Adoption is an opportunity for children who need a family to find a family. But is adoption good for the child? That is the question.
Both expectant parents and prospective adoptive parents often wonder whether or not adoption is good for the child involved. Members of the adoption community, including adoption facilitators, agencies, lawyers, and social workers, often find themselves answering this question as they are witness to many adoption scenarios in their daily lives and considered experts on the subject.
In truth, adoption is an option for a birth parent who chooses to make an adoption plan for their child for any number of reasons. Adoption is also an opportunity for hopeful parents who are facing fertility issues or wish to grow their family via a non-traditional route. For an adoptee, while adoption provides the love of a forever family, it also comes with the cost of losing their birth family.
“A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.” —Jody Landers
What’s Good About Adoption?
Adoption itself is a good thing, according to adoptive mom Jamie Giesbrecht, who shares that not only does adoption give children homes, it grows communities and changes people forever.
It’s true, adoption means love, hope, and a chance at a bright future for those most in need. Many people take for granted the simple blessing of having a place to hang their hat. Four walls to call their own. A safe shelter. A place to make memories.
To a child in foster care or an orphanage, a home—large or small—is a refuge filled with the most important thing of all: family.
Additionally, adoption brings people together to foster growth and understanding. It allows us to cultivate relationships and connections that otherwise may never have come to be. In the case of open adoption, especially, children receive the benefits of both their adoptive family and birth family, providing them with the opportunity to ask questions and learn about their background throughout their lives.
More than 420,000 children are currently in foster care with over 120,000 available for adoption. Adoption is life-changing for these children who by no fault of their own have entered foster care because their birth family was unable or unwilling to provide a safe environment. Sadly, more than 50 youth age out of foster care every day with no permanent family and no safety net.
Adoption provides children who otherwise would not have a home or a family the opportunity to find both.
What Happens to Children Who Age Out of Foster Care?
Many of the approximately 20,000 teens who age out of foster care each year find themselves at a higher risk of homelessness, unemployment, and other negative outcomes, according to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
Younger foster children have a much better chance of finding a permanent family. Once waiting children in foster care are nine or older, they are much less likely to be adopted, according to the North American Council on Adoptable Children, which states that in 2015, about 40% of waiting children were nine or older, but 75% of those who were adopted were younger than nine.
Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has not helped the plight of adoption, especially as it has impacted children living in foster care. Because of the changing landscape of openings, closings, unemployment, abuse, and overall uncertainty, the foster care system saw an increase in the number of children entering the system with a decrease in the number of families willing or able to open their homes to these most at-risk children.
Is Adoption Good for Children Around the World?
International adoption can be a wonderful way to grow your family while providing a child with a forever family and the gift of unconditional love.
It is possible to make a wonderful and loving home for a child through international adoption despite the obstacles. While in many ways, international adoption is similar to domestic adoption, it does come with its challenges. This includes taking measures to ensure the child feels welcome, safe, and loved, while not losing their connection or identity with their birth culture. The Adoption.com International Adoption Guide offers tips and solutions for adoptive families on how to best prepare for international adoption as well as how to support adoptees.
UNICEF and global partners define an orphan as a child under 18 years of age who has lost one or both parents to any cause of death. By this definition, there were nearly 140 million orphans globally in 2015, including 61 million in Asia, 52 million in Africa, 10 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 7.3 million in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This large figure represents not only children who have lost both parents, but also those who have lost a father but have a surviving mother or have lost their mother but have a surviving father.
The data point out that in many cases, some of the children classified as orphans are living with one parent, a grandparent, or other family and so are not a “double orphan”; they may have a greater need for support in their homes than adoption. This can be a difficult determination to make, however, and both the adoption community and governments around the world continue to examine and adjust the best course possible to help and protect vulnerable children.
What Kind of Adoption is Good for the Child?
Every adoption situation is unique based on the experiences of those involved; therefore, not all adoptions are alike. How could they be? In some cases, adoption is chosen by expectant parents because they do not feel able or ready to parent. In other cases, children find themselves placed into foster care because their birth families are experiencing some sort of crisis and it is in the best interest of the children to be removed for their health and safety.
In some cases, open adoption is the answer, whereas in others, the parties involved choose closed adoption.
Open adoption is a form of adoption in which the biological and adoptive families have access to varying degrees of each other’s personal information and have an option of contact, according to Wikipedia. In the case of closed adoption, an infant is adopted by another family, and the record of the biological parent is kept sealed. Often, the biological father is not recorded—even on the original birth certificate.
Nearly all professionals today and many birth and adoptive families will vouch for the importance of choosing an open adoption based on the overwhelming number of pros it holds for the adoptee. Some of these include:
- Ability to cultivate a relationship between the birth family and adoptive family. By creating this connection, a child has a greater opportunity to better understand that they were not unwanted or abandoned.
- Avoiding an identity crisis. In addition to “knowing” their biological family, adoptees can form a better sense of self. Some struggle with their identity later in life unless adoptive parents take the time to talk about adoption with their child from a very early age. Knowing who their birth parents are can help answer a lot of questions adoptees have, allowing them to better bond with their adoptive family as well as grow up knowing they are in a loving home because of a difficult yet loving decision.
- Access to medical records. One of the most awkward moments adoptive parents face is not being able to fill out a medical history for their child. It can be frustrating and scary, especially when faced with the uncertainty of an illness that requires important medical background information. Not knowing is not just risky, but can prove dangerous. Adoptees have long spoken out about not having access to this critical part of their past.
Open adoption is not always an option or in the best case of an adoptee, especially when the birth mother chose this path due to safety reasons for herself or the child she is trying to protect.
Another option for families is semi-open adoption, which is when there is a line of communication between the birth family and child but (typically) not visits. Additionally, each semi-open adoption is different, depending on what was decided at the time of placement and what works best for all parties, according to the Adoption.org article, What is Semi-Open Adoption?
This type of adoption has proven to be positive for the child in that it promotes communication between the birth family and adoptee, providing an opportunity for a child to better understand the reason behind the adoption as well as their identity. Once again, this equation of building a relationship between birth family and adoptive family, while slightly more controlled than open adoption, can result in helping to reduce or remove a child’s feelings of unwantedness. In the long run, children who are more confident and secure in where they have come from transition into more confident and secure adults. Additionally, in most cases, they will also have access to their medical history.
Open and semi-open adoption also is an opportunity for birth parents to feel more comfortable in choosing an adoptive family for the child as well as offer an opportunity for closure. Birth parents often feel guilt and loss. Not only can a birth parent rest easier knowing they have made the right decision for the child, but they have the chance to build a healthy relationship moving forward.
Do Adoptees Think Adoption is Good for the Child?
In the Adoption.org article Is Adoption Good or Bad? freelance writer Ashley Foster writes, “It greatly depends on who you ask. I am an adoptee. From my own personal experiences and how I view the world, adoption is a good thing. Adoption gives children a family, who otherwise would not have had one. Adoption gives hope to a child who has lost his or her parents. It provides a life for babies who otherwise might have been put to death. Adoption turns men and women into parents, giving them one of the most important jobs in the world. Families are put together to grow and thrive.”
According to Psychology Today, “Though being adopted has its challenges as children grow into adults, many adult adoptees report feeling stronger for having navigated them—and may even end up feeling more connected to their adoptive families, their birth families, their cultures, and their inner selves as a result.” Still, adoption has unique influences on identity formation as a child grows up and may cause children to confront loss and feelings of rejection; it may also present distinct challenges in adulthood, particularly when it comes time to discuss family history that might be unknown.
And while in most instances, adoption proves to be a good choice for children, that doesn’t mean that is the experience of all adoptees.
Ashley Foster goes on to explain that “Like with many things, the system is broken. Some children don’t find the loving families they deserve. Some parents don’t ever get matched to a birth family. I had an amazing childhood, but I no longer speak to adoptive parents. Some adoptees have really horrible experiences growing up.”
While There Are No Guarantees, There Is Hope
Expectant parents who do not feel as if they are ready or able to provide a stable or loving home choose adoption to do just that for their child. Hopeful adoptive families who wish to grow their family choose adoption to provide a stable and loving home and become a family to a child who needs one.
Despite everyone’s best attempts, there are no guarantees that any or all parties will wind up perfectly happy with their decision or that the adoptee will be happy with the choices made on their behalf.
Still, most studies show that with the right amount of communication, preparation, training, and support, adoption can be a wonderful solution to ensure a child’s well-being. Adoptees can have every opportunity for the love and care they deserve in order to grow into well-adjusted, happy, and successful adults.Are you ready to take the next steps on your adoption journey? Visit The Gladney Center for Adoption to learn more.