When my wife and I went through the adoption process that brought home our first child, one of my co-workers often quipped, “God bless you for being willing to live under a microscope.” It was meant as a joke, but there was an undercurrent of truth in those words; the questions you face from agencies when adopting can somewhat mirror an invasive legal interrogation. Unlike my co-worker, however, I valued the attention to detail shown by the two agencies my wife and I worked with when adopting our two children. After all, given the inherent difficulty in making vital decisions on paper, it’s all the more crucial for agencies to thoroughly screen the people they will be recommending to birth parents—the people placing their very flesh and blood with total strangers.
Some of the standard requirements are not all that surprising. These involve presenting your agency with information on your overall health (physical reports and basic wellbeing screenings), proof of income by way of pay stubs, criminal and child abuse background checks, your child care plan, basic info about any children or pets you have prior to adopting, and a visit by the social worker to your home to ensure it’s a safe environment in which to bring home a child.
A good agency will also want to get to know you on a deeply personal level, and that’s where it can get a bit dicey for people who are more private by nature. You’ll be asked about your childhood, specifically your relationship with your parents/guardians and any siblings, how you were disciplined, what schooling looked like for you throughout your childhood, and how your collective upbringing influenced the decisions you made regarding friends and recreational activities in your adolescent years. You’ll be asked if you faced abuse of any kind (physical, sexual, or emotional). And they’ll want to know what kind of adult these experiences have molded you into today; what hobbies you have, what religious beliefs (if any) you hold, what addictions you might be living with, and the overall state of your mental health.
It should come as no shock then that your adoption professionals will want to know the nature of your relationship with your spouse/partner—what attracted you to each other, your common interests, challenges, and what makes your relationship successful. They’ll want to know about your combined attitudes on parenting and how you both arrived at adoption. If you are experiencing infertility, they’ll ask if you are undergoing any medical treatments, as well as the prognosis of those treatments. If you are single, they’ll want to know if there are any relationships in your life that could impact your future child, either positively or negatively.
While the core questions are often the same across the board, they are certainly nuanced from agency-to-agency. My favorite question was “What do you do when you feel lonely or sad?” It gave me the chance to really look inward and avoid the cheap responses we often regurgitate when tough times hit. Simply put, that question allowed me the freedom to answer honestly without feeling judged. If, during the process, deep emotional issues are uncovered, your agency may encourage you to seek counseling/therapy, something my wife and I found incredibly useful before adopting each of our children.
To that end, I cannot emphasize enough that as intrusive as these questions may appear on the surface, they are asked for your benefit. Unlike that highly inaccurate (though funny) episode of Friends in which Monica and Chandler dread meeting with their social worker because, as Monica puts it, “if she doesn’t like us, she can keep us off every adoption list in the country,” the questions are meant to set you up to win. Your agency is thrilled you want to adopt and want nothing more than to partner with you to make that happen and for you to be the best possible you when it does.
So, embrace the microscope. Gaze full on at the interrogation lights. And most importantly, be honest about everything. Your future son or daughter will thank you for it later.