There are many misconceptions and myths about all of the many options for adoption. If you are in the fact finding stage, read on as we debunk common adoption myths and break down the facts.
Domestic Adoption Myths
Myth: “Just Adopt.” It’s easy and inexpensive.
Busted: Adoption is not always easy or inexpensive. Adoptive parents must complete a home study which includes home visits, interviews and extensive background checks which are required by both the state and their adoption agency. There is also no crystal ball in adoption that can predict the amount of time the process will take. The matching process can be lengthy, and can take up to two years. It is important for adoptive parents to remember, however, that their profile will be selected by the birth mother that is meant to work with them. Adoption is not a substitution when pregnancy is not achievable; it is another way to build a family.
Myth: As soon as you adopt, you’ll get pregnant.
Busted: This is a myth! Adoption does not guarantee or ensure pregnancy, and it should not be used as a means to try and get pregnant. Pregnancy is a biological process, and a couple cannot determine if and when they will become pregnant.
Myth: The birthmother can take the child back.
Busted: In many states, the birthmother cannot relinquish her paternal rights until 72 hours after the birth of the child. The birthmother has the right, however, to wait as long as she wishes to relinquish her parental rights following the birth of the child. Until the Consent to Place a Child for Adoption is signed at 72 hours or after, the birthmother can change her mind to not continue with her plan of adoption. Once consents have been signed, however, it is difficult for a birthmother to take her child back unless coercion or bribery can be proven.
Myth: People adopt to “save a child”
Busted: Adoption should be chosen because someone wishes to be a parent and provide a child with a family. Parenthood is a lifetime commitment whether a child is born into a family or adopted into a family. Children do not want saviors; they want parents who will love and nourish them as their children.
Myth: There are so many unwanted babies available for domestic adoption
Busted: There are no unwanted babies. Birthmothers love their children and want what is best for them. A birthmother contacts an adoption agency when she is unable to parent her child. Adoption agencies recognize how difficult a decision this is and uses a unique hands-on case management approach for both birth parents and adoptive parents.
International Adoption Myths
Myth: It’s even easier than domestic adoption
Busted: “Easy” is a subjective term, especially when it comes to adoption; no adoption is “easy.” International adoption has its challenges: finding a country whose children and whose adoptive parent criteria suit your family, dealing with the added layers of documentation required by another country and U.S. Immigration, perhaps (but not always) having to travel once or twice before you can bring your child home, or even the possibility of political turmoil necessitating a switch to a different country. International adoption often involves selecting an international “child-finding” agency with expertise in that country, as well as a local “home study” agency to do your parent training and follow-up, and the two must work together to help you bring your child home. By choosing a local agency and an international child-finding agency carefully, researching the agencies’ licensure, complaint status, obtaining references and learning about the status of adoptions from that country, parents should be able to make informed decisions that ultimately lead to the joy of adopting internationally
Myth: International adoption is more expensive than domestic adoption
Busted: In addition to costs for a family’s training and adoption preparation, home study, coordination services, and post placement supervision, international adoptions usually involve fees to child-finding agencies, court or attorneys in the other country, travel, possibly care of the child until they can travel home. These costs could total anywhere from $15,000 to upwards of $50,000. The most expensive international adoption agency isn’t necessarily the most reliable, the quickest, or the most reputable. In U.S. infant adoption, the fees paid by the adopting parents are designed to cover the costs of services provided to birth parents, and can range from $15,000 to $30,000. In U.S. waiting child adoption, several states have funding programs that pay for prospective adoptive parents’ costs to adopt children with significant special needs. There are many ways to pay for an adoption, including the federal adoption tax credit, state reimbursement for some specialized services for children with special needs, employer adoption benefits, grants, loans, fund raisers, and adoption assistance payments for some types of adoption.
Myth: You can adopt from any country you want
Busted: When a single person or couple decides to adopt internationally, they must follow the criteria of the country from which they choose to adopt. For instance, some countries allow only couples to adopt, while others work with single clients. Some countries are uncomfortable with an age difference of more than 40 years between the oldest parent and the child, while other countries seem to prefer older parents. Because of societal values, some countries set restrictions on whether a family can already have children upon applying, some have income or weight requirements, and some work only with people who have a certain ethnic heritage. Because of political disturbance, natural disasters, or long-held beliefs, some countries do not participate in international adoption. The best place to find out whether or not it is possible to adopt from a particular country is the U.S. Department of State’s Intercountry Adoption web site, http://adoption.state.gov.
Myth: It’s nobler to adopt internationally
Busted: People who want to become moms and dads through adoption are motivated not only by a desire to help a child who needs a family, but also by their own deep desire to be parents. It’s true that orphaned children in other countries, if not adopted into loving families, often end up on the streets or not surviving childhood at all. But children in the U.S. who are waiting in the foster care system and “age out” at age 18 often suffer similar fates. One in four will be incarcerated within two years of leaving foster care, one in five will become homeless, only half will graduate from high school, and less than three percent receive college degrees.¹ While the desire to adopt is a two-way street, any type of adoption – providing a loving family for a child who needs one – is noble.
Myth: People will judge you if you have a child of another race.
Busted: People who adopt often face questions from friends, relatives and strangers that sound more intrusive than questions faced by people who have children by birth. During the adoption process, prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to involve their family and friends in the educational process so their child will have the support they need to grow up with strong self-esteem. Still, well meaning (or not so well meaning) strangers can make remarks that cast multicultural adoption in a negative light. How to respond to these questions or comments in a way that corrects adoption myths and stereotypes while being respectful of their child and their personal story is something each adoptive parent needs to address in a way that is comfortable for them and their family.
Foster to Adoption Myths
Myth: You will be able to adopt the child
Busted: While it is true that in some cases when you are adopting through the foster care system, you will be able to adopt the child who is placed in your home. However, this depends on many factors; including how long the child has been in foster care and where they are in the court process, as all children in foster care are dependents of children’s court. Sometimes a child placed in your home is reunited with their birth parents or birth family. If that is the case plan for the child, and the birth family follows through with what they have to do for reunification, that child will be reunited and returned to their care. It is more than likely that if you choose to adopt through the foster care system you will be able to adopt. It just may not be the first child who is placed in your home.
Myth: All of the children through foster care are mentally, physically or emotionally unstable.
Busted: Children in the foster care system are in foster care because something negative or traumatic happened to them. Therefore many of the children experience some emotional difficulties related to loss and abandonment, and it may be difficult for them to develop trust when they first meet new people. All of these issues are “normal” in response to the history they have had. “I would say these children have deeper challenges, rather than special needs,” says one adoptive parent. “I know with my child I can make a difference, and help him grow into a productive member of society.” Overall, the children who are in foster care are physically healthy, emotionally stable and happy young people. There is a percentage of children in the foster care system who do have medical problems, disabilities, or more severe emotional needs, however this is the not the norm. For parents who choose to adopt children who have special needs, the joys are much greater than the challenges.
Myth: You can never adopt a baby.
Busted: It is possible to adopt children of all ages from foster care. Many families are placed with newborns directly from the hospital. Today, families wanting to adopt a young child (birth – 3 years) from the foster care system will become familiar with two key phrases: resource family and concurrent planning. A “resource family” is one that will become dually prepared for both foster care and adoption. “Concurrent planning” means that when young children come into the foster care system, two tracks are followed simultaneously. One is reunification with their birth family; the other is adoption if reunification fails. To prevent children from being moved from one home to another, they are placed with a “resource family,” one that is ready and willing to adopt, should the child not be reunited with the birth family. Therefore, an infant might be placed in your home directly from hospital, and although they are placed there on a foster care basis, if the birth family does not follow court orders and reunify with their child, the foster family will be the next option for permanency.
Myth: It takes a long time to have a child placed in your home.
Busted: In the United States there are approximately 500,000 children in foster care. About 115,000 of those children are available for adoption. They range in age, ethnicity, single children or sibling sets, family history and their own personal coping skills and resiliency. There is no shortage of children for those who want to adopt. The time frame for having a child placed with a family varies greatly, depending upon the family’s desires with regard to age, gender, ethnicity and birth family history. The more open the family, the faster a placement is made. Once a child moves into a foster/adopt home, the amount of time it will take until an adoption is finalized is difficult to predict because of the many variables involved. Much depends on the status of the case in the legal system, the birth parent involvement and family history. For those placed with newborns and very young children, few adoptions are finalized before the child celebrates a first birthday, and most take longer. However, for those who are interested in older children, or sibling sets, the adoption could finalize much quicker.
Myth: Adoptive parents are “on their own” after the adoption finalizes.
Busted: Families who adopt through the foster care system have many resources available to support them after their adoption finalizes. If fact, there is much more support for foster care adoption than there is for Independent or International adoption. In California, all children adopted through foster care are issued a Medi-Cal card, which gives the child access to healthcare until they are 18 years old. Children experiencing developmental delays qualify for services through the State of California’s Regional Centers. A monthly stipend payable until the child’s eighteenth birthday is also available to help with the care of the child. Public agencies and some private agencies have a Post Adoption Services unit that is a resource for referrals and other services until a child turns 18 years old. These services can include individual therapy for the child, family therapy and support groups for the children and the parents.