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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Adoption April: 10 Myths about Adoption

Myth: You won't love an adopted child as much as a biological one.

Fact: 95% of adopted parents say they experience the same love for their adopted child. And the
truth is, I've heard of stories of people not bonding with biological children as well. The bonding may be instantaneous or may take a little while, but the same happens with birth children.

Myth: You have to be rich to adopt.

Fact: The truth is normal income people adopt everyday. It's more about stability than wealth. A rough key in the US is $10,000 per year per person in the family, but this isn't hard or fast. However, often time the birth parent is giving up the child due to poverty, and therefore if they are selecting the family they may give preference to those who have the material blessings they lack. But they are also just as likely to give it to a family who is just like them... or not at all like them. Who share the same religion as them, or who like the same sports they do... every birth parent has their own reason, but at the heart of it it's about giving their child the best life they can envision for him or her.

Foster care is more about looking for stability and love. The Adopt US kids campaign "You don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent" is to show that if you don't think you're rich or good enough to adopt, think again.

As far as covering the initial cost, well that depends on the type of adoption but also, it's been pointed out that giving birth can also be quite expensive!

Myth: You have to be of the same race as the child.

Fact: While celebrity adoptions might have made this myth less prevalent, the truth is a lot of people think children would be better off with people of their own racial background... but everyone agrees a child is better off with a home than waiting for one.

Right now in the USA, white parents make up 73% of the adoptive parents? Why? The speculation is it's a combination of poverty and culture, with culture bearing the brunt. White American culture is more likely to consider adoption as a way to grow a family, increasingly even without fertility issues. That being said, that means 27% of adoptive parents are of another race, so I'm by means saying adoption is a white thing.

The truth is, going from a uniform race couple (whatever the race) to a mixed ethnicity family could be difficult. (I'm actually super happy that Ryan and I already are mixed ethnicity because I figure that will make it easier if we adopt from another race.) A lot of people say it's not good when strangers can look at your family and say "Okay, that child has to be adopted" especially when they say such remarks in front of the child! Families may also get stares, or I've heard stories where children were asked where their parents were as if they were alone when they are standing with them! It's not to be dismissed as a factor.

That being said, it's illegal for foster care adoption to discriminate based on race. The only domestic exception is Native Americans, who are given preference to be put with their tribe due to the decreasing populations. The accusation is by adopting out Native American children they are dooming the tribe to extinction, so the US government is trying to prevent that. Most foreign countries know that they're unlikely to be adopting a child to the same race halfway around the world. (India is almost an exception, it's exceedingly difficult for people not of Indian origin to adopt Indians abroad.)

I was trying to find an interracial family for free online but
decided to just use us! haha
Most experts agree it's good to expose children from another culture of origin to be exposed to role models and cultural experiences to help their sense of identity. For example I read a blog where a white mother took her African American boys to the African American barbershop on the other side of town so they regularly were around black men who laughed and interacted with them. Most international adoptive parents will try to serve cuisine from the home culture, or find festivals for immigrants from that culture. A lot of adoptive agencies will also host get togethers for parents who adopted from the same country so that the kids can see other kids who look just like them.

Myth: The birth parents will likely to take the child back.

Fact: Once an adoption is finalized, it's nearly impossible for a birth parent to regain custody. Exceptions can be made when a birth parent hasn't given consent (for example, there are cases when a birth mother tells them she doesn't know who the father is, but actually she does and just hasn't told the father the baby was born.) In such cases, it's horrible for the adoptive parents, but I can't help but put myself in that birth father's shoes and believe that the child should go with him, assuming he's a fit parent. (And to me, it is far more horrifying when adoptive parents win those cases, again, assuming he is a fit parent. I mean, what the heck?)

That being said, before the adoption is finalized, well it's not finalized. For domestic infant adoption, many states give the birth mother thirty days to change her mind. Until that thirty days is over, the child isn't truly adopted. And yes, failed adoptions happen this way often.

This is far less likely with foster care adoptions because in order for a child to be adopted, they have to be "legally free" to be adopted. That means the social workers have already gotten the birth family to give up parental rights before the child is eligible to be adopted.

Obviously, it is also much less likely with international adoptions, once they are finalized, if for no other reason than distance. That being said, in this age of the internet, you may very well be contacted by the birth family. Also, there are many horrible examples where the information the adoption agency is given is false. Therefore a couple may think their child is actually an orphan, when in reality the child's family is alive and well. And in some countries, such as Guatemala  it has come out that sometimes children were even kidnapped because of the amounts of money that can be made in adoption. (This is why right now Guatemala is not open for adoptions, while they try to fix this, if they ever open again!)

Still, at the end of the day, once the adoption is finalized, it's typically finalized.

Myth: Birth parents are stupid, selfish, or bad parents.

Fact: The truth is most birth parents who give up their child for adoption are amazingly brave people who put their child's welfare ahead of their own emotional well being. It is one of the most selfless acts ever, and must be unbearably painful.

Before I posted this though, I was reading something that made me have to come back and add something: as a Christian, I've learned through the blogosphere that one of the best ways to help orphans is to prevent them from ever becoming orphans. You see that button on the side saying I pray for pregnant women in Haiti? That's for Heartline Ministries, which helps pregnant women care and keep their babies. Many of them might have put them up for adoption because the women are primarily poor and don't really know what to do. They are scared. And Heartline Ministries helps them learn things (like facts about breastfeeding. One of the things that made me so angry was when I read that formula companies propaganda has mothers in Haiti sacrificing to buy formula they can't afford which they then mix with unsafe water, giving their children diarrhea which sometimes causes death when they could have spent a fraction of that money feeding themselves so they can healthily breastfeed and have healthy, plump babies! Grr!) Anyway, my point is that while I do think adoption is wonderful thing for those children who need homes, sometimes the loving thing to do is to give birth parents the resources to keep their own children. Just like most things in life, there needs to be a balance because sometimes a pro-adoption culture gives birth mothers fear instead of support, messages of 'you're not good enough' instead of 'you can do this'. And that's just not right.
photo credit: George Hodan

Any prospective adoptive parent who doesn't have respect for birth parents really needs to rethink their decision to adopt, if for no other reason than your child came from them, and that child needs to know about them someday, at least a little. To have negative feelings about someone so intimately close to your child? There's a darkness in that that may affect your parenting.

Now, some people may think children put into foster care might be an exception and the truth is
while they are unlikely to have surrendered their rights the way a domestic birth adoption or international one may have, the truth is they usually are just people who grew up in an environment that you're trying to prevent the child you're adopting from experiencing. They may not have had the chance to give their children what they would have wanted to give them, but that doesn't mean they didn't love them. Many times they are who your child... or you... may have become if you walked in their shoes. Have compassion.

Also, there are actual orphans available for adoption, though those are actually in the minority of children who are being adopted.

Myths: All children available for adoption have special needs/ It's too hard to parent a child with special needs.

Fact: Not all children have special needs. You often hear about the children with special needs because it is harder for them to find homes, so they are often emphasized by adoption agencies in hopes the right family will see them.

That being said, all children, adopted or otherwise, can have physical, mental, or emotional challenges.

I have heard of cases where the "special needs" vanish or drastically diminish when put in an loving, permanent family environment. Like a girl who was diagnosed as "mentally retarded" becoming average within a year of adoption because her adoptive mother helped her with her homework and just cared about her development. That was all she needed to blossom. Or where doctors have said an infant will never reach certain development milestones reaching them and going beyond with nurturing.

photo credit: Petr Kratochvil
That being said, some special needs are ongoing and require the love and patience of a parent to handle. You don't have to volunteer to take on a special needs child to adopt, but if you're wanting to become a parent by any method you have to be willing to love whatever child you get. Some special needs aren't diagnosed before adoption... and some aren't diagnosed before birth. Being a parent is not easy.

(That being said, some adoptive parents do voluntarily take on special needs children. I don't want to act as if that is impossible or beyond anyone.)

Myth: Adopted children won't grow up well adjusted.

Fact: Studies have shown that actually adoptive children are just as likely to be well adjusted as non adopted children. Think of all the people you've known in your life, including the "not so well adjusted" ones. Are they all adopted?

That's not saying that things such as Radical Attachment Disorder are not real or to be dismissed. But the truth is, maybe because the screenings adoptive parents go through, the statistical results say that adoptive and biological parents have the same chances of raising completely well adjusted kids. Go figure. :)

Myth: There are enough adoptive parents for all the kids who need homes.

Fact: Okay, if you believe this you're probably just thinking of domestic infant adoption. But the truth is that there are so many kids waiting for homes. Every year approximately 20,000 kids "age out" of the foster care system without ever getting an adoptive family. The statistics that follow these kids are very sad. For example only 2% of kids who age out get their bachelor's degree.

It is true that in domestic infant adoption there are ten families waiting for every child. But in most international adoptions and in foster care adoptions, there are far more child waiting than families.

Myth: There are no babies available in fostercare.

Fact: Actually, there are babies in fostercare. But because foster care tries to unite biological or physcological family first (such a god parent, close neighbor, etc) usually these infants aren't cleared to be adopted until they are toddlers. Many of the toddlers you may see for adoption in foster care may have actually been born into foster care!

Also, because many (but by no means all) foster families become foster parents to adopt, often the people who care for the infant from birth may also be the ones who adopt them.

Myth: All adoptive parents trying to adopt through foster care have to foster (and therefore give back) children other than the ones they're adopting.

Fact: Okay, so in most states you have to complete foster family certification in order to adopt from foster care. Why? Because they're not going to adopt out a child to a family that can't at least meet the qualifications of a foster home. But once you've become certified do you have to take in any child you're not trying to adopt? No.

That being said, a lot of parents going through the foster care training process may decide they want to be foster parents. But you're not required to become foster parents to other children. And often, once you're certified they will place the child or children you are trying to adopt in your house as your foster children while the adoption is processed.

This may not be the case in all fifty states, I'm not entirely sure. But this is the case in many states.

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