Babies Up For Adoption: Why We Don’t Use That Phrase

What You Need to Know About Waiting Infants, Expectant Mothers, and the No-No Words of Adoption.

Katala Peterson August 24, 2019
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Chances are, today you know someone who was adopted as an infant or is closely related to someone who was. It is an incredible miracle that is far more discreet than we often realize. But the way it’s addressed is often obtrusive and rough. As one begins their search for the missing piece in their family, they also must embrace a new dialect within the English language. Generally speaking, there are two forms of language in adoption: positive and negative. The title of this article is considered negative adoption language, as it dehumanizes a birth mother’s choice, a baby’s humanity and turmoil, and the adoptive family’s bond. Throughout this article, we will discuss waiting children and infants, and why we refer to the adoption process as more than “babies up for adoption.”

 

“You put your baby up for adoption?”

“Why did your mom put you up for adoption?!”

“We saw a picture of a kid up for adoption.”

The term “put up for adoption” generated when orphaned children were placed on train platforms to match them with prospective families who came by. According to an Adoption.com article on positive adoption language, “When a birth mother finds an adoptive home, she has decided to ‘place’ her child for adoption. The phrases ‘gave up for adoption’ or ‘put up for adoption’ are no longer used. ‘Gave up’ sounds like she has given up, which would be inaccurate. ‘Put up’ originated during the Orphan Train Movement. From 1853 to 1929 trains took homeless and orphaned children from Eastern cities to the rural Midwest for adoption. The kids who did not have pre-arranged adoptions were ‘put up’ on train platforms for selection.” Ergo, the term is woefully outdated and does not accurately reflect on the child who was adopted, the birth mother, or the biological family. As the way people adopt shifts, the way we discuss it must as well.

When a child shifts from one family to another, even at birth, their internal sense of equilibrium shakes. We always discuss the highs and lows of adoption, and oftentimes, it doesn’t feel like enough merely because the very central issue was ignored. Adoption is traumatic. It’s necessary and miraculous but it also changes a child’s world. Without regarding the event with the same sensitivity and kindness extended toward other traumatic events, we exacerbate the hurt at hand. Although adoption is fairly commonplace, the way it touches life is anything but.

Right now, infant adoptions are the most popular and accessible for information in America. If you are interested in babies who are waiting for families, check out photolistings and the information below! In all honesty, right now it is nearly impossible to track private adoptions since the United States Government is not required to track their statistics. Therefore, accurate statistics are few and far between. Although statistics are not available for private adoptions, we do know that, according to the National Council For Adoption, 18,329 babies found forever families via disclosed domestic adoption in 2014.

How to Adopt a Baby

Several options avail for adopting young children. Specifics as far as age, gender, and parameters on needs you are prepared for can be noted with any social worker or agency.

- You can create a hopeful family profile and wait to be matched with an expectant mother. In this, you will write a short blurb about yourself or your family and what you hope to offer as a parent to a child.

- The foster care system has more babies than it knows what to do with. When my family decided to foster, we were matched with an infant within three hours of receiving our first certification. Our munchkin’s little sister came three months later. The next time, we were matched two weeks after being re-licensed. All this to say: although foster care does not guarantee an adoption story, it is overwhelmed with children you can love. On the contrary, you can begin the foster to adopt process which guarantees adoption. Foster adoption matches you with children who are already available for adoption, and you can learn more here.

- Additionally, internationally adopting an infant can be a time-consuming process but it is an incredible opportunity. Various countries and agencies specialize in infant adoptions. The Adoption.com international photolisting serves to connect families and waiting-babies. You can find it here. The beginning process is condensed into four major decisions.

1. Where will you adopt from?

2. What are you open to in a child?

3. Who will be your agency?

4. Who will conduct your home study?

For additional information on these points, please visit Elizabeth Curry’s guide on international adoption.

Why Are Babies Adopted?

Generally, the stereotype dictates that women who place their babies up for adoption are young teenagers or confused. However, teen birth rates dropped dramatically in 2017, according to the CDC, and not all birth mothers are teenagers or single. Oftentimes, financial hardship, a broken relationship, educational plans, or a lack of familial support come into play. However the case may present itself, a woman or couple who chooses to place their child with an adoptive family makes a beautiful and difficult decision. Placing a child with an adoptive family does not mean the birth mother gives up her child, it means the dynamic changes. Open adoptions are increasingly popular in the United States, allowing for contact between the adoptee and their biological parent(s).

Amanda Hadfield is a birth mother, blogger, and writer for Adoption.com who says “I placed my birth daughter for adoption because I wanted to give her more. Once I had placed her, I promised myself that I would make full effort to live a life that she would be proud of.  That while I couldn’t give her the life she deserved, I could still be someone she would want to know. I could and would be someone she would be proud of.” Her eloquent article speaks into what it is like to make that decision with grace and confidence.

Heather Mitchell, another writer for Adoption.com is a wonderful and multifaceted woman who wrote an article I would like to present an excerpt from: “Why Would a Birth Mother Not Want Contact with Her Child?” As a birth mother herself, Heather gives great insight into negative adoption language’s impact.

“I’d like to briefly explain what a birth mother goes through. A birth mother deals with intense feelings of loss even in the most amazing adoption stories. Speaking for myself, healing took years and requires consistent perseverance. The ‘birth mother stigma’ itself can be overwhelming. When people found out about my decision, the rumors and the judgment came along with it. A couple of weeks after giving birth, I took a walk and a woman approached me and said, ‘Oh, didn’t you give your baby away?’ I could barely believe her choice of words in order to start a conversation. That was only the beginning. A person who disliked me degraded me on social media, stating ‘I was less of a mother because I gave my child away.’ These type[s] of situations can be very hard to deal with. I still struggle when someone glorifies my decision of placing my child for adoption, yet doesn’t provide that same excitement and support for any other decision in my life. I could continue on about what a birth mother goes through, but I only wanted to make a point that the lifelong decision is not easy.”

As far as the hopeful and adoptive parent side of adopting, families choose adoption for a myriad of reasons. Health and fertility can influence their choice, but ultimately the couple or individual decided that having a family is an important part of their life. Adoption grows a family as naturally as biological conception and connection do. Although the curiosity may be laced with good intentions, asking someone why they’ve adopted is not in good taste.  Every baby is adopted for a reason and whether or not it’s apparent, there does not seem to be random chance within the adoption community. If you know an adoptive family, chances are they had pure-hearted intentions. If you’re intent on learning more about their story, approach them with gentleness and respect their privacy! Many adoptive families experience years of insensitive questions and people assuming the worst of them.

If you’re interested in adoption, being honest with yourself about why you are interested in babies who need homes is imperative. Parenting can be a daunting task, especially when people probe until you, also, are convinced that you must have despicable motives. This, of course, is not the case. There’s not a definitive answer as to why people adopt or why children need homes. Your story will be its own entity, bound together by joy and laced with remnants of lives brought together in this quiet revolution.

What You Need to Know About Parenting an Infant Adoptee

As your child grows up, adoption is not their only story but it is a part of their story. Studies show that open and honest communication about your child’s origin cultivates strong bonds and reduces issues with identity and misunderstanding. Although your child may never have known their biological parents, adoption is still a part of their story whether they were old enough to understand or not. Hence, preparing for your child by reading adoption resources and potentially providing therapy later on is crucial.

The adoption triad (child, adoptive parents, birth parents), is an incredible compilation of resources and human beings who make a child feel loved. However, it also has its downfalls too. Open communication about adoption’s connectivity starts young and creates harmony for your baby. Although it may be tempting to leave the past unspoken, the adoption triad is a core part of your child. Starting before birth and continuing throughout life, when you adopt you join the adoption triad.

Additionally, there are thousands of babies waiting for adoption. According to the PBS archives, “About 135,000 children are adopted in the United States each year. Of non-stepparent adoptions, about 59 percent are from the child welfare (or foster) system, 26 percent are from other countries, and 15 percent are voluntarily relinquished American babies. Domestically, the percentage of infants given up for adoption has declined from 9 percent of those born before 1973 to 1 percent of those born between 1996 and 2002.” Henceforth, adoptees make up a large part of our society and there are resources at hand for parenting and adjusting to each period throughout life.

Parting Thoughts

Since adoption is beautiful but it is also trauma, our community is perpetually diversifying our language to involve and honor every part of the triad. Part of this involves the language we use each day.

Ultimately, “babies up for adoption,” should be changed and remembered as “babies placed for adoption.” They are individual infants waiting for someone to step in and protect them from a future left in the system. Some have wonderful biological parents who chose not to parent. Others need parents because the world we live in has all too many problems and someone didn’t protect your little one the way they should have. Whatever the case may be, there’s a child waiting for you.

Although paperwork and various options can seem incredibly confusing, adopting an infant is possible and incredibly common. Reaching out to an experienced family or on a public forum, using positive language, you can easily find out how others around you began their journey. Clarity comes through camaraderie!

Last but not least: entering the adoption triad via adopting an infant will grow you, unlike any other experience. Simultaneously feeling empathy and frustration is incredibly conflicting. You’ll ache for the woman who carried the child who now calls you their parents. Yet other days, you will feel deep frustration with the idiosyncrasies life doesn’t announce beforehand. Your child will experience joy, turmoil, confusion, and peace. All of which are normal emotions, and deserve a place at the table. Without one extreme, we would never know the opposite.

Therefore, I encourage you to embrace this journey with open hands for whatever may come.

 

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Katala Peterson

Katala Peterson is pursuing a career as a psychologist and has a passion for family of all kinds. She comes from a large adoptive family and has years of foster care experience. In her spare time, Katala enjoys hiking with her dog and experimenting with new recipes.


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