Each year thousands of people in the U.S. recognize and celebrate the creation of “forever families” on National Adoption Day. While adoption has existed for nearly as long as the human race, even today many longstanding myths and misconceptions about adoption linger. As we mark National Adoption Day on Nov. 19, here are some adoption misconceptions that should be put to rest.
Birth parents are not allowed any contact with their child once adoptions are finalized. In most cases, it is up to the birth parents to choose whether to have an “open” adoption or a “closed” adoption. In open adoptions, birth parents and adoptive families elect to learn about each other’s identities and backgrounds, and may remain in contact with each other throughout the child’s life. The degree to which this occurs varies, but the birth parents play a key role in determining the level of engagement.
Placing a child for adoption is a sign of weakness. Many birth parents confront the “pressure to parent” from influencers in their lives. Some are even led to believe if they choose adoption that they don’t love their child. The fact is that adoption is one of the most courageous decisions birth parents can make – believing that placing their child for adoption will ultimately lead to a better life for their child.
Birth mothers who grieve after placing their child for adoption made the wrong decision. The pressure to parent has a counterpart post-adoption. Observers often assume that a birth mother’s sense of grief or loss post-placement is indicative that she feels guilty and regrets her decision. In truth, most birth mothers do experience sadness after placing a child for adoption, but that grief does not typically equate to guilt. The sense of guilt is usually ascribed by outsiders. In fact, grieving is a healthy part of the healing process, and leading adoption facilities, such as the Gladney Center for Adoption, provide information, tools and support to help birth mothers cope with grief post-placement.
Birth mothers who are familiar with the adoption process are less likely to choose adoption. The level of one’s exposure to adoption is a key factor in a person’s decision about whether to place their child for adoption. In fact, the more someone has been exposed to adoption, the more likely they will choose adoption as an alternative to parenting or abortion. This underscores the need for adoption education programs.
Older adoptive children are so broken that they will never heal post-adoption. It’s a common belief that older children may be so traumatized from their past situations that they can never attach to an adoptive parent. It is true that many older children have suffered abuse, neglect or have been shuttled from one foster home to another, and they often display negative behaviors as a result. But no child is “beyond repair” and most adoptive children will successfully attach to their parents when they are placed with a loving family. Education is profoundly important when adopting an older child and the Gladney Center for Adoption is committed to ensuring adoptive parents are prepared for that journey.
Special needs adoptive children always have severe mental or physical handicaps, or health issues as well. Just as with non-adoptive special needs children, adoptive special needs children vary in the level of medical or other care they may require. The fact is there are many, many healthy infants and children available for adoption, both domestically and internationally.
International adoption is easier and cheaper than domestic adoption. It is commonly perceived that people choose to adopt internationally because it is cheaper and easier than in the U.S. With international adoptions, typically adoptive parents have to spend weeks in the country where they plan to adopt – sometimes for multiple visits. The travel costs and the time away from work often results in a higher overall cost to adopt. The fact is most people who choose to adopt from a foreign country feel a particular affinity with that nation and the children there.
Adoption is prohibitively expensive. Adoption fees can be expensive for parents, but the real costs of an adoption often exceed an agency’s fee, especially among non-profit agencies who provide living arrangements, medical care and or counseling for the birth mothers. Even with traditional fee-based adoptions, agencies will typically work with parents to establish a sliding-scale fee, and many adoptive parents are currently eligible to receive a $13,000 US federal tax credit. It’s also important to note that adoptions can be nearly cost-free, especially if adoptive parents consider adopting an older child from within the foster care system or a special-needs child.
Adoption takes years and years to complete. The adoption process is complex and there are multiple waiting periods – waiting to be approved as an adoptive parent, waiting for a match and waiting until you take custody of your child. However, depending on the type of adoption someone is choosing, the wait time for adoption can be as little as 12 to 18 months.
Adoptive families face the same challenges as biological families. Adoptive families, whether a child has been adopted at birth or at a later stage in their life, experience many of the same joys and challenges as biological families. However, they also experience joys and challenges that may be unique to adoptive families. That’s why the Gladney Center for Adoption provides a host of educational and counseling services for all parties to an adoption – the adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents – for their lifetimes. Our Pathways program ensures that forever families can count on us for support in their adoption journeys – forever.