Tuesday Topic: Visiting Your Child Prior to Adoption?

Last night I got an email from a reader asking my thoughts on whether or not she and her husband should make an early trip to visit the child they are in the process of adopting.  This visit would be prior to the trips that are planned as part of the adoption process.  In their case, the child’s adoption is going to take much longer than they had originally anticipated and they want to go simply “see and be with their child.”

What are the pros and cons? Any other thoughts? I know you have some, so please take a moment to share.  I will add my thoughts to all of yours.

Do you have a Tuesday Topic you would like me to share?  Please email it to me at lisa@onethankfulmom – if you put “Tuesday Topic” in the subject line, it will help me be a bit more organized since my inbox tends to overflow.

Encourage one another,

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

0 Comments

  1. Becky
    October 18, 2011

    This is a great question, and certainly relevant to lots of folks in the process, which in most cases keeps getting longer and more complicated. We brought our two children (five year old boy and 18 month old girl) home from Ethiopia this summer. We first visited them in April. I would say- go visit, but MAKE SURE your child does not know who you are. To them, you should be just another nice person bringing them and their friends some new toys or clothes. It hardly matters with infants, but imagine how stressful it would be for a young child to be introduced to "mommy" and "daddy", and then left to wait, for who knows how long? If it's very, very hard for us as adults, it's confusing and traumatic for children.
    Our son does not remember our first visit, though we show him photos. We loved being able to see him and observe him without any pressure on him to "perform" to new new mom and dad. We brought markers and paper so we could trace his hands and feet- and we ended up with a whole folder of pictures and letters created by his friends, which we now treasure. Coming home from that first visit without the children was the hardest thing about our adoption, but those brief memories sustained us in that long months.
    Good luck!

    Reply
  2. Dawn
    October 18, 2011

    GO! SEE! and BE!

    There is a bonding process for the parents, too and anything they can do to foster their own bonding is a good thing.

    If they are concerned about the child and her bonding issues, they don't have to explain who they or who they will be.

    Reply
  3. Kayla
    October 18, 2011

    Honestly, I don't think there is a right answer. It is really one of those things where how traumatizing/beneficial it is to the child depends on the child and no one can predict that. For some kids, though painful, it solidifies the belief that "this family will come for me" while for others it is yet another adult who has not been there when the child needed them. I know some parents who have really looked at brain research who were very deliberate in their trips, choosing to use fragrances and clothing that they felt their child would use once home, hoping that these sensory things would help the child's brain begin making new connections with the parent. I also think it helps you as an adoptive parent get a better idea of the logistics of how your child is living and perhaps gives you a baseline for setting realistic expectations for behavior, needs, etc. once your child comes home. We visited our kids in Haiti twice over the course of their adoptions. Both were infant/toddler age. I probably tend to believe that the pros outweigh the cons but I would never say someone was making a wrong choice by choosing to not take a trip. For us, I honestly think they just viewed our presence as just another grown up. Now that they are home, those pictures and memories from our trips have been powerful family builders. I can't imagine not having photos of us with our kids from the first years of their lives; to not have those photos seems like a huge void in their lives, a void that represents missing so much both for us and for them. While I am not sure how much my kids actually remember from our trips, those photos form a bridge that they can use to talk about the orphanage, to talk about their babyhood, etc..

    Reply
  4. Abbey
    October 18, 2011

    I am personally very thankful for the two weeks I was able to spend with our son before his homecoming. I did do some of the sensory things mentioned…took sweet treats that I knew he would only have with me, as well as a book that had different textures, etc… we spent time every day looking at that book, as well as pictures of the other family members, and time for fruit snacks, which I fed him from my finger. I can't say for sure that any of those things cemented anything in HIS mind (maybe so, maybe not… the book is still a favorite) but I know that for me those two weeks were a nice jump-start on MY attachment to him. He is 21 months old and has been home 5 weeks. There is still an adjustment period at home, for sure, but I feel like it has been easier for me to assume the role of his mother, having had those two weeks. (BTW… our two weeks of "visiting" him were a part of our process, and I doubt we would have made it had we not been required to, but I do feel that it was valuable.)

    Reply
  5. Nancy
    October 18, 2011

    I certainly don't know the answer. But I will add this food for thought.
    As the USCIS seems to be blazing forward on Hague and transitioning/requiring sending countries to switch over to the Hague process and I800 adoptions, (China, VietNam, Cambodia isstil trying to switch over, Ethiopia is starting to get messages) seeing your child is totally out of the question. Under Hague rules, ANY contact, even through an intermediary or even sending care packages can be construed as "contact" and can null and void an adoption. Agencies are interpreting the rules differently. But directly seeing a child is pretty much agreed upon as a total deal breaker. This decision is probably going to be made for us eventually by the US govt.

    Reply
    1. @LisaBLisaB
      October 18, 2011

      Just to clarify, it is the DOS (Dept of State), not USCIS that is pushing Hague.

      Reply
    2. Abbey
      October 19, 2011

      I wonder what the impact will be for a process such as ours was, where we traveled to the country for court, but were not permitted to bring our child home at that time. Will they not allow parents to see their child before homecoming, or just before court proceedings? Just curious.

      Reply
  6. Debbie
    October 18, 2011

    I will come at this from a domestic standpoint. In our first adoption and our international adoption visiting with our children was not an option, so we did not think much about it. However, in this last adoption we were required to visit. I was against most of the visits, but came out of the experience thinking that they were probably good for all of us. First we visited with the children for a couple of hours at a neutral location (park) with their foster parents with us. They could see us interacting positively with their current caretakers. After two such visits, we brought the children home with us for two shorter visits at our house. The helpful part of this for us was allowing our other six children to get a break from the process of adding children. We visited for a few days and then we took the children back to their foster parents for a few days. Our children were able to process some of their emotions and we did get to know the children a little bit better. When the new children did move in — we were not complete strangers. I came out of the experience realzing that overall the visits were probably a good thing.l

    Reply
  7. Kendra Chiolis
    October 18, 2011

    Hi Lisa!
    I just thought I'd add my two cents on the subject……
    I think it really depends on the age. Our daughter was 2.5 years when we saw her for the first time and later we found out that she spent a very lonely 2 months waiting for us. She tells me now that she asked every day (which was verified by the director and nannies at the center) if her family was coming today. She said her tummy hurt all the time and she felt very sad. I think there would have been a time where she would have lost all hope. I truly think at this point (she turned 3 in March) that she believes that we abandoned her. She doesn't have memories of her birth family and we are/were it. She was devastated when we didn't come back….like she had been neglected. In her mind we dumped her in a land where she looked like everyone else, but she doesn't understand yet that THEY are her people of origin. That is pretty deep, and I'm sure everyone will have a different take, but this is mine. And on the other hand….would she have been sad no matter? Having our pictures and being told that she has a family coming any day now? Did it give her just a little glimmer of hope to know what we looked like…that we were "real"? I'm not sure. It's all soo complicated.

    Reply
  8. shannoncl
    October 18, 2011

    I'm going to take the "ethical' argument and say- yes. Yes. And be find an independant non associated investigator to get background and document it all. Not only for peace of mind, but also to assist in embassy investigation if one hasn't been done yet.

    Reply
  9. Lori
    October 19, 2011

    I do not know the particulars of where this child is, but I am surprised that the orphanage would allow this. Both of our adoptions took around two years and they did not even tell the child about the impending adoption until very close to our coming to get them. In other words, the child did not know until the legalities were settled. The reason for this was so that the child would not be told and then have to wait for who knows how long until their family actually arrived to take them home. (Or tell a child there is an impending adoption and then it doesn't go through.) Children have no concept of time. From discussions with our adopted children, I don't think any of our kids even really understood the implications of what it meant to have a family come for them, let alone be able to understand why it took so long. And, it wasn't because they were too young. They were, 6, 6, and 10 years old at the time of adoption. Our girls were told that we were adopting – when our dossier was approved by the government agency and then there was a court issue that held things up for eight months. They often said to us – "What took you so long?" I would have felt better if they did not know to be perfectly honest with you. As a mom, my feelings were that I wanted them to know that someone loved them and was fighting to make them part of a family. But, those were my feelings. What we need to think about is them.

    After reading some of the comments I can see that our country – India – must be very different in what is allowed. I like the idea of visiting without the child knowing who you are because as I said, even a little bit older children will not be able to process and understand this.

    Comments have also been made about how hard international adoption is getting. There are instances where it will not go through. It is something to think about.

    Reply
  10. Angela
    October 19, 2011

    I have to say, this was something that I thought a lot about, because we are in the process of adopting 2 children from ET (6yr old girl and 2 yr old boy). We visited them in June when we traveled there for our court date. Even though we only had 3 whole days in country, we had an amazing time with both of them.
    The oldest knew we were Mom and Dad and we took her a photo album of her family and other siblings at home. She has seen the process and knows what happens, so she understood when we had to go. The youngest didn't know but there was an amazing bond that was created between him and I. I felt guilty when I had to walk away the last day and leave him, him and I both crying!!
    The time has lengthened between our court date and we had expected they would be home for a couple months by now. I worry they may have anxiety about us leaving them again!! ET now has a 2 travel rule, so this makes is especially hard to dodge visiting them before they are actually yours!!

    Reply
  11. shannon2818
    October 19, 2011

    Our kids were adopted from the US foster care system so our experience was like debbie's. The visiting was very helpful for all of us, but we only lived 20 minutes apart.

    Reply
  12. Leah
    October 19, 2011

    We visited 3 of our 4 children prior to adoption. Each country was different and each child was different. The visitation process is lame and heart breaking but totally worth it. If you have the opportunity to observe your child and learn about their life without the pressure to parent do it. If you have the time to investigate and learn about your child's history without the pressure to parent do it.

    Reply

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