10 Myths About Adopting a Baby in the US: Debunked

Hello and welcome to this week’s round of super-personal questions. I’m your host. It is my tremendous pleasure to ask you questions that will make you squirm in your seat and wish to fall into a hole in the ground. I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m really not. These questions are first and foremost to make you think. Some decisions in life are too important to approach without thinking about them and examining them deeply. So, the first question is, do you struggle with infertility? Have you been poked, prodded, examined, interviewed, and scrutinized physically and emotionally by doctors, nurses, and maybe even your mother-in-law? Do you not struggle with fertility, but still desire to add children to your family through other means? Are you choosing not to try to have a biological child? Have you sought therapy for dealing with your grief over your potential inability to have a biological child with or without medical intervention? If that isn’t a difficulty for you, have you sought counseling to make sure you are in your best personal mental state to approach important decisions? Have you ever considered the possibility of adopting a baby in the US? You’ve heard about the orphan crisis overseas but were you aware there were thousands of babies whose families are struggling to care for them in the US? They might be too young, sick, isolated, or physically unable to care for a child. Or for reasons entirely their own they are choosing to not parent themselves. They are hoping to find a match with a family who will love them and their baby through adoption. 

I just heard that sharp intake of breath as you are thinking about having this conversation with your mother-in-law. Resist the urge to hit her. It won’t help in the long run. Regardless, if you ask around how people feel about adopting a baby in the US you might hear a few things. I’ve listed 10 myths about adopting a baby in the US,  but there are probably 100 or more variations of insulting, misinformed, or just plain wrong ideas about adoption. 

1. You might be on a waiting list for 10 years and give the agency all your money and still not have a baby. 

2. It is easier to adopt internationally than it is adopting a baby in the US. 

3. Babies that are adopted have somehow been trafficked. 

4. So and so adopted and their kid tried to kill them. 

5. It is super expensive and only for rich people

6. It is only teen moms being forced to give up their babies by their parents.

7. Adoption is pretty terrible overall for the mental health of the birth moms and babies

8. Black moms shouldn’t adopt white babies and vice versa

9. Adoption agencies are basically just fronts for selling babies legally

10. Adoption agencies are coercive and only care about adoptive families, not adoptive mothers.

I’d like to take some time to debunk these and other myths for you. For some reason, when the topic of adoption is broached, most people have a strong opinion either pro or con and can list the reasons why for you. They may also say things like “I know a girl who adopted and then got pregnant right away.” As if adopting a baby was only a cure for infertility. I cannot count the number of times I had to practically swallow my own tongue so I didn’t say something inappropriate back to some people.

Regarding the idea that you’ll have a baby after adopting, I have 5 adopted kids and no biological kids so I call nonsense on that one. So, if you’re going to take case-by-case examples as truth, check out mine. Sure it may happen, but it also may not. Adopting a baby as a failsafe for you getting pregnant is honestly a pretty bad idea. 

You might be on a waiting list for 10 years and give the agency all your money and still not have a baby. 

A responsible, ethical, legal, and forthright adoption agency will not leave you dangling in the wind waiting for a baby. Yes, these things take time. There are reams of paperwork that need to be filled out just so or the adoption isn’t legal. There are background checks for grandparents, parents, friends, uncles, aunts, cousins twice removed, and the mail person (I’m kidding, mostly.) These things take time and a great deal of care is put into making sure that the family is matched with a mom and baby that is a good fit. It can feel like forever, especially when you are waiting and wanting a baby so badly it hurts. If it takes more than a year or two, I’d actually suggest formally switching agencies and having paperwork transferred so you don’t have to start at square one. Also, if you’d like to have a child in your home almost immediately after the dotted line is signed, I suggest foster care. The ink was barely dry on a friend’s application when they got a call for a baby at the hospital. They ended up adopting that baby and another fairly soon after. (Disclaimer: This is not the usual situation and cannot in any way be guaranteed) 

It is easier to adopt internationally than it is adopting a baby in the US. 

While I can see where it could possibly feel this way, it is significantly less complicated to adopt a baby in the US. There is no international travel to consider, no Hague convention requirements, no passports, and no month-long hotel stays. Any adoption can be complicated, but comparing US adoption to international adoption, international adoption is far more complicated. Even if you could potentially get a match sooner, the files are more likely to have wrong information, mistranslations, and have the potential to have been doctored by the agency to make a child look more desirable or to get them out of the country more quickly.

Babies that are being adopted have somehow been trafficked. 

No. Just. Just no. I imagine that there is potential for this to happen. I’m not saying there isn’t. However, if you’ve done your research and checked out your adoption agency, this will not be a problem. There will be big red flags starting with the birth mother not being a big part of the decision on where her child will be placed. Carefully assess every step of the process and if you start to feel uncomfortable, then do not proceed. 

So and so adopted and their kid tried to kill them. 

Look. I will not sit here and tell you that kids who are adopted don’t have problems. That would be a terrible lie. However, those instances make the news because they are sensational. If it wasn’t a terrible story, it wouldn’t make the news. Some foster and adoptive families struggle with difficult behaviors because of the kids’ trauma but that doesn’t make every adopted child a potential murder. 

It is super expensive and only for rich people

I understand this misconception. It can be expensive depending on the state, how particular you are, lawyer fees, travel expenses, etc. It can feel overwhelming and daunting and it is certainly not for everyone. However, some of the families I know that have adopted a baby from the US are not in any way wealthy. They pay their bills on time and keep food on the table but the most important component is that they love their kids. There are requirements but owning your own home, driving a fancy new car, and being wealthy are nowhere on the list of what is required to adopt.

It is only teen moms being forced to give up their babies by their parents.

The media is to blame for this one. Also, teen moms sometimes do choose to have their child adopted because of family pressure. However, it is not only teen moms and it is not only because of family pressure. Recently on the popular show, This is Us, an adoption was shown and the birth mother was 30-something and had an older child. That is not as uncommon as you might believe. 

Adoption is pretty terrible overall for the mental health of the birth moms and babies.

Can it be? Sure. Does it have to be? Absolutely not. If you want to check out some real birth moms discussing their feelings on adoption check out the podcast Birth Mothers Amplified. It is a quality podcast that is well worth your time to get some ideas of how some birthmothers feel about their adoption journey. 

Black moms shouldn’t adopt white babies and vice versa

What year are we even living in that this is still a concern for anyone? Yes, it can be complicated. Yes, there are some big feelings on either side of the line. However, if done with consideration, love, and lots of guidance it can work beautifully. Don’t be afraid because you just don’t know.

Adoption agencies are basically just fronts for selling babies legally

I have heard real grown-up people use this argument and I was so stunned I couldn’t figure out words to say. There are hundreds of laws in place to make sure that doesn’t happen. That is why there are adoption laws and why it can take so long and be so complicated to adopt.

Adoption agencies are coercive and only care about adoptive families, not adoptive mothers.

This has been true in the past. The history of adoption in the US is soiled at best, horrifying at worst. Things like the orphan trains, orphanages, and old-fashioned maternity homes did a great deal of damage to adoption as a safe way for a child to have a family. I cannot vouch for every adoption agency but the ones I am aware of have safeguards in place to make sure birth mothers are treated with respect and given the help they need, regardless of whether or not they are choosing adoption for their child. There has been a tremendous shift away from even 30 years ago when open adoption wasn’t much of a thing. 

So there you have it. 10 myths about adoption in the US debunked. You don’t have to take my word for it either. Visit www.adoption.com/forums and have conversations with real people who have been through or are in the process of adopting. They can answer your questions and you can decide for yourself if adoption is a good fit for your family. See if anyone is close to where you are and meet for coffee and compare notes. Honestly, the worst that happens is you feel weird and the best is that you have a new friend to hold your hand through this process. 

I highly recommend asking questions of people who have been there. See if you can meet with adoptive families in your community (your agency may have a group you can contact). You may feel awkward but you will learn so much that an agency won’t or does not have time to tell you about it. It is so worth it to have someone who has been there already to help you walk through the process. I found I was panicked for all of the wrong reasons and the things I was worried about didn’t even come into the picture. I hope the same can be said for you and I hope you do choose adoption. Kids need and deserve a family and if you think you would be a good family you should apply.