10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Private Domestic Adoption

This guest post is by Barb, a waiting adoptive mother. 

Fingerprinting.  Medical reports.  Adoption training.  Endless paperwork.

These are just a few of the many steps hopeful adoptive parents need to go through in order to be ready to adopt through private domestic adoption.

And that’s the easy part!

What isn’t so easy is all the other stuff people don’t tell you about.

My husband and I are “officially waiting,” and sometimes I feel like it’s a wonder we ever got to this stage—not because we don’t meet the criteria or weren’t willing to do the work, but because getting things done in a timely manner is a challenge in the world of private domestic adoption.

When we started our wonderful, yet often frustrating journey, we contacted several agencies and licensees to inquire about next steps. To our great surprise, not everyone responded.

Even more astonishing was the fact that during our P.R.I.D.E. training we learned that many other waiting parents had the same experiences.


Sure, I get it, adoption workers are busy. Still, it was extremely disappointing.

It’s not like trying to book a hair appointment and the salon won’t call back.  There are other salons out there.  Thousands of them.

Not the case with adoption agencies.

There are very few where we live in Ontario and even fewer if you narrow down the list by region or preferences.

I always compare our adoption journey to mountain climbing.  Just like mountain climbing, adoption takes a lot of preparation and commitment. And yet even though it’s challenging and can take a long time, in the end it’s worth it!

Here are 10 things they don’t tell you about private domestic adoption and tips on how to advocate for yourself and stay on top of everything.

1. Don’t expect your adoption professionals to return your calls

If an agency or licensee hasn’t returned your call or email, call or email again.  And again.

A lot of people (especially we polite Canadians) feel that after a while, we may be annoying the person on the receiving end.

Don’t worry about it.  This is about your future, your family.

Don’t let anything to get in the way of that.  Another option is to visit the agency directly.

2. Every adoption practitioner has their own way of doing things

Adoption practices vary from agency to agency, licensee to licensee.

Some will provide an electronic version of the home study.  Others, only a paper copy.  There doesn’t appear to be any consistency when it comes to many aspects of the process.

This might not seem like a big deal at first but when you register with more than one agency to widen your search, as we are in the process of doing, you will be required to provide a copy of your home study.

If you are like us and don’t have an electronic copy of it, be prepared to kiss your free time goodbye while you scan your home study and supporting documents. Ours was 114 pages long!

Research your options and arm yourself with as much information as possible.  This way you’ll know what to expect and what to ask for.

3. Important details have a way of falling through the cracks

Read your completed home study! It’s not enough to just read the draft and assume that the final version will be the same.

It should be. However, everyone makes mistakes, and your adoption professionals are no exception.  If there are any inconsistencies, address them as soon as possible.

4. You and your adoption professional won’t always see eye to eye

Don’t be afraid to speak up!  If you don’t like something your practitioner is doing or the way things are being handled, say something.

It might be difficult, but remember: You are paying for her services and you should feel satisfied and comfortable at the end of the day.

5. It’s easy to feel isolated

Join an adoption support group or community.  Or two.  Or three.

As hopeful adoptive parents, we have the world at our fingertips.  The internet is a wonderful resource and it’s free!

Connect with other hopeful adoptive parents to share ideas, thoughts, and encouragement.

After our P.R.I.D.E. training, I created a private Facebook group where I invited the other participants.  It’s a place where we can ask questions, post articles and inspirational quotes, share success stories, and most importantly, support each other.

6. Staying organized is a challenge

Set aside a calendar specifically for adoption purposes and mark down important dates such as appointments and deadlines for submitting your paperwork.

It’s amazing how quickly things can pile up, so staying organized is essential.  This will help to stay focused on the end goal (adopting a child) and reduce your feelings of being overwhelmed.

7. Don’t rely solely on your adoption professionals or other hopeful parents for help

Share your story with others.  I used to think that the only people I could get advice from about adoption-related matters were people who were going through the process or had gone through it.

You will be surprised at how much others can help you, too.

Before we put together our photo book for the agency, we were running our ideas by my brother and sister-in-law.  They offered some great suggestions which we ended up using in the end.

You never know who will spark an idea or knows someone who has adopted that they can put you in touch with.

Besides, the more people you speak to, the more exposure you will get and we all know how important that is when you’re trying to adopt.

8. Once your education and training classes are over, there’s still lots to learn

Stay in touch with as many people in the adoption sector as possible.

Once your home study has been completed, you should still keep in contact with your practitioner.  He or she has a wealth of knowledge about the world of adoption and can answer any questions you still have.

For instance, one of the instructors we’ve kept in touch with from our P.R.I.D.E. training suggested we should register with another agency. Because it’s so far from our home in Toronto, I’m not sure we would have considered it, but we’re looking into it now and exploring the benefits.

9. You don’t need to be perfect. But you do need to take care of yourself

Eat right, get enough sleep, and enjoy your hobbies and time with loved ones.  You have to be the best version of yourself before you can take care of someone else.

If there is anything about your lifestyle that you have been wanting to change, now is the time to do it.

I eat a ton of healthy foods but I’m not going to lie-–-I do like my sweets!  I have always wanted to cut down on sugar and now that we are “officially waiting” and could get that phone call any day, I have been making a conscious effort to replace the not-so-good food in my diet with healthier choices.

I find I have more energy and more clarity than before.  And knowing that I will be setting a good example for my kid is priceless!

10. Adoption is a marathon, not a sprint

Be patient and be positive.  I know, easier said than done.

But remember, adoption can sometimes be a lengthy process and just because you are not matched right away doesn’t mean you won’t be matched at all.

Keep in mind that each day that passes is one day closer to your wish coming true.  Always believe that the glass is half full!

So there you go. That’s my list of 10 things they don’t tell you about when you’re hoping to adopt through private domestic adoption. What’s on your list?

Barb lives in Toronto with her husband, Tony, and their awesome dog Gretzky.  She is “officially” waiting to adopt and hopes that her experience can help other hopeful adoptive parents.

Do you have an adoption story? Share it and inspire others. 

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