This is the best case. It
illustrates that carefully-researched and deliberated stepchild adoption really can bring
significant new strength, warmth, and unity to everyone in their
three or more merging
We've just reviewed 12 common
typical co-parents to seek legal adoption of one or more
stepkids. Note these themes...
adoption is a complex decision with many emotional,
relationship, and perhaps financial impacts.
Hastily or impulsively made, this decision has a
high chance of increasing
re/marital and stepfamily stress, because it affects many
people and family-adjustment tasks, fundamentally alters the stepfamily system, and
usually does not
successful, long-term, truly raising the whole family's nurturance
can happen if all affected co-parents, minor and grown kids, and
genetic and legal relatives are clear on...
their identity a normal multi-home
stepfamily and what that identity
what they're doing (resolving
a stream of conflicts from a complex multi-year biofamily merger),
primary reasons (needs) for adoption, and if all adults...
have realistic expectations of what it will and won't provide.
can co-parents raise their long-term odds for a successful stepchild adoption?
Improve Your Odds for Deciding Wisely
Though every stepfamily is unique, some adoption-criteria apply
to most of them. The
goal is your co-parents helping each other make an informed,
wide-angle, long-range adoption decision. The real questions are:
needs to adopt, and why?
What problems may legal adoption cause, if
What is the right time to consider adoption?,
What are the right reasons to adopt a
Needs to Adopt?
Get very clear
on (a) which family members are promoting stepchild adoption, and
(b) whether all adults'
are evaluating the decision (Lesson 1). If not, stepchild
acting on unrealistic adoption
expectations and being disappointed and frustrated;
lowering your stepfamily's nurturance
escalating stepfamily stress and possible re/divorce,
wounds to your descendents.
Include your stepchild's
other bioparent, if alive and accessible, as a full partner in your
evaluation process. Try to see him or her as a resource,
vs. an opponent or non-participant. If you really accept
that you're a stepfamily, you'll accept the necessity of including this co-parent.
Doing this honestly leads to confronting any significant
teamwork in and between your several homes. Best case: reduce these
before evaluating stepchild adoption.
Review your co-parental
As a foundation for making important
family decisions like
stepchild adoption, I suggest consistently putting (a) your individual
integrity and wholistic health first, (b) your primary relationships second, and (c) all else
third, except in emergencies. If any co-parent balks at this, s/he's
Get clear on the scope of
your decision. If your co-parents see stepchild adoption as a
than just a affecting one or more kids or one home, then go ahead. If any of
you disagree, yellow light!
After doing these
you're trying to
fill by step-child adoption. The examples above illustrate some seductive surface
reasons to adopt a
aim to reduce significant personal or relationship tensions. A better option is
resolving unmet primary needs one at a time, and then using
adoption to strengthen your stabilized stepfamily.
on the pros and cons of stepchild
adoption in your unique stepfamily. If all your co-parents
agree that adoption will probably yield more pros than cons long term,
then go ahead. Option: have each co-parent and any active co-grandparents
read this article and then discuss how it applies to all your adults and
kids. Disinterest or resistance to this suggests psychological wounds and/or
What Problems May Adoption Cause?
Though every stepfamily is unique, unwise or premature legal
stepchild-adoption decisions may cause cascades of significant
membership, values, and loyalty conflicts; and/or divisive relationship
triangles. They may also amplify significant relationship barriers
between some family members.
Common problems to watch for are...
the stepchild's other bioparent fearing
that the adopting stepparent is trying to displace him or her,
and/or to prove s/he is a "better parent." A related fear is that
their child will love the stepparent more than themselves. This may
be caused by insecurity and/or the illusion that "love" is a limited resource.
the stepchild feeling anxiety and guilt
that s/he must now "love" the adoptive stepparent and/or
stepsiblings though s/he doesn't feel love;
the stepparent's own child/ren resenting
that their mom or dad is treating a stepsibling as an equal to them
and feeling somehow demoted and/or less secure;
names and titles: a stepparent may have
been called by their first name before adoption, and now asks or
demands to be called Mom or Dad. There may be new family confusion
about whether the adopting adult is still "my stepparent" or "my
parent." These are values conflicts;
a grandparent blaming their adult child
for allowing "a stranger?" to adopt their grandchild - specially if
they disapprove of the stepparent and/or her or his parenting values
someone resenting changes to a
stepparent's estate plan giving equal bequests to an adopted
the stepchild (or someone) resenting
that s/he must change her/his last name to their stepfather's name,
and/or that the stepparent now refers to them as "my son or
daughter." The later is specially common if the other bioparent
objects to this title or the stepparent demanding to be called "Mom"
Aware co-parents guided by their true Selves can avoid or resolve these
and similar problems using the resources in this site's nonprofit self-improvement
What are the Right Reasons to Adopt?
See the examples above. In summary, the best reasons are those which
strengthen all your stepfamily
relationships, bonding, and unity;
do not cause significant loyalty
conflicts and relationship triangles, or amplify any relationship
in and between your homes; and
will increase your stepfamily's long-term
these criteria is complex and emotional, consider using
to help you decide. A
great resource is other stable (vs. new) stepfamilies who
have gone through this evaluation process. Though their circumstances
and structure will differ from yours, the core pros and cons are probably similar.
Is there a
support group near you? If not, explore some of the many co-parent support and chat groups on the
Web. Also, use several Web search programs like
and see what "adoption," "child adoption," and
"stepchild adoption" bring
Even if you have healthy reasons to adopt, you may do so at the wrong
When Is the Right Time to Adopt?
The best answer is "when we all
agree we have all the requisites above." Stepfamily
commentators generally agree it takes four or
more years after re/wedding and cohabiting to stabilize the complex
of three or more
The further along you all are with your set of concurrent
tasks and these
likely it is you all can make a wise long-term adoption decision.
this "Right Time" courtship worksheet to help you all answer this key
Take your time! Because this
decision will affect many kids and adults in many ways, help each other to
be patient at learning each affected adult's and child's
feelings, needs, and opinions. A stepchild-adoption decision is at
least as complex as buying or building a house. If any co-parent is
confused or unsure about adoption, resolve that first!
Lesson-7 article exists because a significant minority of American
stepparents legally adopt one or more stepkids. This complex family-wide
decision can benefit or stress a typical multi-home stepfamily over
time. It deserves thoughtful deliberation by all affected adults, and
respectful consultation with all affected kids.
This article defines "successful stepchild adoption,"
proposes requisites for making a wise adoption decision, and reviews 12
common adoption motives. Most of them aim
to fill alluring surface needs, and
often don't turn out the way co-parents hope, long term. The
article closes with four key adoption questions step-adults need to discuss together.
Adoption, a Resource Book, by Tim O'Hanlon, PhD; Adoption Shop; 2004
Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get
what you needed? If not, what
you need? Who's
these questions - your
/ Lesson 7 /