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What and when to tell friends and family

You have made the decision - you are going to adopt one of the world's children in need. You have done your homework, you and your partner have discussed it, you may even have picked up the phone to start the whole process. And now you are ready to take the big step of telling your friends and family.

Of course you want the support of your friends and family on your adoption journey but you may not be too sure on what the reaction will be to 'Hey Mom, we are going  to adopt a child from Ethiopia!'  How do you tell your friends and family and when? 

People approach this in differing ways.  Some find that announcing it at a gathering of the family is the best, others decide to tentatively test the water on a one to one basis.

You must be prepared -  not everyone will be ecstatic about the decision as you are.  One thing that we have found is that you can never anticipate the response from people.

Some have found that close family members are horrified, others that almost strangers become your biggest allies. Adoption - bringing into your family one as your own - provokes deep-seated feelings and prejudices.

Do not be surprised to start to hear racist comments. Mention that you are adopting from Russia and out come all the jokes about Vodka, spies and bears.  Mention India, and everyone starts to talk in a funny accent. Throw a few of the horrific statistics and that is usually the end of the negative comments!

You must be prepared to educate people about adoption. They will not know as much as you and some may have old-fashioned ideas surrounding it. They may not embrace it with all the enthusiasm that you do.

I was really surprised with the lack of understanding of my family about adopted children. I just assumed that as I was adopting that they would at some stage sit down and do a bit  of research on their own, so that they could best support me.  Despite the process going on for years and coming home with my bundle of joy and all the conversations I had had about it - they still did not 'get it'. In fact my sister, at one stage, 'had concerns' that 'she was not at liberty to discuss with me' ,during the process.  Very stressful, when you assume that you will have your families undivided support.

Support is essential for the process and as you get further into it you will begin to realise that the enthusiasm your friends first felt begins to drop away as the days, months and even years grind on and you feel that you are no closer to bringing your child home. It begins to get frustrating for all concerned with the, 'Any news yet?' question. And so no one mentions it and it becomes ackward because they want to share your process but with nothing happening there is nothing they can say and silence prevails...humour of course is the best way of dealing with it and the assurance that they will be the first to know IF anything was happening.

When to tell is also interesting. It is a bit of a Catch 22 as the social worker needs to see that you have the support,  but you don't want to tell people until you are well into the adoption.  It is very much like not mentioning you are pregnant until the end of the first trimester...only with an adoption you don't know how long your gestation is going to be!

For the Home Study you will have to provide the names of at least 3 people who will be your referees who will be interviewed and with some agencies at least another 2 who will provide written references.  These are people who know you well and who are well acquainted with your decision to adopt. It is a good idea to spend several hours with them discussing your thoughts and wishes and monitoring their reactions. It is not unheard of that friends have turned around during Social Worker interviews to say they do not think that their friends would make good parents.  So make sure they are fully briefed.

Peter and Jane were almost put off adopting because their family members were so strongly anti international adoption.  This is a hard one and obviously depends on the relationship with that particular family member. People are funny and there is no way of predicting their reactions.  Jill's brother-in-law was so opposed to the adoption from Russia, that it almost caused a rift in the family - only for him to do a complete turn around once the beautiful little girl came home - now he is her number one fan!

Others may be very pro the adoption and then once the child comes home, they have a complete adverse reaction.

Roger's mother was so excited to become a grandparent, she was immensely supportive throughout the whole process.  She even made, knitted and bought a load of stuff for the new arrival, but when Roger and Julie stepped off the plane with their son it was a completely different story - she did not want to know anything about him and no probing could ascertain the reasons why. Very sad.

So there is no telling.  You have to do what you feel is the right thing for you, and your partner, and your future.

You will find that with a child, comes a whole new support group and network. 

I remember the sensation when I first became a mother - it was as if I had been walking my whole life, oblivious, next to a tall wall and as soon as I became a parent, the gates were thrown open and I was invited into a whole new world, of support, kindness, protection, mothers, advice etc.  My world is totally different now to what it was before I became a parent and now my child is at school I'm busy I hardly have time to think about my loved ones - let alone see them!

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