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Sept. 18, 2020, 9:29 a.m. EDT

What to know about becoming the grandparent of an adopted child, and how to prepare

The process can have long waits and can be intimidating

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By Jessica Wambach Brown


istock

This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org .

Bonnie Boreson was thrilled when her daughter announced that she and her husband were planning to grow their family through adoption. Already a grandparent by her older son, Boreson was no stranger to the joys of waiting for a baby.

New to her was the anxiety she experienced in the first few days after her grandson’s birth in 2012, when her daughter and son-in-law were caring for him in an Oregon hospital. As in most states, Oregon prohibits a birth mother from relinquishing parental rights until she has recovered from the immediate effects of the birth, giving her an important opportunity to be certain about her decision.

“I worried about the heartbreak if she changed her mind,” says Boreson, 66, of Tucson, Ariz. “They were already attached to this little baby.”

While exact adoption figures are difficult to track, the Virginia-based  National Council for Adoption (NCFA) cites experts who estimate that nearly one in three Americans has been personally touched by adoption in some way. Still, the process — with its often excruciating waits and myriad unknowns — can intimidate the uninitiated.

Here are five tips to help you prepare for, and support, your child’s adoption journey toward parenthood:

1. Educate yourself

Prospective adopting parents receive mandatory education on adoption regardless of whether they go through the state-administered foster care system or a private agency or attorney who facilitates inter-country or domestic infant adoptions. Grandparents are rarely included in these formal education programs, but there are many resources to demystify the process.

Steffany Aye, founder and director of Adoption & Beyond, an agency that facilitates adoptions in Kansas and Missouri, recommends the prospective adoptive couples she works with gift their families a copy of “In On It: What Adoptive Parents Would Like You to Know about Adoption.”

Its author Elisabeth O’Toole, an adoptive mother of three, explains the paperwork, the role of social workers, how parents might handle privacy issues and the unknowns of a child’s medical and social history.

Also see: Give your grandkids 10 years of retirement for just $3,650

Aye also encourages eager grandparents to simply ask questions of their children. Most prospective parents are happy to calm fears, debunk myths and explain the correct language of adoption, a crucial way to fight stereotypes. For example, a birth mother, rather than a “real mother,” makes an adoption plan for a child, rather than “gives the child up.” The NCFA’s  adoption terminology chart  is a handy resource for learning the lingo.

2. Open your heart

Among the most significant changes in U.S. adoption culture over the past few decades is the promotion of open adoptions, in which birth parents maintain some degree of contact with the child and the adoptive parents. Multiple studies compiled by the federal  Child Welfare Information Gateway  over the last decade indicate that openness helps children develop a healthy sense of identity and process any feelings of loss. Most adoptive parents also prefer openness because the child’s birth parents can offer a biological and historical connection that they cannot, says Ryan Hanlon, vice president of NCFA.

“Open adoption has grown since the 1980s to the point that I don’t know of any organization that promotes closed adoption,” Hanlon says. “Still, grandparents might wonder, ‘Will my child be hurt by this? Do I have to share my grandchild with even more grandparents?’”

In reality, children are capable of loving multiple adults, and the more people available to reciprocate, the better, according to Aye.

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