Islets of Hope for persons with diabetes
"International adoptions: the role of the media". MercatorNet, 29 December 2005 - Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, on the media perceptions.
Adopting.com - "The largest adoption resources index on the Internet." Huge volume of resources for adoptive parents and adoption professionals. Extensive listings of adoption agencies and adoption-related organizations.
LDS Adoptions - "Is a Website where LDS Parents, Children awaiting adoption, and information on adoption are avalible.
Adoption Photolisting Websites (National Adoption Center)
Adoptions and Aid International - Texas and California adoption agency. Provides Russian, Kazakhstan, Ukrainian, Georgian, and Armenian adoption programs throughout the US. Also provides homestudies throughout the state of Texas and delivers humanitarian aid to orphanages.
Asian-Nation: Adopted Asian Americans (C.N. Le, Ph.D.)
HopeToAdopt.com - Adoptive family support on the Internet.
Partners for Adoption - California adoption agency providing domestic and international adoption homestudies throughout the state of California. They do homestudies for Kazakhstan, Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian, and Armenian, China, Korea, Ethiopia, and Guatemals adoption.
State and Nationwide
State Child Welfare Agency and Photolisting Web Pages (National Adoption Information Clearinghouse)
Amazon Affiliate book ad
Adoption Links (Adoption Council of Canada)
Islets of Hope's founder, Lahle Wolfe, has successfully adopted children three times. Read her personal "Adoption Advice From the Heart."
Mini Site Index
Adoption is the legal act of permanently placing a child with a parent or parents other than the birth parents. Adoption results in the severing of the parental responsibilities and rights of the biological parents and the placing of those responsibilities and rights onto the adoptive parents. After the finalization of an adoption, there is little or no legal difference between biological and adopted children.
Different jurisdictions have varying laws on adoption and post-adoption. Some practice confidential or closed adoption, preventing further contact between the adopted person and the biological parents, while others have varying degrees of open adoption, which may allow such contact. However, an underreported fact is that open adoptions are not legally enforceable agreements in many jurisdictions. I.e., an open adoption may be closed at any time for any reason.
Reasons for adoption
Adoptions occur for many reasons. Many children are placed for adoption as a result of the biological parents' decision that they are unable to adequately care for a child. In some countries, where single motherhood may be considered scandalous and unacceptable, some women in this situation make an adoption plan for their infants. In some cases, they abandon their children at or near an orphanage, so that they can be adopted.
Some biological parents involuntarily lose their parental rights. This usually occurs when the children are placed in foster care because they were abused, neglected or abandoned. Eventually, if the parents cannot resolve the problems that caused or contributed to the harm caused to their children (such as alcohol or drug abuse), a court may terminate their parental rights and the children may then be adopted.
Only a small percentage of adopted children are those orphaned because of the death of their biological parents.
In some cases, parents' rights have been terminated when their ethnic or cultural group has been deemed unfit by the controlling government. Aboriginal Peoples in Australia were affected by such policies, as were Native Americans in the United States and Canada. Moreover, unwed mothers in many countries still are often pressured or forced by families, religious bodies or governments into relinquishing their children for adoption. These practices of the past have become emotionally-charged social and political issues in recent years.
The main reason for adopting varies from one country to the next, depending largely on social and legal structures. The inability to reproduce biologically is a common reason. The most prevalent obstacle to producing a biological child is infertility. Another obstacle is the lack of a partner of the opposite sex or a lack of desire to use a surrogate or sperm donor. Single people and same-sex couples often adopt for this reason. In many Western countries, step-parent adoption is the most common form of adoption as people choose to cement a new family following divorce or death of one parent.
Some couples or individuals adopt children even though they are fertile. Some may choose to do this in order to avoid contributing to perceived overpopulation, or out of the belief that it is more responsible to care for otherwise parent-less children than to reproduce. Others may do so to avoid passing on inheritable diseases (e.g., Tay-Sachs disease), or out of health concerns relating to pregnancy and childbirth. Others believe that it is an equally valid form of family building, neither better than nor worse than biology.
Applying to adopt
Methods of becoming an adoptive parent also vary from one country to another, and sometimes within a country, depending on region. Many jurisdictions have varying eligibility criteria, and may specify such things as minimum and maximum age limits, whether a single person or only a couple can apply, or whether it is possible or not for a same sex couple to apply.
In some countries, applications must be made to a state agency or agencies responsible for adoption. There may also be private, licensed adoption agencies, who may operate either on a commercial or non-profit basis. Agencies may operate only domestically, or may offer international adoptions, or may facilitate both. Some jurisdictions allow lawyers to arrange private adoptions, and some allow private facilitators to operate.
On applying to adopt, the potential adoptive parent(s) will generally be assessed for suitability. This can take the form of a home study, interviews, and financial, medical and criminal record checks. In some jurisdictions, such studies must be carried out by an independent or state authority, while in others, they can be carried out by the adoption agency itself. A pre-adoption course may also be required.
Infants are more commonly sought than toddlers or older children, and many adoptive parents seek to adopt children of the same race. As a result, governments, as well as agencies, actively seek families who are interested in adopting older children and children with special needs.
Cost of adoption
Adoption costs and assistance vary between countries. In many countries, it is illegal to charge for an adoption, while in others, adoptions must be facilitated on a non-profit basis. On the other hand many adoption programmes will give financial assistance to adopters, especially with their expenses. Some jurisdictions offer tax credits to offset the cost of adoption.
Where there are charges for adoption there is often controversy, even in the case of non-profit agencies. Regulations may also specify to whom payments may or may not be made, e.g., in some jurisdictions, no money may be paid to a birth mother above her medical expenses.
Adoption agencies can range from government-funded agencies that place children at little cost, to lawyers who arrange private adoptions, to international commercial and non-profit agencies. Adoptive parents can pay from nothing to US$40,000 for an adoption.
International adoptions tend to be more expensive and often incur additional costs, as the adoptive parent(s) may be required to travel to the source country. Translation fees will also apply to legal documents.
Adoption Statistics in the U.S.
In fiscal year 2001, 50,703 foster children were adopted in the United States, many by their foster parents or relatives of their biological parents. The enactment of the Adoption and Safe Families Act in 1997 has approximately doubled the number of children adopted from foster care in the United States.
Roughly 100 million Americans have adoption in their immediate family. This means that one in three Americans is intimately connected to adoption. In addition, adoption touches many millions more occasionally or indirectly: the doctors, social workers, lawyers and teachers who deal with adoptive families; the friends, neighbors, colleagues, and classmates of them. It may not be an exaggeration to say that adoption touches just about everybody.
And while adoption obviously is changing the way people form families, it’s also affecting the way society perceives basic concepts of life like nature and nurture, the importance of blood ties, how families are created, what they look like. Because of changes in adoption over the last few decades – changes that include open adoption, gay adoption, greatly increased numbers of international adoptions and trans-racial adoptions, and a focus on moving children out of the foster care system into adoptive families – the impact of adoption on the basic unit of society, the family, has been enormous. As adoption expert Adam Pertman has said, “Suddenly there are Jews holding Chinese cultural festivals at synagogues, there are Irish people with their African American kids at St Patty's Day. This affects whole communities, and as a consequence our sense of who we are, what we look like, as a people, as individual peoples. These are profound lessons that adoption is teaching us.”
In the United States, it has not been until recently that various concepts relating to adoption have been put into question. Two important influences on "adoption reform" are Nancy Verrier and Florence Fischer . Although adoptees make up only 2 to 3 percent of the population, statistics consistently indicate that 30 to 40 percent of the children found in special schools, juvenile hall and residential treatment centres are adopted.
Verrier describes the "primal wound" as the "devastation which the infant feels because of separation from its natural mother. It is the deep and consequential feeling of abandonment which the baby adoptee feels after the adoption and which continues for the rest of his life."
Many adopted people and natural parents who were separated by adoption have a desire to reunite. In countries which practice confidential adoption, this desire has led to efforts to open sealed records (for example, see Adoption reunion registry) and efforts to establish the right of adoptees to access their sealed records (for example, see Bastard Nation).
Issues surrounding adoption
The number of children available for adoption inside Western nations has dropped considerably in recent years, partly because of the legalization of abortions, and partly because of the increased acceptance of single parenthood.
Preserving an adopted child's heritage has become a central issue in adoption over the last fifteen years. It is often assumed that adopting babies at a very young age (1-2 months) bears no emotional consequences for the child. In the past, many adoption professionals believed that because most people have no recollection of their own birth, an adopted baby would not have a childhood any different than if he or she were raised by natural parents. However, while some adoptees do not feel that adoption has raised any special problems or difficulties for them, others report that adoption has posed certain challenges. Some adoptees report that that they were made to feel - consciously or not - as if they should forever 'be grateful' to have been 'chosen'. Others report that they were told they were "special," but soon came to realize that people are not motivated to adopt by any perception that adopted children are preferable to biological children. Still others report being told that "your mother gave you to us because she loved you", but soon became aware that in closed adoptions, the adoptive parents and the legal system both assume that the birth parents no longer wish to see the child. This leads some adopted people to wonder whether their biological parents ever loved them, or whether their adoptive parents can be trusted to tell the truth. This kind of ambiguity in adoption, along with the strongly emotionally charged nature of the subject, can make it difficult for adoptees to feel free to discuss their own issues honestly, for fear of being ungrateful, hurting their adoptive parents' feelings, raising subjects they sense are taboo (such as the adoptive parents' true reasons for adopting, especially if this involves infertility) or incurring rejection.
Recent work on openness in adoption has attempted to address these issues. Researchers such as Joyce Maguire Pavao and others have advised all three sides of the adoption triad (birthparents, adoptive parents, and adoptees) on how to establish healthy relationships, and make it easier for adopted people to discuss their feelings and maintain meaningful contact with both genetic and adoptive families. These efforts are relatively recent, and full openness, while on the upswing, is still not the norm in adoption.
International adoptees face additional challenges. It has been argued that children adopted through international adoptions are best served when adoptive families commit to integrating the child's birth nation cultures, traditions, stories, languages and relationships. Some countries now require adoptive parents to keep the birth names of their adoptive children, and many adoptive parents choose to do this as it makes sense in helping their child develop a strong sense of self. This can be very difficult to do in a meaningful way, especially for adoptive families who are not themselves experienced cross-culturally.
Another issue for prospective adoptive parents to be aware of is reactive attachment disorder (RAD). Many children, especially those beyond infancy in system care (e.g. foster, orphanage), domestic or foreign, develop this disorder due to the early trauma of loss, and/or lack of a primary caregiver.
For all adopted people in adoptions where information about the family of origin is withheld, secrecy may disrupt the process of forming an identity. Family concerns regarding genealogy can be a source of confusion.
Adoption is problematic for some birthparents. When a parent chooses to place the child with adoptive parents, the process of separation can be difficult for all parties. Those emotional difficulties may carry on for many years past the date of the adoption, with families of origin missing and longing for the children they have placed.
Adoption may also pose lifelong difficulties for adoptive parents. Charting a course among the various schools of thought about openness, maintaining a child's connection to his or her family of origin, answering a child's difficult questions, and helping a child deal with birthparents who may not maintain regular contact are all issues that adoptive families may struggle with. For anyone involved in adoption--birthparent, adoptive parent or adoptee--there are no hard and fast rules about how to build appropriate relationships that are in the child's best interest.
Adoption in the schools
Adoption rights organizations have long focused on issues such as the adoptee’s right to access his or her birth information, including names of birth parents and birth family medical information. They also focus on improving classroom sensitivity to adoption issues. Familiar lessons like "draw your family tree" or "trace your eye color back through your parents and grandparents to see where your genes come from" can be hurtful to children who are adopted and do not know this biological information. New lesson plans can be substituted easily, that focus on "family orchards" or steer away from personal medical histories. Discussions about these sensitive topics, advocates argue, are the same as those we’ve conducted around issues of disability, race, and gender, and foster respect for differences in the same way as these earlier national conversations.
Adoption in the media
Adoption experts complain that too much of the media coverage of adoption goes to one extreme or the other. Much of the coverage of adoption presents stories of failed adoptions and troubled children, adoption scandals, even "baby buying"; on the other side are saccharine stories of “perfect” children and families. Only a very few programs have treated the subject in a serious way and in its full breadth. Even when stories are balanced, ignorance about adoption leads to negative presentations including the widespread representation of children in foster care as being so troubled that it would be impossible to adopt them and create “normal” families. The result is that many children who would thrive in a loving family instead wait years in foster care, and even “age out” of the system at 18 without a family. A 2004 report from the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care has shown that the number of children waiting in foster care doubled since the 1980s and now remains steady at about a half-million a year."
Adoption in the wake of disasters
While adoption is often the best way to provide stable, loving families for children in need, adoption in the immediate aftermath of trauma or upheaval may not be the best option. Disasters like hurricanes, tsunamis, and wars teach us the importance of knowledge about adoption. In these situations there is often an outpouring of offers to adoption agencies from adults who want to give homes to the children left in need. However, new research suggests that once we understand the needs of children and families we look at adoption in the wake of disaster differently. Traumatized children need time to adjust, in the most familiar environments available, before they should be placed. Moving them too quickly into new adoptive homes among strangers may be a mistake: with time, it may turn out that the parents have survived but simply been unable to find the children, or there may be a relative or neighbor who can offer shelter and homes. Safety and emotional support may be better provided in those situations than relocation to a new adoptive family.
International adoption refers to adopting a child from a foreign country. American citizens represent the majority of international adoptive parents, followed by Europeans and those from other more developed nations. The laws of different countries vary in their willingness to allow international adoptions. Some countries, such as China and Vietnam, have relatively well-established rules and procedures for foreign adopters to follow, while others, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for example, expressly forbid it.
International adoption is becoming more popular with more young healthy children available than in most adoptive countries. China is the leading country for international adoptions by Americans.
Another reason international adoption has become popular with U.S. citizens is the American adopting parents are fearful of American birth parents changing their mind about adoption. In addition, many U.S. adoption agencies encourage open adoptions, in which some adoptive parents do not wish to participate. Few international adoptions are open adoptions.
One problem with international adoptions is that unethical people see an opportunity to make a relatively high profit, in part because the costs of living are much lower than the adoptive parents' country. There are no firm numbers on illegal or unethical adoptions, as adoptive families are reluctant to publicize unethical adoptions, but several countries have closed following high profile trafficking and corruption cases, such as Romania and Cambodia.
The desire for parents to adopt children of the same race is the cause of some controversy within the United States, especially in the African-American community. There are more Caucasian families seeking to adopt than there are minority families; conversely, there are more minority children available for adoption. This disparity often results in a lower cost to adopt children from ethnic minorities - usually through special adoption grants rather than price discrimination. Critics claim this cost disparity implies that minority babies are worth less than white ones. This situation is morally difficult because the adoptive families and government agencies see adoption as a great benefit to trans-racially adopted children, while some African-Americans see it as an assault on their culture.
Adoptism is a prejudice against adoption defined by several beliefs:
There are individuals who act on their own and attempt to match waiting children, both domestically and abroad, with prospective parents, and in foreign countries provide additional services such as translation and local transport. They are commonly referred to as facilitators. Since in many jurisdictions their legal status is uncertain (and in some U.S. states they are banned outright), they operate in a legal gray area.
Where the law does not specifically allow them to, all they can do is make an introduction, leaving the details of the placement to those legally qualified to do so. But in practice, their role as gatekeepers can give them a great deal of power to direct a particular child to a particular client, or not, and some have been accused of using this power to defraud prospective adoptive parents.
Variations in adoption
Adoption need not always entail assuming the title of "mother" and/or "father" to an orphaned child. Traditionally in Arab cultures if a child is adopted he or she does not become a “son” or “daughter,” but rather a ward of the adopting caretaker(s). The child’s family name is not changed to that of the adopting parent(s) and his or her “guardians” are publicly known as such. Legally, this is close to other nations' foster caring but often with closer parental feelings.
In Korean culture, adoption almost always occurs when another family member (sibling or cousin) gives a male child to the first-born male heir of the family. Adoptions outside the family are rare. This is also true to varying degrees in other Asian societies.
On the other hand, in many African cultures, children are regularly exchanged among families for the purpose of adoption. By placing a child in another family's home, the birth family seeks to create enduring ties with the family that is now rearing the child. The placing family may receive another child from that family, or from another. Like the reciprocal transfer of brides from one family to another, these adoptive placements are meant to create enduring connections and social solidarity among families and lineages.
Next Section: The Language of Adoption
Page Updated 05/16/2006