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This is what adoption feels like

Welcome home

It seems so simple, and in a very basic way, it is: There are children out there who need a warm and loving home, and there are families yearning to provide all that and more. But making it all come together -- well, that part can get complex. Here's how five families found their way along that unforgettable journey, and how one woman made the wrenching decision to give up her child -- plus, everything you'll need to know if you decide to make adoption a part of your family story.

Courtesy of Lydia and Mike Kirkham/Photo illustration by Clifford Alejandro

Why do I want to adopt?

There's one reason above all others to make this choice: You should do it, say experts, because you want to be a parent and love a child. If a personal concern for less fortunate kids is part of your motivation, then that may affect how you adopt — but it shouldn't be your driving impulse; adoption is about creating a family, not "saving" a child.

Can I handle an open adoption?

Twenty years ago, virtually all adoptions were "closed" — meaning that records were sealed and birth parents never had contact with the new parents, or with their children, after the adoption. Some professionals thought this preserved privacy for birth parents, secured the role of adoptive parents, and ensured that adopted kids didn't feel "different." In fact, many states still deny adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates.

Today, most domestic adoptions are "open" or "semi-open," meaning there's some contact between the adoptive family and birth parents. A growing number of experts now view openness as healthy for several reasons: It reassures birth parents that their child is doing well; it gives adoptive parents information about their child's history as well as a sense of security (studies have shown that adoptive parents in closed arrangements are more anxious about losing their child than those in open ones); and it allows adopted children and adults to have longed-for connections to their biological family and roots.

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