09/10/2014 02:12 pm ET Updated Nov 10, 2014

Hearts Wide Open, Unaware of All We Didn't Know

Allison Barberi

When we initially considered adoption for our family, we knew nothing about it. We love kids and assumed that was enough. We told the orphanage director that we were willing to adopt older children and sibling groups, because we knew that it was hardest to find families for them, and we wanted to be the most help possible.

After a few conversations, the director sent us emails which contained pictures of sibling groups and told us to choose the ones we wanted. Well, I was having no part of that. This wasn't Wal-mart. I couldn't look at pictures of children that needed families and choose one over the other. So we did the only thing we could conceive of doing and told her we'd take them all.

Looking back, I'm surprised at how easy it was to adopt and how little we were told about adoption. I'm sure the agencies involved just wanted to find families for children in need, but there was a complete lack of education. No one shared any possibility of problems children raised in an orphanage might have. We walked into the situation, hearts wide open, unaware of all that we didn't know.

Adoption can be a wonderful experience, but expecting a perfect transition is not realistic. We had to learn along the way. To help you become informed ahead of time, I'm sharing this list of the possible challenges you may face.

Incorrect birth information -- Getting correct information from a third world country isn't always easy. Before we brought one of our daughters home, we were told she was 5 years old. The day after she arrived, the orphanage director called and told us they had made a mistake and that she was 8.

Health problems -- We dealt with health challenges for a while -- scabies, intestinal worms, digestive problems and exposure to TB.

Unknown personal history -- The orphanage told us our children's names, but when we brought them home, three of our children said those weren't their real names. They claimed the orphanage changed their names when they got there.

Food issues -- This subject has been ongoing in our family, and I feel our children will always have some issues surrounding food. For more information, please see my Huffington Post article on Adoption, Food and Acceptance here.

Attachment issues -- After feeling abandoned by their birth parents and having trouble trusting people again, adopted children may have problems with attachment. This topic is too broad to dive into in this article, but I suggest researching it, so you understand the possibilities.

Learning difficulties -- My children were adopted between the ages of 2 and 9. They had very little schooling In Liberia, and when we began homeschooling them here in the U.S., we had to start them all on the preschool level. The older they were when they came to us, the more difficulties they had with learning.

Climate differences -- This may seem like an odd one, but our children had never felt cold weather until we brought them home in February in the middle of a snowstorm. One of our children had physical pain from the cold and had a hard time adjusting.

This list is not to discourage you from adopting. Rather it's here to help you become aware of what your adopted children may experience. Use it to help you prepare for their homecoming, and you and your children will be able to have an easier adjustment to your new family.