When you’re preparing to adopt, the anticipation can be overwhelming. It’s a long journey: getting fingerprinted; going through a home study; choosing domestic, international, or foster adoption; putting your family profile or dossier together; then finally wondering what it will feel like to bring your child homeHere are some key strategies to help you and your family move through the adoption process until everyone can finally settle in together.

Wait Out the Waiting Game

Adopting can take a while — sometimes, longer than you expected. Keep yourself busy by doing all the things you won’t have time to do once your new baby or child comes home.

Maxine Walton, a social worker whose Children’s Home Society and Family Services in Minnesota handles domestic and international adoptions, says, “Empty the job jar, go on that vacation.” Get your home as ready as you can. For example, stock the pantry and medicine cabinet. That will certainly come in handy once you bring your new child home.

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Find Out What Your Child’s Life Was Like

If your adopted child is not a newborn, he or she has had a life before you. Talk to foster parents, orphanage directors, or even your child’s birth parents to learn what that life has been like.

Debra Harder, adoption information coordinator with Children’s Home Society and Family Services, says, “You want to learn what your child’s routines are, how he might have been soothed, how he likes to be held, his favorite toys and games.”

She adds, “If you have the opportunity to meet your baby’s or child’s caregivers, this is a great opportunity to learn firsthand what he’s used to so you can help him feel more comfortable in your home with familiar routines.”

If you’re adopting internationally or bringing home a baby from a state other than your own, it’s likely that you’ll have to travel and spend at least a week in your child’s home state or country. That can be frustrating because you want to get home and start your new life together. But look at it as a great opportunity to build attachment between you and your new child.

“This is precious time,” Harder says. “You can get to know each other and bond one on one. You have time when you don’t have to share your child with anyone else — it’s just you together as a new family.”