Questions to Ask Adoptive Families
I explained in this post that I was a researcher. Just to prove myself, this post should give assurance that I’m truly anal retentive a listmaker (wasn’t quite sure which to strike out there).
When we were in the process of choosing an adoption agency, calling agencies, scouring websites, and reading through lots of materials we got in the mail from them was very helpful. I became a bit of an information-hog. But, I realized that more helpful than all the 2-dimensional literature were conversations with other adoptive families, some whom the agencies provided as references and some who we found on our own. We quickly learned that the adoption community was full of families many of whom genuinely desired to help other families and encourage them in their process honestly. And, that is really what we needed.
As you are exploring adoption agencies and, more generally, if adoption is right for your family, take advantage of families who love to “talk adoption” and want to encourage you in the journey!
Here are some questions you can use to get you started as you reach out to adoptive families. I didn’t have these when we were initially talking to families and just at the beginning stages of our adoption process. But, I started listing them as time went on. And, now, as an adoptive parent who gets a good number of people asking me about adoption, I often use these to help me structure some of my words to them when they don’t know what to ask. In a time where blogs are prevalent and email is so easy, you may want to consider using blog comments or emails as a first way of connecting. But, you will learn much more and make a much more personal connection by speaking on the phone. Don’t be afraid to ask a family if you can call them to talk more. It’s so much easier to speak on the phone than type out all their thoughts anyway–as long as you don’t mind some background accompaniment of little children! And, you are likely to get much more accurate answers as they spill off their tongue!
As you get your phone and notebook ready, consider some of these questions to get you started:
- What agency did you use and why did you choose them? At one time, these families went through the same process you are going through. It’s helpful to hear why they made the choice they did.
- Would you choose them again knowing what you know now?
- What do you see as your agency’s strengths?
- What do you feel like your agency is not as good at? No agency is perfect. It is good to go into it knowing what challenges you may face with a particular agency and be prepared with how you will handle those challenges.
- Were there any surprises in the process (e.g., in paperwork issues or finances)?
- Were they true to their word? Was their anything they told you early on that was not accurate? Obviously, the adoption process can change dramatically and without much (if any) notice. But, it is helpful to ask this question to see if anything they could have controlled changed from the time a family started and came home with their son or daughter.
- How did you primarily communicate with them? Email? Phone? How quickly did they respond to your questions or concerns? This is so very important, particularly if you are entering a program in which time is of the utmost importance (as in the China special needs program, for example).
- Do you feel like the agency cared for your family on an individual basis? When we started, I knew I would need a lot of “hand holding” in our adoption process. So, this was very important to me.
- Do you connect with other families from your agency? In what capacity? Families are able to share with you connections that the agency may not share themselves—yahoo groups or email lists that the families themselves manage.
- What was your in-country experience like? This was absolutely crucial to us. We knew many agencies would be able to facilitate our adoption. But, we knew we would need them most when we were in a foreign country where we could not speak or read the language. We wanted to know that we would be with an agency with a good reputation for making sure the trip went as smoothly as possible.
- How has the transition been for your child and for your family? Has your agency provided any support to you during the adjustment time? Where have you found your support? Not only will this help you learn from their adjustment experience, it will show you any postadoption support the agency provides. And, it will help you establish a list of other resources you may want to explore as well for yourself.
- What advice would you give a family just starting the adoption process? Allow the family to share anything else on their hearts. You may find that God speaks to you clearly as they answer your question.
Keep your notes and the families’ information somewhere you’ll be able to find it again. Speaking from personal experience, it is a real blessing as an adoptive family to hear back from someone we talked to a while ago to get an update about their process and maybe even a picture of their new child.
Kelly is a stay-at-home mom/manager to 4 children–the youngest of whom is from Baoji, Shaanxi, China. She is a part-time editor and part-time blog-surfing junkie, always on the lookout for good resources and essays to post on this site that are way better than what she could come up with. She is always willing to “talk adoption” and share about how God brought their family to the place they are now. You can learn more about their adoption story as well as follow day-to-day life on their personal blog.