Francisco, and Maryl Walling-Millard who has her doctorate In clinical psychology.
All five professionals noted that a couple or single planning to adopt is always in “process” and that no one will possess all of the elements simultaneously. An experienced professional, however, will be able to sense the amount of readiness. The professionals identified the following nine elements as important for adoption readiness.
1. A shift from the need to be pregnant to a need to parent.
2. Ability to clearly and easily articulate what the grief/significant loss process was like.
3. Able to talk about infertility without shame, weeping, or becoming ” unduly upset. The anger level towards others and the process itself has diminished.
4. Repairs have been made in the marriage around the damage done during the infertility discovery process. There is good communication and discussion between spouses and other family members. There is a mutual agreement to adopt and couple/single is comfortable going public with plans to adopt a child. They are able to admit adoption is second choice.
5. A reconnection to ones source of faith as there is acceptance of one’s infertility and hope to adopt.
6. A willingness to be adoption educated. The couple/single has evaluated and thought about the many issues and choices.
7. Understands and appreciates the benefits of contact and openness for the child. The empathy for the child’s long term needs is also extended to the birth family who are viewed as “people” not “products.”
8. Able to view adoption as a positive and not as a failure. There is excitement and enthusiasm about the process. There is no great ambivalence or subtle sabotage while pursuing the adoption option.
9. Acceptance and understanding of the fact that it is different to parent an adoptive child versus a birth child. They are able to recognize and acknowledge there are gains and losses for all and able to say good-bye to the fantasy child.
After interviewing one hundred twenty-four infertile individuals my research shows some disparities between the theory of adoption readiness espoused by adoption professionals and the reality experienced by those interviewed.
“Wanting to Parent” not resolution of infertility, was given as the best signal of adoption readiness by most of the couples interviewed. Three of the couples said after adopting they realized they were not ready to fully parent. For those couples, adjustments were made and infertility issues were addressed after an infant was placed in the home. However, all of the prominent adoption practitioners voiced strong opinions that infertility resolution was essential for couples/singles planning to adopt a child. They see it as a prerequisite for successful parenting.
Adoption professionals can do much to facilitate readiness in their clients. The disparity between the theory and reality can be lessened with guidance, empowerment, education, and support.
© Ellen Roseman