This is a question we're often asked. Some parts of the process are reasonably predictable as there are administrative parts that are under our control. However timeframes for parts involving other organizations are much more difficult to predict. We can give estimates based on past cases but the other organizations may change their processes or have more cases to deal with, so timeframes can and do vary.
A key part of the process is matching. This is when a specific child is selected and offered to a waiting family. We are often asked “how soon will I be “matched” with a child?"
While we can often give you statistics based on past cases, you must understand that there are many factors involved; each case and each child is unique. Families aren't necessarily dealt with in order of application, as officials try to find the most suitable parents for a child. Here are some factors influencing waiting time:
- The number of children entering the orphanage system: All children enter the orphanage through sad circumstances that result in the mother deciding to place the child for adoption, or that result in the State intervening and making that decision, an event that is not predictable or constant. No one knows from one month to the next how many children will enter the orphanage and how many will stay; some will return to family or join a local adoptive family.
- The ages, health, gender, number of siblings, of the children: It may seem that there are many children in the orphanage, but if you're unable to accept certain health conditions, ages etc, the children cannot be offered to you. Those who apply later but can accept a wider age range or health conditions, may be matched to a child sooner.
- The number of others applying: When looking for a family for a child, authorities tend to look first at those who applied first, to find a suitable family.
- Administrative processes: For a child to be cleared for adoption takes a lot of administrative and legal work, both overseas and in NZ, to ensure the adoption is ethical and in everyone’s interests. Many authorities and courts have a range of work to complete, not just your adoption work. Work on local cases takes priority. Some overseas authorities work under less than ideal conditions, with fewer resources than we might expect. You'll need to be patient and to respect the overseas country’s right to work at their own pace. It's inappropriate and unhelpful for us to make judgments about, or criticize another country or organization’s processes and methods.
For all these reasons, it can be a long wait to adopt a child. It may be helpful for you to think of the worst case scenario and emotionally prepare yourself for the longest possible timeframe. That way, if you're lucky and the whole process is completed earlier, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Tips for surviving the long wait
The waiting is the hardest part. You'll be busy during the education, assessment and home study report processes, then completing your paperwork. Then, all of a sudden, it will seem like there's nothing left to do except sit and wait...and wait...and wait… through months of uncertainty. Waiting for a match can be excruciating. Couples usually feel a need to be doing ‘something’ but they don’t know what to do at this point. Everything is out of their hands until an adoption situation arises. This lack of control of the whole situation is something that many people find particularly difficult to accept and deal with. You may have suffered miscarriages and failed fertility treatments in the past and have endured so many disappointments that it's difficult to believe that this time you'll end up with a child in your arms. This is when meeting others who've already adopted is invaluable, increasing your own confidence and faith that it will happen.
One person wrote “It’s so hard to wait. Summer seems to be filled with a million happy families everywhere you turn taking their kids for bike rides, ice cream, posting updates on Facebook about Disneyland vacations and going to visit grandma and grandpa. It’s so hard not to get jealous, isn’t it? I remember those days well. I tried so, so hard not to be bitter, but to celebrate adoptions or births, but it hurt….” Not Succumbing to Bitterness While Waiting to Adopt
Here are a few tips for using your waiting time productively:
- Believe that you are waiting because your child is not yet available. That's why other people have received their matches before you.
- Accept that the wait is akin to a pregnancy – a time given to us in order to prepare for a whole new phase in our lives.
- Keep busy – don’t put any plans on hold in anticipation of adoption at a particular time.
- Go on with life as normal. Don’t give any notice of leaving work until it is certain.
- Think about who you tell – some people will be supportive, others will constantly ask “when will you adopt your child?” and cause you distress. It’s OK to avoid these people.
- Use the time to learn about parenting, ideas for meals, sleep routines, toys and activities to occupy them.
- Don’t buy things specifically for the child, as you don’t yet know the age or gender of the child.
- Learn about your child’s country of origin and learn as much of the language as possible.
- Learn to cook food from your child’s country.
- Take a parenting or First Aid course.
- Make contact with your local adoption group and get to know other parents.
- Join other support groups such as on-line chat groups
- Do the things that will be impossible later with children.
- Couple time will later become rare – make the most of it now.
- Take time out with a good book, walks on the beach or a few days away. Treat yourself.
- Take care of yourself, exercise, eat well and get plenty of sleep. The journey ahead of you demands that you are fit and well in order to best cope with any challenges. Your child deserves the best.
- Save, in order to make life easier financially after adoption.
- Write a journal or create a scrapbook detailing your journey to parenthood.
- Read other peoples' stories to prepare you for the emotions you may experience.
- Read about travel in your child’s country.
- Choose a doctor, preferably one who has experience with other internationally adopted children.
- Prepare your home for the arrival of inquisitive children with no experience of the living in a family situation. Cover electrical sockets, put locks on cupboards and cabinets containing dangerous or precious items. Remove any hazards and safeguard your home.
Read more on how to cope with anxiety during your wait here