The Importance of Teamwork in Adoption


The international adoption process is hard—mountains of paperwork, hours of education, home studies that delve into the depths of your personal life, extended waiting periods for that child referral, occasional delays in country processes, and the challenges of residing in a foreign country for a while to be with your child. Sometimes early enthusiasm for having an orphan to love and raise can begin to wane at any part of the adoption journey.  This is normal!  This is also why you need not only a supportive team around you, but you must also make a commitment to be sure that ALL members of your team are fully informed regarding your travel plans, concerns, fears, frustrations, joys, and excitement. They need to have the SAME information at all times if they are going to be able to work both for you and with you.


Your primary adoption agency, home study agency, foreign adoption service provider (ASP) with whom you are working in country, assigned social worker or program manager, and supportive family and friends must always all be kept in the loop.  Otherwise, if something unforeseen happens and they are not told about it, they have no idea that you need their support and assistance. This results in you having a missed opportunity to get the help you need when you really need it. It also prevents the uninformed agency or individual from making efforts on your behalf and possibly rectifying any situation.

Failure to let them all know specific details about the steps on your adoption journey can result in delays in getting updated paperwork and completed forms that are required at certain times. Only speaking with one member of your team, such as only your ASP while you are in country, can result in misinformation being passed, triangulation with team members, and possible manipulation of you and your emotions. All team members should be “on the same page” at every step to help assure you are being given accurate information and you are not being used to further anyone’s personal agenda. Sometimes even the most well-meaning people can use your situation to manipulate others, especially when that is culturally acceptable.  You may not even be aware it is occurring.  There should never be any triangulation between you, your primary agency, your ASP, social workers, or home study provider.


Occasionally during the adoption process, you will need to update your home study, revise forms or reapply to USCIS. Your primary adoption agency should be working with you directly on each of these so that everyone has clear and understandable instructions regarding what is exactly needed and how it must be transmitted to the proper authorities. It is crucial that you discuss each and every request made to you by others on the team with your primary agency so they can coordinate the documents and assure they are prepared as needed for both USCIS and the foreign country. Leaving your primary agency out of this discussion can result in incorrect documents, re-doing home studies to assure completeness, or missing crucial deadlines, not to mention anxiety and frustration on your part.


Misinformation or failing to communicate information to the whole team is a recipe for adoption disaster! Each member of the team is a specialist in their own particular area, but they may not truly know the specifics of another team member’s individual area. International adoption is so specific that no one person can be an expert on it all! Don’t be fooled by someone telling you they do.  At times, you may get incorrect information from one person if you do not assure each member of the team is also informed. They may be trying to help but because that is not their area of expertise, they may be basing their remarks on outdated or uneducated information. Be sure to let all team members know what is happening in your adoption process.


Teamwork throughout your international adoption process is important if you are going to have a successful and positive adoption experience. Working TOGETHER as a TEAM fosters timeliness, understanding, clarity, honesty, and effective communication. It relieves you of having periods of frustration, opportunities for miscommunication, unnecessary misunderstandings, and unwanted anger. If a team works together, no individual can be blamed or scapegoated. No tempers rise unnecessarily and no big mistakes are made in your process. It keeps you focusing on the positive rather than the negative.  TEAM—Together Everyone Achieves More—and you have a more successful and positive adoption journey.

Karlene Edgemon works as MLJ Adoptions’ Director of Social Services. Throughout her 25 year social services career, Karlene has been able to watch adoption transform the lives of children and she is always brainstorming new ways to support adoptive families before, during and after their adoption.