Preparing for Your Adopted Child
Besides all the regular preparation you need to do for a baby (or possibly an older child), such as buying clothes, toys, sheets, a car seat, and the whole lot, adoptive parents have a whole other list of preparations. Here are a few major preparations you will need to consider, along with some recommended reading for a more comprehensive look.
First, you may want to consider taking parenting classes. Not just the regular how-do-you-put-on-a-diaper classes (although those are great!), but classes specifically for adoptive parents. There are a few online classes you can browse through, but contact your adoption agency to see if they offer face-to-face classes or have other recommendations.
Also, author Carrie Craft recommends you educate yourself on the grieving process of children. If you're adopting a toddler or an older child, they may exhibit behaviors indicative of grief or loss, even if they come from a foster home or orphanage. By trying to understand the trauma they're going through, you'll be better equipped to address their feelings and behaviors.
Craft also advises that you prepare for the child having some developmental delays. Again, if the child is older, they may not have had the picture-perfect baby stage and may need extra support and assistance from you.
If you're adopting a child from another culture, take time to learn about that culture. Not only will you enrich your own life, but you will be better prepared to share information with your child about their cultural heritage.
You'll also want to baby-proof or toddler-proof your home. Newborns don't move around much, but if your child is already crawling or walking, you'll have to cover electrical outlets and put away hazardous materials, like cleaning supplies and medications.
Speaking of medications, you'll want to be fully aware of any medical needs your child may have. And, quite honestly, you may not know right off the bat. Once you do determine what, if any, special needs your child has, arm yourself with information and the tools you need to address it.
You may also want to have a plan of action when it comes to communicating with birth parents. If you have a closed adoption, you won't really need to worry about this. However, open and semi-open adoptions usually allow for regular communication between parties. Decide what level of communication is acceptable for you (letters, pictures, video, email, visits, etc.) and the frequency. Then you can work out a negotiation with the birth parents (through the agency, typically).
Finally, make sure your camera is charged and your memory card has plenty of space! You'll definitely want to record your experience. And your child will love to look at the pictures over and over again.
For further reading, Craft recommends the following books: Cross-Cultural Adoption by Amy Coughlin, The Post Adoption Blues by Karen J. Foli, Ph.D., and John R. Thompson, M.D., and Risk and Promise: A Handbook for Parents Adopting a Child from Overseas by Ira J. Chasnoff, Linda D. Schwartz, Ph.D., Cheryl L. Pratt, Ph.D., and Gwendolyn J. Neuberger, M.D.