Debunking Adoption Myths
Whether you are interested in doing a domestic, international or foster care adoption, chances are you’ve heard some “horror” stories along the way. Unfortunately, these are the stories the media tends to flock to and the ones that nag at your mind, causing you to question adoption in its entirety. Admittedly, adoption is a big commitment and requires a good deal of education and knowledge to do it successfully. Since fear is never a good place to work from, this post will attempt to dispel some of the adoption myths that continue to linger in our society today.
- Domestic adoption means an excruciatingly long wait.
Although international adoption often receives more attention, the truth is there are so many children right here in the United States waiting to be adopted. Whether through your state foster care system or through a private adoption agency/attorney, the wait to do a domestic adoption is not as long as many assume. More than 18,000 American families adopt children domestically every year, negating the misperception that domestic adoption is too expensive or time consuming and risky. Although costs and wait times vary from one agency to the next, the average family receives placement within two years of starting the process. Not only are birth parents actively seeking positive adoption resources, but the entire adoption triad benefits from the ability to have some level of openness and transparency allowed in domestic adoption.
- Open adoption is co-parenting
Many of the families I work with consistently express the same concern about birthparents. They are afraid that any contact, however minimal, will invite birthparents to believe they will be able to continue parenting their child on some level and to have a consistent say in how they are raised, etc. I always explain to adoptive parents that first of all, open adoption is not co-parenting. Once relinquishments are signed, the adoptive parents are the parents. They’re the ones feeding, getting up during the night, taking kids to school, planning social activities, mediating behavior, and so on. Birthparents, in my experience, are generally very aware of these distinctions and don’t want to overstep the boundaries. However, if both parties are willing to invest some time and effort and graciousness, then having an open adoption can be highly beneficial to all. In fact, adoption has changed so much in the past 20 to 30 years that it is almost impossible to do a domestic adoption without some level of openness these days. While no two adoptions or open adoption relationships look alike, adoptive families do find that having access to their child’s medical background and details about their child’s placement is extremely helpful. Birthparents are reassured that their child is happy, well cared for and developing; adopted children can obtain direct answers to their questions as they grow and mature. This overall transparency is highly preferred over the secrecy and confidentiality of the past.
- Domestic adoptions can be overturned at the whim of birthparents
It is extremely difficult to overturn an adoption once relinquishments have been signed. After the requisite number of days prior to placement have passed, a birthparent would have to prove fraud or duress in order to overturn an existing adoption. (This is one reason, by the way, why it is so important for birthparents to receive counseling prior to making an adoption decision, even though it is not required in all states.) Although there are not any exact figures on this, it is estimated that less than one percent of domestic adoptions in the United States are legally contested following relinquishment of parental rights.
- Birthmothers are down-and-outers
Unfortunately, this is a myth we may forever be fighting. There are many negative stereotypes about birthmothers, in particular, in the United States. What I try to always remind people is that adoption doesn’t happen because everything is perfect. There is some compelling reason (perhaps multiple reasons) why adoptions occur, both for birthparents and adoptive parents. This does not automatically assume, however, that birthmothers are impoverished, uneducated, drug addicts who recklessly get pregnant and can’t wait to “get rid” of an unwanted child. There are so many variables involved that it would be a complete disservice to slap the same label onto all birthmothers. I have worked with 40+ year old birthmothers with Master’s degrees; college girls; immigrants and refugees literally fleeing for their lives; victims of rape, incest and domestic violence; homeless women victimized by men on the streets, as well as drug addicts who were able to stay clean long enough to deliver a healthy, full-term baby. These situations and individuals not only deserve our compassion as human beings, but also as the bearer of our adopted children. Their sacrifice allows adoptive parents everywhere to fulfill their dream of becoming parents and provides millions of children with nurturing homes.