My heart was broken by the thought of so many children without loving homes, but I had no idea what to do about it. I was young and definitely not ready to start a family of my own. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that adoption would play an important role in my life. Over the years, I learned about adoption and foster care, and I always wondered if adopting would be part of my family’s story someday. I even worked for the organization, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) whose mission is to find a safe, loving home for every child! The more I learned and surrounded myself with adoptive parents, the more I realized just how important adoption is.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. Maybe you find yourself with an unintended pregnancy, or maybe you’re brand-new to the conversation and wondering “Why exactly is adoption SO important”? The broad answer I always come back to is this: people. Lives are impacted by adoption every single day and all over the world. My hope is that the more we learn and communicate, the better we will all be at navigating this difficult journey.
There are a lot of reasons adoption is important! Too many to list actually, but I did make a list of the top five. Spoiler alert: they’re all about people and relationships. Adoption is such a delicate undertaking with so many lives and emotions on the line. You’ll see in this list that the value of all parties is extremely important, but the child is always the top priority. If we all are able to place the child’s needs at the very front of every decision, I believe our families, lives, relationships, and communities will all be much stronger!
If you are unfamiliar with the adoption triad, the term is commonly used to include the three parties involved in every adoption: the child, the adoptive parent(s), and the birth mother. Because adoption includes all three members of the triad, it’s necessary and important to consider the value that all three bring to the table.
“There really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child.” -Anne Lamott
Yes, there are three sides to the adoption triad, but the child is easily the most important person involved. It’s easy for the majority of people to see the needs of the child when considering the importance of adoption. Kids are dependent on adults for survival and have little to no say in the decisions being made in regards to their lives. It is our responsibility and obligation to do our very best to put our child’s needs first when making decisions and plans for adoption.
So how many kids are we talking about here anyway? There are literally millions of children in need of a safe and loving home! Personally, these numbers are staggering and are easily THE most important reason for adoption. It’s tragic to think of children without homes and families, and although the processes can be intimidating, adoption offers a way to help!
UNICEF records that there are more than 15 million orphans waiting to be adopted worldwide. Over 400,000 children are in foster care in the U.S. on any given day, and on average, they will spend 2 years in the foster care system.
That’s a lot of kids! But what could adoption mean for them? Well, research shows that the lack of a stable, loving family can lead to physical, mental, and developmental issues. Difficulty forming healthy attachments, struggles with social skills, and severe mental health problems are only a few of the possible outcomes for children without permanency. Every child needs a loving home, and every child DESERVES a loving home.
Clearly, adoption is very important to the children because it has the power to shape the entire rest of their lives. These kids are what piqued my interest, and stole my heart, all those years ago. They are the reason so many amazing people dedicate their lives to caring for orphans and children in foster care. They are also the reason we not only need adoption, but also we need it to be the best version of it possible.
2. Adoptive Parents
“We look at adoption as a very sacred exchange. It was not done lightly on either side. I would dedicate my life to this child.” -Jamie Lee Curtis
Adoptive parents are another important piece of the adoption triad. They are the adults assuming responsibility for a child’s life and well-being. Making the commitment to accept a baby or child into your family and to love and care for him or her for a lifetime is not a decision that comes lightly! Regardless of the circumstances that lead a parent to adoption, the end result is an absolute honor and a gift.
There are many reasons people choose to start a family—or grow their family—through adoption. Some have a desire for children without having a spouse; others may have infertility or physical pregnancy concerns, and many same-sex couples choose adoption as a path to parenthood as well. Others simply have a desire, or spiritual calling, to grow their family by welcoming a baby or child who needs a home.
Whatever the motivation, hopeful adoptive parents must overcome many obstacles to complete adoption requirements. From extensive paperwork to uncomfortable personal interviews and background checks to large financial commitments, adopting is not for the faint of heart. Thankfully, there are many resources, support groups, and education available for these parents or anyone considering the option.
Adoption is an important and often life-changing option for parents who choose this route. I know as a hopeful adoptive mother, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to add to my family after experiencing secondary infertility! As I mentioned before, I’ve felt a draw toward adoption for a long time, and now, I’m preparing for the possibility that my entire life might grow and expand. The depth of the pain, mixed with the joy and beauty of adoption, has been completely life-changing already.
3. Birth Mothers
“Love is unselfishly choosing for another’s highest good.” -C.S. Lewis
Birth mothers are the third piece of this story and another very important reason for adoption. Approximately 50% of U.S. pregnancies are unintended. While some women have the means and desire to parent, many feel alone and completely lack the resources they want or need to raise a child. Many others will decide that they simply can’t provide the life they desire for their child for any number of reasons.
Whatever the deciding factors, birth mothers are women who are willing to make the brave, difficult, and often heartbreaking choice to give birth to their child and then place their baby with another family. Sadly, for many women, this decision can result in shame or embarrassment, but there is an increasing number of birth mothers sharing their stories and experiences in an effort to remove the stigma that may have once existed. There are more resources than ever for birth mothers to find acceptance and community and to own their voice in the triad!
Open adoptions are increasingly possible, and encouraged, for the sake of all three members of the triad. Some level of communication between birth moms and adoptive families can be good for healing and strengthening bonds between all parties. When done well, open adoption can be a beautiful celebration of the birth mom, adoptive parents, and the child.
“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
Adoption is a very important way to grow a family. Today our definition of family is becoming much more inclusive, but however we choose to define it, the family is the building blocks of society. Families provide children with their first view of the world and their first tools for processing the things they find! However a family is formed, it is likely to be a bond that lasts a lifetime. So, we should have options for how to grow our families!
Over 6 million women in the U.S. experience infertility. That’s approximately 1 in 10 women between the ages of 15-44. These women are faced with very difficult choices if they want to grow a family. Infertility treatment and IVF can be invasive, extremely cost-prohibitive, and often has very low success rates. Adoption provides an avenue for many couples experiencing infertility to raise a child and grow the family they have dreamed about.
Same-sex couples are also greatly affected by adoption. The choice is very personal, and there are many reasons to grow a family in this way. About 1 in 5 same-sex couples are raising adopted children! Making the decision to parent alone is also becoming more common. Many adults have the financial means, stability, and supporting community to raise children without a partner.
Obviously, a child has no voice in the decision to be born, but every child deserves to grow up in a loving and supportive home! Many women with unplanned pregnancies love their babies and want the very best for them. If an expectant parent doesn’t believe she has the resources, support, or ability to parent her child, adoption can be a wonderful gift. This mother can make the choice to place her child and often is even given the option to help choose the person or couple that she believes would be the best fit. With open adoption, she will even have the option of watching her child grow up or might even have a relationship with him or her.
When done well, adoption provides an option for a pregnant woman who may feel helpless or stuck. It provides a safe and loving home for a child when biological placement isn’t an option, and it provides a person or couple with an opportunity to parent. It creates a family. Adoption is not just important, it’s truly a gift! Whatever the personal reasons for growing a family through adoption are, one thing is for sure: adoption can be a beautiful option.
“Open adoption is an opportunity to build enormous bridges to families beyond your reach.” -Kristen Gerald
You’ve likely heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child. Adoption can be the best proof of that concept when done well. It takes work and a commitment to learning and growing. When adoptive parents and birth parents are willing to work together and support each other, the results can be a beautiful extended family that provides love, support, and safety for the child.
The beauty of this complicated process is that it always allows for extended community support as well. All growing families need extra support. It’s a time of adjustment that shakes up the “rhythms” at the core of everyone involved. The birth mom is healing as she grieves the disconnect from her baby, both physically and emotionally. Her time of grief and recovery is a perfect time for community members to step in and surround her with love and support. Organizations like Lifetime Healing Foundation offer education, support, and community for birth moms as well as adoption educators, adoptive families, and community members!
New adoptive parents are navigating unfamiliar territory too. If they’re not parents already, they may find themselves diving into a brand-new world of diapers and sleep schedules, formula versus donated breast milk, pediatrician visits, baby toys, and carriers. The list goes on and on, and on top of these typical challenges, adoptive parents are often also considering birth trauma, birth mom relationships, and in some cases, are raising a child of a different race. This can be completely overwhelming! There are many resources available such as support groups and education, but a family’s community can also play a huge role in helping with this transition. Everything from meal prep to cleaning to holding the baby while the new parents nap can be so helpful at this time! This is a great, practical list for helping communities who want to be there but aren’t sure how: “10 Ways to Support a New Adoptive Family.”
Of course, the child has to be mentioned in this section too. The child is the most important piece of this puzzle! The reason both families are willing to sacrifice and make hard decisions is out of love for this beautiful child. Finding (or creating) the right community for raising this child is so important. Parents can ask themselves if their community is educated to the importance of adoption. Do they know the correct, most respectful language to use when referencing adoption? Are they mindful of the way they are including your child? Above all, does your community have your child’s best interest at heart? It really does take a village, so let’s all be the best village for each other!
“Families don’t have to match. You don’t have to look like someone else to love them.” -Leigh Anne Tuohy
Families absolutely don’t have to match. They don’t have to follow anyone else’s definitions or requirements either. Choosing adoption means choosing a different family model. It’s important to be educated about the risks and concerns, but above all, remember how much love can come from becoming a family in this way. Adoption is a gift that has the power to transform entire communities into better, more loving and mindful people.
Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.