Common Misconceptions about Adoption

November is National Adoption Month in the United States, “a month set aside each year to raise awareness about the adoption of children and youth from foster care.”  This year there are 115,000 children and youth in foster care waiting for adoptive families.

You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.” That’s the theme for National Adoption Month 2010, and is an important point to ponder for anyone thinking about adoption. All parents, whether biological or adoptive, are in a process of growth, wherein we try to be better, more patient, more creative, more supportive parents.

Shannon LC Cate at BlogHer, an adoptive mother herself, takes this opportunity to clear up some of the most common misconceptions people outside of adoption tend to have about it.  Here they are condensed below, see her blog for the original post.

1. Birth mothers are all teenagers.

Birth mothers (sometimes called “natural” or “first” mothers) come in all ages and from all walks of life.  These days, the reasons for placing children in adoptive families tend to be more diverse than mere age or marital status.

2. Open adoption is confusing to kids.

Most international adoptions are “closed” by default, because the first parents are unknown and perhaps untraceable. But there is a growing trend in domestic adoption to open the process and maintain some connection between birth and adoptive families.  Research is starting to show that adopted people who at least know a little bit about their first families have a better chance of adjusting healthily throughout their adolescent years of identity formation and on into later life.

3. They hate girls in China.

The circumstances that lead to so many girls being available for adoption in China are complex. But, in short, it is more the tradition of wives being absorbed by their husbands’ families that is the root of the problem in China. When you combine this with an economy that relies on adult children’s care of aged parents and a law restricting most families to either one son or two children (when the first is a daughter), the problem is seriously exacerbated. Some families — by far the small minority — with a first-born daughter feel pressured enough to have a boy on their second try, that a second daughter is sometimes abandoned so they can try again for a boy.

4. Black babies are the latest trend among celebrities.

The fact is, African American babies are still the last to be placed in adoption in the United States.  Perhaps the reasons more than one white celebrity has a Black adopted son is because celebrities live such cosmopolitan lives that when the social worker doing their home study asks “are you open to adopting a Black boy?” they say yes more often than other people. And if you say yes to a Black baby boy, you will probably get one — and fast — because not many people say yes.

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5. Adoptive parents are saintly for adopting.

Adoptive parents are always hearing how great they are for having adopted. The fact is, most adoptive parents adopted because they wanted to be parents, not because they are special saints. Also, adopted parents love their kids like other parents love theirs– it doesn’t require any special, saintly effort!

6. Adopted kids are lucky.

If the alternative is dying on a roadside in China, then you might consider adoption good luck.  But in fact, the adopted person had the rotten luck of getting stuck on that roadside in the first place. Now she’s been utterly displaced from her culture, language, religion, and country and sent to live with strangers. All children deserve a loving, protective family. It would be more accurate to say that adoptive parents are lucky to have their beloved children.

7. Adoption costs a lot of money and only rich people can afford it.

Some adoptions are more expensive than others, but some are virtually free. (Many state adoptions are free and/or come with financial subsidies to assist adoptive families.) There are a number of factors involved including what kind of professionals are involved, whether travel is required, whether an employer gives adoption benefits and many more. Don’t assume an adopted baby is a “luxury.”

8. There is a high level of risk that once adopted, a child will be given back to/taken back by biological family members.

Cases in which children are moved after they have been living with “adoptive” parents for many months — even years — get so much publicity they can scare people into doing as closed an adoption as possible to defend against this outcome. But the fact is that adoptions are almost never overturned, once final.  It’s also important to note that the courts in the United States favor adoptive families so strongly that when a child is removed from a prospective adoptive home, it can almost always be assumed that the reasons were excellent and much more than fair.

9. Birth mothers are saintly for placing their children in adoption. OR Birth mothers are demons for getting pregnant unintentionally/being “unfit”/not loving their children enough to raise them.

Birth mothers are women who have experienced a crisis pregnancy and dealt with it as best they can under their particular circumstances. Nothing else can really be assumed about them.  Birth mothers are severely judged in U.S. society. Some never tell a soul for the rest of their lives. Try to remember, the next time you’re talking about adoption, that the woman you’re talking to might in fact, be a birth mother. It’s time to make it safe for these mothers to “come out.”

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