I can’t even count the number of times a person has mentioned to me that they had “always thought about adopting” but never got around to it. I’ve also got several friends whose family plan always involved adoption, but who started with biological children and then found themselves feeling like their family was full.
Many people consider adoption, but few go through with it. Adoption isn’t for everyone, but there are still so many children (especially in the US fostercare system) who need a loving family, and who would benefit if more of the people who felt a tug to adopt followed through with that impulse.
With that in mind, I’m going to lay a case for why people who think “I want to adopt someday” should make adoption their first choice when they begin planning a family:
Your child will know that they were your first choice. I think this is the most compelling reason. It seems to be that for people who adopt for reasons other than infertility, there is a typical mindset of “I’d like to have my own kids first and then adopt.” Those who are already parenting adopted children know full well that they absolutely are your own children. I love that I can tell my oldest, who was adopted, “You made me a mom.” I think it means a lot to him that his adoption was not an afterthought or a thing we did after having “our own kids” first. His role as the oldest child affirms that he was wanted, and that his adoption was our first choice.
You will have the time and energy to devote to bonding with your child and any unique needs they have. This is particularly true if adopting a child who has spent time in an orphanage or who has experienced neglect, abuse, trauma, or loss (which is the case for most children not adopted right at infancy.) Adopted children sometimes have attachment issues that require and deserve undivided attention. This is much easier to do when you don’t have other children. It’s also much easier to go through the healing process with your child without worrying about how this shift in attention is affecting your other children.
Your ideas about family planning can shift based on what you learn as an adoptive parent. I’ve seen many families have a couple biological kids, and then adopt a child of another race, and then feel that they could no longer add another child to the family due to family size, which means their family portraits look like a sea of matching faces and one child who looks different. Adopting first means that you can be more sensitive to how you build the rest of your family, which in most cases should involve planning to adopt one or more siblings who share their race if you’ve adopted transracially. I cannot emphasize how important this is. Our plan was always to adopt more than one child, but because the process of adopting from Haiti took over three years, we ended up having a singular child of color with two white siblings for much longer than we anticipated. This really bothered our oldest child. He was incredibly relieved to have a sibling who “matches” him. When you adopt first, you can adjust your family planning as you understand the needs of your adopted child. Because this kind of family photo:
Is a lot better than this kind of family photo:
You have more time to deal with the paperwork and homestudy inherent in adoption. Adoption paperwork is no joke, no matter where you are adopting from. Sitting in homestudy interviews, gathering all of your life’s documents, getting fingerprints and psych evals . . . all of that is a whole lot easier as a childless couple.
You aren’t bound by the room-sharing rules of a homestudy or foster care. I have a good friend who always had it on her heart to adopt a foster child, and was told when she began the process that her home could not work because there were not enough bedrooms. This is because DCFS has rather strict rules about what children can share rooms. If you adopt first and then add biological children after the adoption is finalized, there is a lot more flexibility.especially in terms of siblings sharing a room, or parents having a newborn sleep in their own room.
Your adopted child will get to be the “big sister” or “big brother” if you have biological children. I’m not sure I can even articulate why this is special, but I really think it is. I love that my adopted son got to experience going to the hospital to meet his younger sister. I love that my adopted kids protect and assist their little sisters. This order, again, just signifies that their role in the family is important.
At the end of the day, I think the advantage of adopting first means that an adopted child’s needs are better prioritized within the family. They aren’t an afterthought. They are the first option, and that communicates a lot about their place in the family.