Today I’m going to share with you perhaps the most important key to my adoption success. That may sound grandiose, but perhaps, it is even an understatement.

First some background information: After more than 29 years of adoption work, I have seen what the successful families do and what the families that struggle and spend too much money have not done. In my estimate only 20% of prospective adoptive families are focused actively on learning about adoption — they read, listen to audiotapes, ask important questions of other families and adoption professionals, and go to adoption seminars. Their goal is to find new and better ways to improve their results and become more successful in a shorter time.

Not surprisingly, these 20 percent are the parents who are most successful sooner. Since you’re reading this, chances are you’re either in that 20% — or moving towards entering this successful group.

Here are 7 easy ways to gain the most benefit from what you learn:

1. Learn from people who are already successful in adoption. Don’t take advice from people who haven’t “been there, done that.” Lots of people who give advice are wrong — they have opinions, but not in-the-trenches experience in adopting. Often, if they have not adopted for several years, you will find that the methods, laws and experiences of adoption have changed. Following the advice of these people can be frustrating and a waste of your time — or worse it can lead you down the wrong path.

This also means you shouldn’t take advice from Aunt Polly, Uncle Charles, or your neighbor — unless Polly, Charles, or your neighbor has been through a successful adoption recently. Often, people who haven’t adopted are naysayers — and their (perhaps unintentional) goal is to stop you from succeeding. Don’t let them! My own mother wasn’t very positive about adoption until we had our son in our arms and she could see how wonderful adoption can be. Some people are just uneducated about adoption and learn what they know from negative media instead of the reality that most adoptions go very well and without problems. The media knows fear and drama sells, even if it represents only a small portion of the adoption experience.

2. Read or listen actively — not passively. As you read or listen, always ask yourself: “How can I apply this to my adoption journey?” Take notes. If you don’t apply what you learn, “the knowledge in the book will stay in the book” — and you won’t benefit.

3. Allocate time each week to learning more about adoption. Humans spend between 3 and 8 hours each week learning new things. Make the time — it’s the key to your success. For instance knowing the laws in your state and basic adoption terms can help prevent you spending unnecessary money asking an attorney to explain simple terms you could have read about.

4. Don’t try to be perfect. You don’t have to learn everything at once. Just think about what would help your results and pick that topic. Start with adoption terms, and then move on to adoption law in your state. (You can do a search for current law by entering into your browser “California family law” or go to Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School.) When you find something you have questions about, write it down, research it and ask others. Again, don’t try to be faultless. Just take it one step (or topic) at a time. When we were adopting, I took one hour a day and devoted it to learning about adoption. I did this by reading, speaking to others that had adopted, and seeking out adoption professionals.

5. As you are doing this, you will find you are saving money. The money you put into reading books will more than save you in legal costs, errors in decision making, spotting red flags in an adoption, and save you at least four times what you might spend on tapes and seminars. At the end of your adoption, you will look at the total amount you spent on learning about adoption and how much value you acquired for the money.

I also have noticed that the informed family makes better decisions, is less stressed, and communicates better with birth parents. They have a much better overall experience in their adoption than those that did very little to understand the adoption process and what birth parents are feeling and wanting in an adoption. It’s an amazing investment.

6. Select the best and most qualified adoption professionals to work with. Judge the value, not the price. Often, the higher priced tried and true adoption professional with a proven track record of success will give you much more value and less heartache than someone less expensive, which, in fact, can be a comparative bargain. Compare services and successes and take your time when doing your research. Just a few weeks of research can pay off tremendously. Always check with the Better Business Bureau for referrals.

7. Have fun. Learning is fun — enjoy the process. Moving closer to your dream of successful adoption is possible and attainable. Start today, you’ll never regret the experience.

By Mardie Caldwell, COAP, founder of Lifetime Adoption, Adoption Expert.
Adoptive mother, award-winning author, and radio talk show host.

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