You may decide to adopt one day, just like that. After years of dismissing it as an option, it may be the only thing you want to do all of a sudden.

That’s great but If that decision needs to be taken as a couple, brace yourself for some serious talks. Fingers crossed the big one, the one in which you need to convince your partner that adoption is something worth considering, won’t take too long. But if you think after that the hard job is done, think again.

Having your partner on board is great, but there is more to discuss if you want to avoid unpleasant surprises, or more importantly, to avoid leaving someone hurt along the way.

Who will be there to help?

Your family? Do you know that everyone will approve of your decision? You’ll stumble upon all sort of prejudice surrounding adoption, both negative and positive, both contributing to its own distorted view of it. You might be inclined to believe the romantic, a-spoonful-of-sugar version portrayed by every other Walt Disney movie; you family might immediately be thinking of foreign children, of a different race than yours, emotionally crippled beyond help by famine and war. Every family member and close friends will fall somewhere between these two extremes. The trick is to identify the one who, regardless of their views, might be genuinely willing to help.

Many will be “happy for you” and will gladly show up at birthday parties and evenings out, but will vanish the minute you need them. Adoption is your decision after all, not theirs.

No matter how invested you will be in your new role as the parent, you will occasionally need help. Even in minor emergencies, you need to know there will be someone there to support you. Possibly without making it feel as if they donated a kidney for you.

Do you love where you live?

If there’s one thing adopted children know too much about, it is moving from home to home, and they hate it. That’s what happens most often while in foster care. At every move, they may lose their friends at school, their teachers, their favourite shop around the corner, their brothers and sisters. You’d hate that too.

Try not to move home for a good while after your child (or children) comes to live with you. Make sure they enjoy a little stability for a change.

Now it is a good time to think about the future too. You might be living in the trendiest area in town, but has it got anything to offer to a child? Is there enough space in the house? Are you thinking of buying? Then consider doing that first, or during the adoption process (if you are really looking for a challenge).

Has anyone mentioned trauma?

Children in care are separated from their families for very compelling reasons. Many of these stories will make you doubt there’s any actual good in this world. It is easy to grasp how the realities surrounding these children may affect a child’s ability to relate to adults, feel safe, feel love and loved, but you must know about it first.

These children can learn how to trust and love you and others, it only needs to be taught to them, in the most gentle of ways. I wouldn’t worry if you don’t know about trauma, attachment theory, and attachment disorders right now. Just make sure that you start learning about it today.

And whatever you learn, share it with your partner.

How good is your math?

You might imagine yourself holding up your little bundle of joy for the camera with a huge smile on your face. Definitely keep the smile, but let’s talk about “bundle of joy” for a minute. How old will you be by the time “bundle of joy” graduates? (assuming he will, but let’s be positive for now).

You can adopt at almost any season of your life, but you have to be realistic when it comes to the age of children you will be able to parent. If you don’t want to be objective about it – or can’t be – Social Service will be that for you, but I imagine it to be an extremely tense conversation that no one really wants to have. Besides, there’s a lot of parenting to do with older children and teenagers too.

I understand how all this might come across as hugely hypocritical of me. After all, my son was just a few months old when he came to stay with us, and we weren’t exactly spring chickens even then. Luck, pure chance in fact, although I’m sure Laura would call it fate. We never expected something like that to happen. We also knew we had to hope our luck would not run out too soon. Adopting babies that young carries enormous risks as most development conditions become apparent when the child grows a little older; developmental conditions are not that rare in adopted children, you need to be aware of the possible consequences and be ready to accept them.

Keep the smile. Adoption can be a long and draining process and, by the end of it, you’ll be without doubt glad it’s over. I’m sure you won’t be smiling just for the camera by then, but because you finally get to meet and get to know the beautiful children you’ve just adopted.

Come back and let me know when you get there. I’ll be delighted to be the first one to congratulate you.

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