Chapter Excerpt

Chapter One

Can I Do This?

Making the Decision to Adopt

Do I really want to adopt?

When you bear or raise children, you step into the unknown. If you adopt, you take a step further. You can’t predict what baby would come from your own genetic mix, but you might recognize traits as the child grows up: “He’s got Grandpa’s ears.” With an adopted child, there’s an element of mystery: “Where did that nose come from?”

The parents who read Adoptive Families magazine say that they love watching their children’s traits and talents unfold: A family of clumsies embraces an award-winning gymnast; bookworms welcome the math genius. Before you adopt, understand that it means loving your child for who he or she really is, not as your own small replica.

Can I adopt?

The practical answer is: Yes, almost any American adult can adopt a child. The real question is: When you think about adopting, what kind of child do you imagine? A baby? A toddler? A teenager? A child who looks just like you, or a child of another background?

The decisions may seem overwhelming at first, but we will guide you through them one by one. We’ve taken this journey ourselves—and so have the hundreds of other adoptive families who tell their stories in this book. We will also help you answer what may be the most important question of all: Are you ready to adopt?

Will I love a child who “isn’t mine”?

Most adoptive parents secretly worry that they won’t be able to bond with a child who’s not related by blood. In our thirty years of experience at Adoptive Families, we have found that this worry disappears once the child is home. In fact, we have heard from hundreds of parents with both biological and adopted children who say they often forget which they adopted and which they birthed.

Are adopted children more likely to be “problem” kids?

While the “troubled adoptee” is a soap-opera staple, academic study offers a different picture. The Sibling Interaction and Behavior Study, launched in 1999 by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Twin and Family Research, is the most comprehensive, authoritative study ever conducted that includes adoptees. Each round of data has shown that the vast majority of adopted children do just as well psychologically and socially as children raised in their biological families.

Tech support: To read more about the long-term study of adoptees (Sibling Interaction and Behavior Study—SIBS—at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Twin and Family Research), go to

How long will it take?

Believe it or not, most adoptive parents bring their children home within two years of submitting their paperwork. However, this doesn’t mean your adoption will take two years; time lines vary. (One editor of this book, through a combination of special circumstances and sheer luck, completed an adoption in three months, from the first, tentative phone call to an agency to actually bringing the baby home.)

As a general rule, adopting from foster care is the fastest process; international adoption varies greatly by country; private, infant adoption in the United States is the most unpredictable.

Tech support: To see time lines for the ten most popular countries for international adoption, go to

How much will it cost?

You can spend tens of thousands of dollars on your adoption, or you can spend next to nothing. An annual survey of fifteen hundred Adoptive Families readers shows that the average cost of an adoption is about the same as that of a midsized car ($23,000 in 2008). For many, reimbursements from employers and the federal government brought the net outlay down to a few thousand dollars. Lack of money

Excerpted from You Can Adopt: The Adoptive Families Guide by Susan Caughman, Isolde Motley
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