With shelter-in-place and social-distancing orders in place throughout much of the United States, it's no surprise that parents are having to make huge changes to their schedules as far as education and child care are concerned. And for families who are considering adoption during this time, the process looks significantly different. Although prospective parents are still able to legally adopt during COVID-19 - take this family, who officially adopted their son using Zoom, for example - there are some changes that they should be aware of. Nicole Witt, executive director of The Adoption Consultancy, shared what prospective parents should consider while adopting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How is the relationship between potential birth parents and adoptive parents changing?
One of the biggest changes prospective parents can expect is a heavier reliance on virtual, rather than in-person, meetings. "The relationship between the potential birth parents and the hopeful adoptive parents needs to be developed virtually rather than in person," Nicole told POPSUGAR. "In some cases, this is actually not that big of a change, as many hopeful adoptive parents match with potential birth parents who live in a different state than they do. As a result, much of their relationship is developed via virtual means such as phone calls, texts, or Skype calls anyway."
Although meeting parents virtually isn't necessarily a huge change, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, many will have to miss out on meeting kids in person.
"There is usually at least one in-person visit during the course of a match."
"There is usually at least one in-person visit during the course of a match," she explained. "That visit often happens shortly after the match occurs so that everyone can get to know each other better and the subsequent interactions are more deep, personal, and authentic. Also, sometimes there are additional visits if the expectant mom invites the hopeful adoptive parents to attend a doctor's appointment, for instance."
Nicole noted that, given the current travel restrictions, in-person meetings of any kind are on hold for just about everyone. "Even if all parties happen to live close to each other, often there are no guests allowed at doctor's visits or ultrasounds anymore, and social distancing at such appointments would be nearly impossible regardless," she said, adding: "As a result, virtual communication becomes much more important. Fortunately, with technology such as Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype, all parties involved can work to develop as personal of a relationship as they would like to have, even if in-person meetings cannot occur."
Can adoptive parents still go to the hospital with the child's birth parents?
Given the risk of getting infected at a hospital, adoptive parents are generally not allowed to be present during the birth of the child. "The personal interactions in the hospital are much more limited. These days, an expectant mom often can only have one visitor or sometimes even no visitors at the hospital," Nicole explained. "Previously, she's had the option of including her friends and family, the agency social worker, and even the potential adoptive parents in the process, if she so desired."
"For a potential birth mom who really wanted that support, it can make this difficult time even more difficult."
Unfortunately for birth parents, this can make a stressful and highly emotional experience even harder. Additionally, adoptive parents will have to miss out on the first few days of a child's life, which can be challenging.
"For a potential birth mom who really wanted that support, it can make this difficult time even more difficult," Nicole explained. "However, some potential birth moms may appreciate the solitude and the time alone with her baby. It may allow her to gain clarity and make sure she is fully committed to the adoption before going forward. For the potential adoptive parents, it certainly makes things more emotionally difficult because they may not receive much information about how things are progressing and they may miss out on early bonding time with the baby."
How are prospective parents navigating the placement of a child?
Although it's difficult - and unwise - to stay in a hotel or rental property right now, families are getting creative with how they're going about transitioning a child into their home.
"Many pre-adoptive parents don't want to fly or stay in hotels these days and some states have even put a moratorium on short-term rentals," Nicole said. "As a result, I'm seeing a new trend in that many hopeful adoptive parents are choosing to rent an RV for the duration of the placement process. The current low rental prices and flexibility with dates, combined with not having to worry about the cleanliness of airplanes, hotels, or restaurants, make this an attractive option."
So what exactly does this process look like for prospective families? "The pre-adoptive parents rent the RV, sanitize it, and drive it to the location from which they are adopting. They're able to cook for themselves and no one else ever needs to enter the vehicle," she said. "Once the placement occurs and the interstate paperwork clears, the new family can just drive home. It's an innovative and cost-effective solution that may continue even once this pandemic passes."