Waiting Well During The International Adoption Process


I was inspired to write this blog when in Haiti I heard the term “Waiting Well” in reference to the international adoption process. While the wait during an adoption process may seem insignificant and a small part of the process, it is not.

During your adoption process you may receive a referral (picture and medicals on a child that will potentially be your legally adopted child) and then have to wait months (6-24 months average international process) until the child is actually placed in your home. The wait is extremely difficult and you are bonding every day with the referral information and your “dreams” of your adoptive child. In some adoption programs, like adopting from Nicaragua or adopting from Bulgaria, your wait for a referral is 6-16 months and the wait happens without a referral and then you quickly travel to meet that child. Often during your wait, most of your paperwork has been completed and you are just waiting. However, the “just” is significant because you should not be “just” waiting. You should be WAITING WELL.

As an adoptive mother and adoption professional, I know that adoptive parents often are tired and sometimes zone out during the waiting period. But you are wasting precious time! This is the time you can prepare yourself even more for your process and prepare your home for your adoptive child.

The following are some ideas of how to Wait Well:

  1. Read all the materials from your adoption agency (newsletters & emails), even if you think they are general information and not about your specific adoption. Often these materials provide up-dated information about international adoption, immigration processes and great resources and education for the adoptive parents. MLJ Adoptions provides a monthly newsletter for all of our families in the process, a monthly newsletter to each individual program group, a client care data base with information, a forum for questions and answers, education, events and of course personal communications. These are all important in the process and parents should take advantage of these communications at all times, even during their long wait.
  2. Learn the unknowns – You may not know a lot about your future child. If you are adopting in Africa you may have very little social history on your child. However, you can still prepare for your child and know information about the potential history of your child. You can research tribes, cultural norms, languages, holidays, foods, family dynamics/hierarchy, health concerns, abuse concerns, etc. Later in life when you show your child you know about their culture and their country of birth, it will show them you value them.
  3. Education – participate in your agency’s education opportunities. Know that they are the experts in the education process for you but also read books on adoption and how to integrate your child in a health and stable way into your family. You can learn a lot about bonding and attachment and how to make your child feel secure.
  4. Be Ready – Be ready for delays or unknowns. No matter how many times this is said in the process, it is still hard for adoptive parents to be prepared for delays or unknowns. Could your child be older or younger than you anticipated? Could your child have some type of medical issue? Does your child have sensory issues? How do you prepare for something you don’t know? Continually tell yourself that you do not control the process. Also, remind yourself that approximate timelines are just that approximate. If you are told a portion of the process may take 2-4 months, do not focus on the 2 months. Also, know that after 4 months that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with your process. The hardest issue to be ready for in an adoption is the loss of a referral. This does happen in a process most often due to changes in laws, biological parents returning or governmental interventions (also death of a child can be the most extreme). This is such a difficult loss and no one can truly prepare you for this loss. We find that if you feel that you want to mitigate your chances of a lost referral you should consider adopting from Bulgaria or another Hague adoption program.
  5. Be Patient – This can be difficult as you are waiting on your child. This is one of the most exciting events of your life and being patient is not easy. It will be easier for you to be patient if you do not focus on exact timelines or dates. It is easier to be patient when you feel that your waiting time is being well used to educate and prepare yourself and your home for your adopted child.
  6. Save money and Fundraise – one of the most common hurdles to pursuing an international adoption is money. During your wait you can apply for grants, hold fundraisers and personally find ways to sacrificially save (don’t go movies, buy new clothes, etc.)

Best of luck to you! Whether you are adopting from Africa or adopting from Asia, you will want to “Wait Well”!

Photo Credit: Casey Mullins – used with permission.

For more information about MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption programs, please click here.

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.