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Navigating The Active Waiting Period

You have prepared mountains of paperwork, finished your background checks, received your references, and completed the adoption training classes and you just got the go ahead that you are now active with your agency(s) or attorney! Now what? This is where the active wait period comes in. The active wait period is the time in which all necessary paperwork and clearances have been completed and the adoptive family is waiting to be chosen by an expectant or already birthed parent. This is widely considered the hardest part of the adoption journey. There are many reasons for this but the main one is that it is extremely unpredictable. It can also be quit a rollercoaster for some families. Below we will explain what this time can look like and how to navigate it. 


The most important part of the active waiting period is the prep you do beforehand. Research, research, research. This should always be the first step of the adoption journey. When you go into the active waiting period you should know: financials, agencies/attorney’s/advisors, preferences, and preferred level of contact with birth family. Research these topics. Talk to agencies, advisors, friends, and family members. By the time you are in the active waiting period you should be able to make a very quick decision about whether you are open to presenting to a case or not. Preparation also includes preparing your partnership with your spouse. If you are not on the same page about anything in your life, especially if it is adoption related, prepare by seeking marriage counseling, or by having an open dialogue. This journey can be a bullet train and if you are not on the same page you will never be able to catch up.

Preparation should include informing your workplace. Inform your HR department and boss so that they are not blindsided when you say you have to take parental leave. Most agencies require you to take some sort of parental leave due to the importance of bonding. Be extremely selective about who you share this news with, this wait time is already difficult without a bunch of questions from outsiders. There are absolutely cases that have to be decided on in a moment and if you do not have your ducks in a row you will be left behind. If you are called for a baby born situation you need to be able to say yes with confidence.

Preparation also includes ensuring all of your paperwork is up to date. Agencies and attorneys are working with many families at different points in their process. While most agencies will keep track, it is not their job to make sure you are still in good standing and updated. In most states the home study and supporting documentation has to be updated yearly. Make sure you know when that year mark is and notate it on the calendar. Reach out to your home study provider about 1-3 months before this date to ensure there are no lapses in approval. Agencies WILL NOT present you to cases if you are not updated, it is that simple.

When it comes to preparing for the arrival of the child we recommend preparing as much as you are comfortable with and preparing with age ranges in mind. When we say what you are comfortable with we mean: what can your heart handle. Can you handle seeing a fully completed nursery every day that is empty? Or does it give you joy, peace, and a sense of active waiting to start working on that room? We do not recommend baby showers or gender reveals pre-placement. Those can all be done when the child is brought home. They lead to hard questions from others and assume the child is yours when in actuality that decision has not been made yet. It is important to remember that newborns, especially, do not need a lot and they will be in your room for the first 3-6 months. Additionally, older children come with their own specific needs and wants and it is important to prepare for the specific child rather than making assumptions before you have them in your home. If you are working with an agency that mostly places newborns and under 1’s a car seat and some clothes in different sizes is a good idea to have. If you are with an agency with a wide age range we recommend waiting until you have a better idea of the age and specific needs of the child(ren) you will be placed with.


When you are active you have to be responsive with your agency/attorney/advisor, or else you will lose out on cases. It is just that simple. Save the phone number and email address of every agency, advisor etc. you work with. When you are active your agency is going to expect you to be… ACTIVE! When a case goes out you should be able to respond within hours. It should not take days, do not ask for 24 hours to think it over or to reach out to your workplace or family. This goes back to preparation. Prepare so that when that call comes you are ready. Of course there are cases that are more complicated than others, there could be health, exposure and age factors to consider further, that is okay. This should be the most important thing in your life. You absolutely should be able to step away from a meeting, come back from a trip, or take off of work immediately when that call comes in. If you choose that this is not important enough to do those things, you should stop the process and reconsider if it is the right time to parent.


A good way to continue to feel like you are an active participant in this process while waiting is to continue your adoption related training during this time. Take more classes, read more books, research and learn. Make sure you focus on training over the lifespan of the child and training specific to your own life and preferences. Focus on more recent publications and classes that are current to the attitudes and adoption landscape of today. When your child comes home you want to focus on bonding with them and you want to feel prepared for the relationship you will have with their first family.


Timing is extremely unpredictable in this stage of the adoption journey. Up to this point everything has been scheduled and you have had a basic timeframe to complete everything in. You were getting background checks on this day, and your home study interview on this day, and you knew you would become active within the month. There is no timeframe in the active waiting period. You could wait a week, you could wait 6 months, or you could wait 3 years. There is absolutely no way to know when you will be chosen. Go into the active wait period understanding that.


DO NOT COMPARE YOUR ADOPTION JOURNEY WITH OTHERS. We cannot stress how important this is. Being a part of support groups and/or having friends that are also in the journey can be very beneficial, however it can also lead to comparisons or conclusions that are harmful and unfounded. The truth is there are no two adoption journeys that are the same. This is not only true between families, but can also be true within families for subsequent adoptions. A family could wait two weeks to be chosen for their first adoption and two years for their second or vice versa. To compare is to completely overlook the fact that you are waiting for YOUR child not A child. There are many reasons behind who is being shown to what birthparent or expectant parent and why they choose the family they do. It can be extremely hard and you will second guess and question everything. Remember when you say “why not us” someone else is saying “finally us” and one day you will be too. Trust the process and trust that when the time is right you will be chosen.


LIVE YOUR LIFE. Go on vacations, have BBQ’s, and spend time with your family and friends. If you stop your life waiting for the call, the wait will feel exponentially longer then it is. Do not make any huge life changes especially when it comes to home or career. If you are prepared before the waiting period starts, there should be no reason you will not be ready for that call when it comes.

These are recommendations, but every family will navigate this journey differently. Have trust in the process and confidence in your motivation to become parents. When you look into the eyes of the child you have been waiting for you will forget about the wait time, paperwork, and “no’s” and all you will be able to remember is the “yes” that led to that moment.

*The sentiments and policies expressed in this blog represent Cradle of Life Staff and/or Clients and do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or policies of all adoption agencies.