At almost 3 years after placing my son for adoption, I still find myself amazed at the amount of facts about adoption that would surprise the general population. I watched a docuseries the other day and was surprised by the documentarian’s reaction to some things she learned regarding adoption. It took me by surprise, as I did not know that certain misunderstandings and mistaken facts still applied. Here is a list of some adoption facts that might surprise you:
1. Not all adopted children are orphans or unwanted.
I have found this to be a huge misconception when it comes to adoption–be it domestic infant, international, foster to adopt, or kinship adoption. A child does not have to be an orphan to be adopted. Many children placed for adoption have one or two parents that are alive but may not be in a life situation that allows them to parent their child to what would be considered fit or best. With that in mind, not being in a place to parent does not make the child unwanted. There are many birth parents who would have given anything to parent their children, but either they made the decision to make an adoption plan or the government did for them.
2. Most birthparents are not teenagers.
When most find out I am a birthmother, they immediately assume I had my son while I was still in high school or shortly thereafter. It is the same for many of my birthmother friends. While there are birthmothers that are of that age group, in current adoption statistics, that is not the norm. Many birth mothers are 25 years old or older. They place because of poverty, the number of children they already parent, health issues, life circumstance, etc. With teen parenting and single parenting being more acceptable nowadays, it is less likely for a teenager to place their baby–the previous norm. I myself was 21, almost 22 years old, when I gave birth and placed my son for adoption. Most felt I was old enough to parent, but for my own reasons, I did not agree.
3. Foster to adopt is not a “cheap” alternative to domestic infant adoption.
Being in many online adoption forums, I often see someone say something along the lines of “We don’t have enough money to adopt,” and someone replies with, “Go through foster care; it’s free.” First of all, while there isn’t the amount of legal or agency fees associated with domestic infant adoption in foster care, that doesn’t make it cheaper or lesser than what it is. There are still great expenses of money, time, and effort that go into parenting a child that has been through the foster system. Many need therapy, special educational resources, special medical resources, etc. To be honest though, what shocks me the most about all this is that when finding a family for a child, many forget about an actual human being’s needs because of monetary concern.
4. Birthparents aren’t inherently dangerous.
When I tell people that I placed my son for adoption, I get a look. I recognize it pretty well now, the oh-I-thought-you-were-a-better-person-than-that “look.” Then, when I mention that I still see him pretty regularly with visits and pictures and maintain a relationship with his family, some cannot hide their shock. “They let you see him still?!” Not everyone is so incredulous about it, but the sentiment is the same: why would they let someone unable to be his parent around him on a regular basis? There has been a notion for a long time that only bad or dangerous people place, ones that would put their children in harm’s way if they were to parent them. But I can’t tell you how much this isn’t true. For me personally, I would do nothing to hurt or harm the son I placed. When I learn that he is sick or hurt, I cry because it causes me pain. Our misfortune in life, no matter the cause, does not mean that we are dangerous people.
5. Birth parents usually want their child to bond and love their adoptive parents.
Another misconception I have often heard is that birth parents shouldn’t have a continuing relationship with the child because they will steal the bond and affection away from the adoptive parents. Newsflash: I chose my son’s parents because I thought that they were wonderful people, and I wanted him to love them and feel supported and bonded with them. By placing my son with them, I wanted him to be happy and healthy in a way I didn’t think I could give him. I have yet to meet a birth parent (one who has felt respected) who feels otherwise about this.
I could go on for a long time about adoption facts that may or may not surprise you. Adoption is an insanely emotional experience for all involved. Too often, misconceptions or mistaken facts cause barriers that further perpetuate stereotypes. By beginning to open up about these things, we can start to understand other sides of the triad better.