By Megan Cook Nikiema, Africa Programs Supervisor
There is a lot of anticipation and excitement as we prepare for a future that will change our lives and the lives of a child forever. We set forth on a path and prepare for the process. It is hard to imagine things not turning out as planned.
At the same time, it is no surprise that adoptions are complicated and involve a lot of moving pieces. Both domestic and international adoptions start with a very difficult situation and are processed through various levels of location, politics, bureaucracy, and cross cultural communication. Given all of this, changes and adjustments seem bound to happen. I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot- how do we process these differences in our plans?
Changes in adoption plans occur in many different ways. As an example, let’s take a family who was waiting to be matched with a child in the Democratic Republic of Congo when they happened across a profile for a waiting child in India, and felt like this child was the right fit for their family. No doubt, a tremendous amount of consideration went into switching up their original plans to adopt from the DRC but in the end, they were excited to pursue this child in India. Some might consider that it was their original adoption plans to adopt from the DRC that lead the family to this particular child in India.
However, change isn’t always initiated by the adoptive family. Sometimes, change comes to you…
Most often, the adoption process is fairly smooth and where it may involve a couple bumps in the road (delays in the timeframe, changing document requirements, an extra report required before a court date can take place, etc.) the bulk of the adoption process occurs as the family imagined and in the end, they bring home a child or children that will change their lives forever! But there are also times when a country needs to revise their adoption laws and requirements, resulting in a slow down of children being matched with families. The pre-adoptive families are left to make hard choices- continue to wait it out or consider other options. Where a family may feel a deep commitment to adopting from a particular country, of course they also have a goal to grow their family. So, waiting during long delays without end in sight isn’t ever an easy task or part of the plan.
Although there are plenty of programs where adoption is going well and the country is stable (US domestic adoptions included), we have always seen, especially over the past 5 years- a LOT of situations where countries are redefining their adoption laws or changing their process to provide greater supports to children. Improvements to the adoption process is always something that WACAP will support but the wait for families (and children) can be so hard, especially since most of these delays come without warning.
Families finding themselves in this tight spot are trying to decide what to do. There is no right answer and each family has their own unique take on what delays might mean for their family. In such a circumstance, I’m proud of the creativity WACAP has been able to employ to help families navigate what is best for them. Even still, we know that change is just always hard.
A colleague shared this article from the Rainbow Kids website a few years ago. I love it. It’s an important message for all of us but it helps highlight a bit of what all of us do here at WACAP and what we help families do as they navigate their adoptions! The idea of “stretching” is really fitting: our expectations don’t always meet reality and we often have to stretch and grow and adjust to make room for what lies ahead.
Here’s to the growth and change coming around the bend!