If you’ve begun the adoption process, you probably already know that it’s a complex process with a lot of moving parts, and a lot of people you’ll need to work with. One individual you’ve probably already started to work closely with is an adoption social worker. Being able to work well with your family’s adoption social worker is a great way to help ensure smooth sailing as you follow this path toward growing your family.
- Know their role: An adoption social worker’s job is to help facilitate the adoption process and act as a liaison between the family adopting a child and the child being adopted. Because there are a number of different ways that a family can adopt a child – such as international adoption, domestic adoption, open or semi-open adoption, closed adoption, adoption following foster care, etc. – the social worker’s role may be slightly different in each unique situation. But they are always there to help demystify the adoption process and, ultimately, help connect children with their forever families.
- Know that communication is key: Get comfortable communicating with your social worker – after all, they’re there to help. As you move through the adoption process, ask all the questions you need to, whether large or small, seemingly obvious or super detailed. At different stages, you may have different questions. For example, if you choose to pursue foster care, there may very well be a wealth of reasons you may want to be in touch with your social worker on a regular basis – from questions about a child’s new behavior or to share their exciting progress – so if you’re ever in doubt, know that it never hurts to reach out.
- Know that a social worker is just one person: Adoption is a complex process, and your social worker will play a huge role in helping you navigate it – along with many others. They will work along with different groups, like adoption agencies or government organizations, to help place the children they work with. Despite the fact – and sometimes because of the fact – that they are one in a network of many working to find homes for children, many adoption social workers have full caseloads and full schedules, so try to be accommodating and patient as you work with them. You might not know what’s going on behind the scenes or what other emergencies they might need to be attending to.
- Know that it helps to stay positive: Your social worker is someone who you’ll work with quite closely – they’ll be visiting your home, they’ll be asking detailed questions about your family, so it can all feel rather intimate – and while it would be great for you to find that you get along well with them or have an easy rapport as soon as you meet, that might not necessarily happen. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t work immensely well together with them as you go move through the adoption process. Again, always do your best to communicate, be patient, and try to remain positive about the process. It helps to try and remember that your social worker has the best intentions and that both you and your social worker have a lot of the same goals in mind.
- Know that it helps to stay patient: Adoption can sometimes be a long process, and much as you may want things to move more quickly, things often happen on a timeline that’s outside your control. If, for example, you’re acting as a foster parent prior to adopting, sometimes it can feel doubly frustrating when it seems like a child’s birth parents are being given multiple chances to make the necessary changes that would allow them to care for their birth child again. This is because, by law, there is typically effort made to reunify a family and social workers must work toward reunification for a set amount of time. Again, social workers are just one party in a larger system working to help children live in safe, happy, healthy homes, so the process involves a lot of moving parts, and it all takes time.
- Know that they want what’s best for the children they work with: Most social workers have pursued their line of work because they care deeply about the well-being of children and want to help make a difference in their lives. They want children to be well-cared for in happy, healthy homes with families who love them.
At the end of the day, you’re likely pursuing adoption because you have a lot of love to give and want to welcome a child into your family to share in it – and your adoption social worker would love nothing more than to help make this a reality for you. They will likely be an indispensable ally during the adoption process, and hopefully knowing more about what they do will help you work well together along the way.