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Get Ready!

A list of lists to help you through the adoption process. by Jenni Colson



When I’m feeling overwhelmed or helpless, I make lists. During the long months that I waited for our two sons' arrivals from Korea, I made lots of them—and revised them often. It didn't make the days pass any faster, but it gave me something to do and some feeling of control. Compiling lists can help you stay organized, make the most of the wait, and be better prepared when the big day comes. Below are 10 kinds of lists to help you through the adoption process, from referral to arrival.

List 1: Adoption Process Checklist

This was perhaps the most important list in our house during our two adoptions. While many agencies outline the steps to complete in the process, it can take a long time to check off “Receive INS Approval.” But you can see the progress you are making when you break down the process into smaller steps, such as:

  • Gather information needed to complete I-600A.
  • Mail I-600A.
  • Receive fingerprint appointment date.
  • And so on.

List 2: When You Get a Referral

Enjoy the excitement of meeting your child for the first time, but be prepared with a list of questions about his care. When we accepted our first son’s referral, we knew he had a bilateral cleft lip and palate. But as we were packing to meet him at the airport, I realized that I hadn’t asked if he needed a special bottle for feeding. A few frantic e-mails to Korea and one trip to Wal-Mart later, we found the type he needed. You might ask about:

  • Your child’s family history or medical conditions.
  • Eating and sleeping habits.
  • His daily schedule.
  • Behavior and developmental information.

List 3: Whom to Call When You Get the Call

This might seem obvious, but when the call comes—that you have a referral, that the birthmother has gone into labor, or that you’ve received a travel date—reason may escape you. List the people you want to tell your big news, and their phone numbers, too—you don’t want to be thumbing through your address book at the last minute.

List 4: Names, Names, Names

If you will be changing or adding to your child’s name, keep a list of potential names. One family chose an ethnic name for a Latin-American child, and at the last minute, had to switch to another program. Now they’re waiting for a child from Taiwan, and are back to poring through baby-name books. Even if you think you’ve settled on a new name, have a few other options ready—just in case it doesn’t fit, and Molly looks more like a Maribel in person.

List 5: Prepare Yourself

The waiting seems to stretch on forever, but your home will be bustling with excitement and activity before long. Make the most of the time before your child’s arrival.

  • List the parenting or adoption books you’d like to read, or sneak in a few more books by your favorite author before you’re too tired to read.
  • Get your spring cleaning done, so you’ll have more time when your child arrives.
  • Prepare and freeze batches of lasagna and chicken soup for the first few days, when no one wants to cook.

List 6: Prepare Your Home

What do you need to do to make your home safe and welcoming for your new child? If you’re waiting for an infant, “Assemble crib,” “Stock up on diapers,” and “Plug outlets with safety plugs” will be on your list. If you’re awaiting an older child, you might think about gathering paint samples for your child’s bedroom, buying clothing and pajamas, and picking out books, toys, and games.

List 7: Boring But Necessary

They aren’t as much fun as picking out sleepers and crib bedding, but the financial and legal must-do’s are just as important. These include:

  • Add your future child to your health insurance policy.
  • Adjust your life insurance policy or your income tax withholding, if necessary.
  • Choose a pediatrician.
  • Find out how to enroll your child in his or her new school.

List 8: Announcement Recipients

This list will include many of the people on List 3, and then some. Add names as you remember those who played a part in your child’s adoption. For example, we sent an arrival announcement to the couple who donated a weekend stay at their bed-and-breakfast to an adoption fundraiser we had.

List 9: Photos and Mementos

In a race to the airport or after a jet-lagged trip to another country, you might forget these if they’re not written down:

  • Photos you want to take, such as pictures of the orphanage or your family waiting for your child’s arrival at the airport. We took a picture of the airport clock at the exact time our son’s plane landed.
  • Souvenirs from your child’s birth country, such as a ring with your child’s birthstone.
  • Keepsakes that might be meaningful someday, like a newspaper published the day of your child’s arrival.

List 10: Things to Pack

Whether your trip takes you across the globe or just to the airport on the other side of town, you’ll need a packing list. Keep in mind:

  • The climate and local customs for dress, if you’re traveling to another country.
  • Items for your first meeting with your child.
  • If you’re meeting your child at the airport, camera, clothing for your child, and a gift.
  • Baby wipes and snacks, regardless of your destination!

And there you have it. These ideas can be adapted to your situation. Smile as the check marks add up and bring you closer to the day your child joins your family. Soon, your lists will change: bigger grocery lists, longer Christmas lists, and a jam-packed to-do list. But that’s another article.

Jenni Colson is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and three children in southern Michigan.

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