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Robin J. Roberts, LCSW, PhD

Consider Counseling for Adoption Issues when:
  • You have difficulty making the transition to adoption. You and your partner are at different stages of the process. You are still grieving your losses.
  • You feel anxious and uncertain about contact with birth families. You want to make informed choices about how much openness you want in adoption.
  • You are considering transracial adoption and need preparation for changing your family identity.
  • You have chosen a birth mother and need extra support for yourself during pregnancy and delivery.
  • You have brought home your new child and feel challenged by newborn care or toddler care.
  • You have questions about formulating and sharing your child’s story, for yourself, your family, or inquiring friends and strangers.
  • Your child begins to raise questions about his or her origins that you feel uncertain answering.
  • Your adolescent child has identity challenges that impact the family.
Most couples do not begin planning their families with adoption. It's probably safe to say that even you began your family planning "the old fashioned way" and only wanted to consider adoption as a last resort. So here you are.

If you've been trying to conceive and carry your child with your own body, making the transition to adoption can be experienced as a huge loss. Yes, you do have to grieve the losses of pregnancy and some of the long-held assumptions about what your children would look like, along with many other dreams. However, ending medical treatment and choosing adoption is not the same thing as giving up and admitting defeat. We often reach the limits of what technology can do for us before our desire to parent expires. In this case, adoption becomes a rewarding option.

Knowing when it's time to stop treatment and make this transition is hard for most couples. And, spouses and partners do not always arrive at this point simultaneously. In general, it's time to consider ending medical treatment when: your body is depleted (diminished response to ovarian stimulants; escalating FSH and you don't want to consider donor eggs; when pregnancy risks your life or well-being); your spirit is depleted (you have no more emotional energy for another treatment cycle and disappointment); your pocketbook is depleted (you have already spent more than you projected; you have increased your debt load such that it jeopardizes other life goals; you have limited funds left and you want to last efforts at family building to be guaranteed).

If this sounds like you, you might consider answering some of these questions in your journal or with your partner. It may also help to talk with others who have made this transition, like a resolve Cookies and Conversation Group. If you and your partner are at different points in the process, it may be helpful to meet with a psychotherapist with personal adoption experience.


1. How have we acknowledged and resolved these losses associated with infertility?
. A sense of control over many aspects of our life.
. Our genetic ties to past and future generations of our families.
. The conception of our child together.
. The physical & emotional satisfactions of pregnancy and childbirth.

2. What negative ideas and feelings do we have about adoption being "second best"?
. What negative images do we have of birth parents who choose adoption for their children? How have these images been formed?
. What negative images do we have of children who are adopted? How have these images been formed?

3. What positive images of adoption do we have?
. What families formed through adoption do we know?
. How can we get to know some families formed this way?
. What would we like to learn from them?

4. What do our religious beliefs have to say about adoption?

5. Have we started talking to others about adoption? What responses are we getting?
. How do our families feel about adoption?

6.What do we want to tell our child about his/her background and adoption?
. Do we want to tell our child about his/her adoption?
. If so, how and when do we start talking about this?
. How do we feel about contact with our child's birth family? What kinds of contact are we open to?
. How would we feel if our child wanted to connect with his/her birth family?

7. What aspects of our background and traditions do we want to connect with our child?
. Race? Ethnicity? Religion? Personal values?
. How do we feel about a child of a different race? From a different country?
. How would our neighborhood, family, and community incorporate a child of a different race?

8. Assessing our Practical Resources:
. How will we finance an adoption?
. How old are we now? What is our ideal window for parenting young children?
. Do we want one or more children? Do we want siblings?
. What kind of leave can we take from work? Paid or unpaid? For how long?
. What kind of childcare can we arrange?

By answering these questions, you have begun to seriously consider adoption, and have arrived at the psychological stage of "Adoption Validation." You may begin to meet other adoptive families or read adoption related literature to imagine yourselves more fully in the role of parents by adoption. To further dispel any misconceptions or apprehensions, you might arrange for initial consultations with attorneys or attend open houses at agencies. Look below to see the further psychological stages of the adoption process.

Based on Adopting after Infertility by Patricia Johnston

The stages of adoption preparation are similar to those in pregnancy:

Adoption Validation Accepting the fact that a child will join your family through adoption rather than birth. Resolution of infertility related losses.
Starting to research adoption options. Meetings with agencies; consultations with attorneys; Applications, Homestudy
Meeting other adoptive parents.
Pregnancy Validation Accepting the pregnancy as a reality.  
Child Embodiment Incorporating this genetically unrelated child into the parents' emotional images of their families Telling family memebers & others.
Birth parent search & choice.
Photos of birth parents & child.
Fetal Embodiment Incorporating the fetus into the mother's body image.  
Child Distinction Beginning to perceive this child as real in order to make plans for him/her. Starting to look positively at other children & families.
Identification with birth mother's pregnancy and due date.
Consider names for the child.
Fetal Distinction (Seeing the fetus as a separate entity from the mother to make plans for him/her.)  
Role Transition Preparing to take on the role of parents by adoption. Reading childcare books.
Preparing nursery.
Planning maternity/paternity leave.
Choosing pediatrician & insurance.
Travel plans, if needed.
Role Transition Preparing for delivery and parenting.  


There are many ways to adopt children in California. You can use this decision-making tree to help clarify your path. Attending Resolve's Spring Adoption Conference or Fall Symposium can also give you a one-day overview of these paths.

Adoption Decision Process

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