Adopting From Abroad: What Do I Need To Know?
Have you, or would you consider adopting a child, perhaps from a different family, to complete your family? If you’re considering adopting, it’s important to understand how the process works before you get started, Arlene Harris writes.
Most adults, at some point, will consider the idea of becoming a parent. But while one in six couples experience fertility issues, having a baby isn’t always as easy as it seems. However, since 1991 almost 6,700 children were adopted into Ireland from countries around the world with 5,000 new families formed thanks to inter-country adoption.
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Sarah McCarthy and her husband Paul have two longed-for sons. The couple from Wexford had been trying to conceive naturally for years, to no avail; and also went through several rounds of fertility treatment before deciding that they would open their homes and their hearts to a child in need of a loving home.
“I had always wanted to be a mum and never for a minute imagined that I would have any difficulties,” says the 45 year old. “For the first few years of our marriage, we didn’t actively try for me to get pregnant, but when after three we realised that nothing had happened despite us not taking many precautions, we began to wonder if we might have a problem.
“The following few years were very hard as we both underwent investigations and then two rounds of IVF treatment – both of which failed. So we sat down together and discussed the situation rationally and came to the conclusion that financially and emotionally we couldn’t afford to keep trying and failing to have our own baby - so we decided we would like to adopt.”
The Approval process
Making a decision to adopt a child from abroad is not taken lightly, and the couple had to go through a very rigid process before they were approved. But in 2009, they brought their first son home from Russia, and two years later he was joined by a little brother; and their family was complete.
“Not long after we came home with our first son, we applied for a second assessment as we knew we wanted him to have a sibling,” says Sarah. “This didn’t take as long as the first time but there was still a process to go through before we got our second declaration and we headed once again to Russia to bring our child home.
“Both boys were about a year old when we adopted them and there is just 18 months between them, so they have a lot in common as they are so close in age. We didn’t really have any issues with settling them in as both were so young and as far as they are concerned, we are their Mum and Dad. Perhaps in time, they will want to find their birth families and we haven’t hidden their heritage from them – so they both know that they came from Russia and were wanted so much that we actually travelled over to get them.”
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Honesty and understanding
Trish Connolly of AAI (the Adoption Authority of Ireland) agrees with this transparency and says being honest with adopted children is very important: “Parents must, from the outset, have the capacity to recognise the differences between themselves and their child,” she advises.
“Understanding and open communication with regard to culture, race and ethnicity is paramount. Our children do not resemble us as they had another culture before joining our families, so parents must be sensitive to the child's losses already no matter how young the child is at time of adoption.”
Sarah and Paul don’t believe there will be any issues with their children in the future as they have been open from the start. They thought they would never have the children they so desired, but thanks to inter-country adoption, their lives are complete.
“During our darkest moments, I couldn’t imagine that we would have the family we have today and both Paul and I feel well-and-truly blessed,” she says. And if, in time, the boys want to trace their roots, we will help them as their happiness is paramount to us.
“I understand that adoption isn’t for everyone, but I truly believe that the lives of four people have been transformed with the completion of our family and I could not, for one minute, imagine life without my beautiful children.”
Criteria for adopting a child
To obtain approval for adoption all prospective adoptive parents must be verified as eligible and their suitability to adopt must be assessed by Tusla. Applicants must meet the Five Standards in assessing their suitability.
- The capacity to safeguard the child throughout his or her childhood.
- The capacity to provide the child with a family life that will promote his or her development and wellbeing, and have due regard to the physical, emotional, social, health, educational, cultural, spiritual and other dimensions.
- The capacity to provide an environment where the child's original nationality, race, culture, language and religion will be valued and appropriately promoted throughout childhood.
- The capacity to recognise and understand the impact of being an adopted child from an overseas country on the development of the child's identity, throughout their childhood and beyond.
- The capacity to recognise the need for, and to arrange for appropriate support and intervention from health, social services, educational, and other services throughout childhood
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Expert Advice on dealing with post adoption challenges
From Psychologist Peadar Maxwell.
- Maintain ties with the adoption community: Other adoptive families can be a great source of information, support and friendship. As with all walks of life you may experience negativity or denial. Seek the company of parents who are realistic but positive.
- Look out for seminars and information days: on the various topics that you are experiencing or which may become more relevant in the future (such as workshops on attachment, life story, identity, telling about adoption).
- Be open with professionals: Social workers in adoption services have a huge amount of experience and knowledge in adoption issues. You may need to talk with your GP, the public health nurse or a psychologist with knowledge of attachment and/or adoption.
- Read books: Books written by experienced practitioners and researchers in the area of adoption are plentiful. Books offer a fairly neutral way to explore the topics that may arise as your child matures.
- Mind yourself: Try to find time to do the little things you have always liked doing. By taking turns a couple can make time for exercise, sleep and time out. A single parent would be wise to find a trusted friend or loved one to provide some rest and relief for them.
- Remain positive: All of the effort you are putting in to your child now will pay off. Parents can lose confidence in their parenting if things don’t appear to be improving quickly enough. The first years are hard work. They can’t be rushed.
- Get advice: Seek and accept help. You may have to step out of your family for help for yourself or assessment of your child.
Did you adopt a child, are you adopted, or are you considering adoption? We’d love to hear from you. For more information on adoption visit www.hse.ie and www.aai.ie.