One of my favorite things to do as a family lawyer in Tennessee is to help people grow their families through adoption. As a father and an attorney, there’s something really satisfying and emotional about helping a new family begin. As exciting and wonderful as it is, the process can be a little scary, too: after all, you’re about to become a parent, maybe for the first time, and that is awesome in the true definition of the word.
If you are considering adopting a child, especially one from outside Tennessee state lines, the first thing you want to do is come talk to me about the laws and regulations. You’ll need to meet with the Tennessee Department of Child Services, too, which requires a home study and 30 hours of classes and assessment (among other things), so we can talk about that process during our meeting. Just remember that the process of adopting a child in Tennessee is rigorous because it needs to be, for the safety of the children and the potential parents.
What to expect outside of the legal process
You might find yourself facing some unexpected hurdles or responses along the way, and it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed by it all. I wanted to let you know what they are, so that you can prepare yourself for any challenges you might face:
- Adoption can be expensive. There are home study and placement fees, doctors’ visits, agencies costs and counseling, as well as legal fees. Nashville Parent puts the cost at up to $35,000 in some cases, but sometimes it costs a lot less than that. My advice? Save as much money as you can. Anything you don’t use could be put in a college fund or trust for the child.
- Not everyone will be supportive. The sad truth is, some people think adopted families aren’t real families. Some people will think you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Some people believe that no one should have to raise a child that isn’t yours biologically. Some birth parents really don’t want to give up their children. Don’t let naysayers get the best of you. Loving parents are loving parents, and you and your adopted children are absolutely a real family. Finding a support group you can rely on, and to whom you can express your fears, joys, frustrations and victories will be key in helping you.
- Adopted children will be curious about their birth parents. Some will want to seek them out. Others might “threaten” to go live with their birth parents when they’re mad at you. Still others may feel abandoned or inadequate. All of these feelings are natural, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent or that your kids don’t love you; they might just be trying to reconcile who they are with who they might have been. A good counselor or therapist can help your child adjust if you think he or she needs to talk it out in a safe and secure place.
- At some point, you might think you made a mistake. EVERY parent feels this way – adoptive or biological. Raising kids is, as I said, an awesome responsibility. You’re going to feel scared, you’re going to feel angry, and you’re going to feel overwhelmed. And then you’re going to feel lucky, blessed, overjoyed and amazed (and maybe even guilty for having any negative feelings at all) at how incredible your family is.
You are not alone. You know how I know? Because not only did I raise kids of my own, but I keep in contact with so many of my clients, and I’ve been there for so many of them while they went through these exact emotions. Take a deep breath, find yourself a loving support system, and revel in the experience that is parenthood. It is positively extraordinary.
My name is Kevin Shepherd, and I help people just like you in Blount and Williamson Counties grow their families through adoption. For more information about my family law services, I invite you to contact my office in Maryville or in Franklin to schedule a consultation about the adoption process in Tennessee.