By Parker Herring, Director
It’s not unusual for A Child’s Hope to field a call from a woman who is ready to adopt a child, but she states that her husband is “not quite there yet.” Furthermore, during many of the adoption consultations I have conducted, I have noticed that it’s commonplace for the wife to be way ahead of the husband on the adoption learning curve. This is of little surprise. As with most things in marriage, both partners are not always on the same page at the same time. The topic of adoption is no different.
So how do you open up the conversation when you want to adopt a child? Here are some options, clearly there are other considerations.
FIRST, COMMUNICATE. In the adopt-a-child conversation, don’t force your husband to give you an immediate yes or no. It may take a while for him to understand the adoption process and overcome any reservations.
Begin by listening to his concerns. Don’t argue — listen and try to understand. He may be trying to process the loss of a dream to have a son that looks like him. Other common concerns expressed have been 1) a fear that you will not find a child and 2) a fear that he may not love an adopted child the same way that he would love a biological child.
Articulate back what you hear without judgment. For example, you may wish to frame a response in the form of a question, “To make sure I am hearing what you are trying to share, do you feel that if we adopt a child …?”
Don’t push for an immediate change of position or a move forward plan. Express appreciation for what he has shared and let the conversation sit. Your husband may never have put his thought and feelings about adoption into words. Now that he has, he can chew on them a little.
SECOND, EDUCATE. Work hard to show your spouse the positive outcomes when you adopt a child. Try to address concerns by recommending reading resources and inviting him to attend information sessions that agencies offer. Here are some resources to consider:
E-zine – Adoptive Families
Articles from Adoption.com:
Adoption Parenting: Creating a Toolbox, Building Connections by Jean MacLeod and Sheena Macrae. This guide draws on the experiences of over 100 contributors to offer advice to all different types of families, ranging from those who have just adopted to those who have been raising adopted children for years.
Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today’s Parents by Deborah D. Gray. Attaching in Adoption is a bestselling, comprehensive guide for prospective and actual adoptive parents on how to understand and care for their adopted child and promote healthy attachment.
Show him pictures or videos that others share on social media sites of their adopted children. You may even offer to help him make a list of his concerns, and aid in bringing them up visiting with friends and family members who have adopted.
THIRD, MAN TALK. Some men get quiet in formal settings, such as an agency consultation, especially if they are the only man in the room. It may be easier for your husband to discuss his concerns in a social setting with another man.
Use your network of friends and family to see if any fathers in your circle would be willing to make themselves available to talk to your husband about their experiences when choosing to adopt a child. The agency may also be able to assist by arranging a meeting with some adoptive parents, as couples or just the guys.
FINALLY, TIME. Choosing to adopt a child is a big decision. Everyone involved needs to be comfortable with the process and be on board. It may take a while. Adopting is a decision that will affect every aspect of your life, for the rest of your life. Taking time is okay.
As I mentioned earlier, many of the couples I have worked with were not always in harmony on the decision to adopt a child at first. However, when they come to the office with their child to sign the adoption documents, I have noticed that the men are as extremely proud, and equally excited as the spouse. It makes me smile sometimes thinking back to how unsure some of the fathers were at that first consultation.
A mother of three children, E. Parker Herring has a deep respect and understanding of family law and the adoption process (for which she’s adopted two children of her own). She is the founder and director of A Child’s Hope, a North Carolina licensed adoption agency located in Raleigh that focuses on helping birthmothers and families looking to adopt. A Child’s Hope has placed 332 children since 2000, and is the only North Carolina domestic adoption agency directed by an attorney. Herring is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist who has practiced family law for nearly 30 years in the Raleigh area. She’s a member of the N.C. Bar Association, the Wake County Bar Association, and the NC Collaborative Lawyers.