Babies Waiting for Adoption

There are many reasons babies are waiting for adoption, and each child’s situation is unique.

MK Menon February 12, 2019
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How many are waiting?

According to Kids Count Data Center, between 2007 and 2016, there were approximately 4,000-6,000 babies waiting for adoption under the age of 1 in the U.S. from the foster care system. This age group accounts for roughly 4% of the foster care population and is the smallest, while children between age 1 and 5 makeup 37-41% of the children (up to 20-year-olds) who are waiting in foster care. The number of babies waiting for adoption through private adoptions is harder to track as the accessibility of online resources have allowed both parties of the adoption process to bypass agencies, and there does not appear to be one system that keeps count of all private and public adoptions. Nonetheless, the National Council for Adoption reported back in 2007 that there were 18,078 infants adopted, and the majority of those adoptions were private. This was the last time this type of data was generated publicly. Based on the numbers and anecdotal evidence, infant adoptions are the most coveted of all age groups. There is a belief, whether it be real or unfounded, that the younger the child is at the point of adoption, the easier it will be for him or her to adjust to the new family. Some people view infants as having a clean slate compared to older children who may have been exposed to emotional or physical trauma for a longer period. Independent of the reasons people choose infants over older children, the result is that placement of an infant can take much longer as there are roughly 2 million couples waiting to adopt in the United States.

Why are there so many babies waiting for adoption?

There are many reasons babies are waiting for adoption, and each child’s situation is unique—though there are a few reasons that present themselves repeatedly for a child of any age. Such reasons include abuse, neglect, illness, incarceration, death, drug abuse, the child’s choice, and voluntary placement. Abuse can take the form of physical, emotional, or sexual. All of which necessitate for a child to be removed from that situation. Neglect can be intentional and fall in the realm of abuse, but it can also be a result of circumstance. If the child is raised by a single parent who is working multiple jobs, a child may be left unattended for long periods of time despite the parent’s intention to care for the child. Illness can be debilitating physically and financially, which will put a strain on the parents, and without any help, may force them into considering foster care. The United States has one of the largest prison populations in the world, and having one parent incarcerated greatly destabilizes the family structure, putting the child at risk for placement in the foster care system. When a parent dies, the hope is that the child can remain with the living parent even if he or she isn’t married. Or perhaps, the child can stay with another family member, but unfortunately, this is not always possible. A parent’s drug use can often lead to one of the other main reasons a child must be put in foster care, such as neglect or abuse. The goal of foster care placement would be to give the parents the space and time to work through their problems so that they can reunify with their child. In the situation of a baby, the child would not choose to enter the system, though older child’s actions may warrant a court to consider placing them in a home outside of their parents’ if they believe the child’s situation would improve.

It’s never an easy decision to place your child up for adoption, and women who have carried a child for nine months are already swimming in a pool of emotions due to hormonal changes. But, a women who found herself unexpectedly pregnant, a victim of rape, or for a slew of other reasons who just isn’t ready to be a mother, will choose to place her baby up for adoption. Women may choose at any point in their pregnancy to place their child for adoption. Perhaps she is in the middle of her education if quite young and doesn’t want to give up on her degree. Or, if she’s a bit older, she finds her pregnancy has come at a point in her career where this surprise isn’t something she can deal with. Others feel that the timing just doesn’t seem right. Some other women feel they never planned nor can see themselves as a mother, so why take on such a huge responsibility if they don’t want to as no one will benefit? It’s been estimated that it will cost nearly a quarter million dollars to raise a child to age 18, and for some people, coming up with this amount of money is unfathomable. It’s also not uncommon for birth mothers to already be a parent, and they don’t have the emotional, physical, or financial resources to grow their family. Choosing adoption rather than allowing her child to enter the foster care system will give her control over the fate of her child that she otherwise would not have. By going the route of adoption, she is able to make an adoption plan, screen prospective parents, voice her desires for an open adoption if that is what she wants, and be greatly involved and aware of who her child will be raised by. This will allow her to keep a tie to her child and watch him or her grow. Studies have shown that open adoptions greatly benefit all parties, including the birth mother, the adoptive parents, and child.

For some women, they do not know who the father is or may no longer be in a relationship with him, and therefore, they prefer to have their child raised in a two-parent home. For others, having a child means forever being connected to the child’s father, who they may not have a good relationship with and may not want to be involved in any respect to the raising of the child. Without a good support network, this puts a lot of pressure on a single mother before the child has even been born. While some women may decide an abortion is preferred, other may have strong personal convictions, religious ties, or familial pressures to choose adoption instead. Despite loving the child they have carried for all these months, they just don’t think they can give the child what they need, especially when the child has special needs. Nonetheless, they want the best for their child and often make the heart-breaking and brave choice to allow their child to be adopted.

Each situation is unique for the child and the mother, so it is hard to distill it down to specific reasons. If you are considering adoption, it is worth being cognizant of the potential circumstances the child has been born into and attend to that child as he or she becomes part of your family. As much as you are gaining a new member of your family, there is a woman out there experiencing a great loss. Despite adopting your baby at such a young age, there is always a possibility he or she may want to reconnect with the woman who carried him into this world. You will always be the one they call “Mom” or “Dad,” but bear in mind adoption at any age is a loss, and it’s your job to help your child navigate that.

What’s the process to adopt a baby?

Some people find the adoption process overwhelming, and I would guess that is due to it being a very emotional journey. Adoption means you are choosing your family, which most people don’t have the opportunity to do. There are many unknowns and just like marriage, the intent is to build a forever family. In terms of the logistics, once you’ve decided to adopt a baby, you must choose what type of adoption to pursue, which means whether to go through the foster care system or through a private agency. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and you must assess your particular situation to determine what is best for you. In general, once you decide on a route, you will be subject to a pile of paperwork to evaluate your employment, health and relationship history to name a few areas of background checks. Coming up with the payment is the not-so-fun part of the process, but there are a number of tax credits available. Once the administrative portion has been completed, it will be time to set up a home study. This is required for nearly every type of adoption and is meant to make sure that you and your current home situation is best suited for one of the babies waiting for adoption. After your home study has been approved, it’s time to wait. This period varies drastically based on the age of the baby you are interested in and how many are available. Some people end up altering their criteria as time passes in order to match more quickly, while others are content waiting for a baby that matches their initial wish. Independent of what you do, remember that things will eventually work themselves out, and there is a huge number of people out there who have gone through the same process as you.

Visit Adoption.com’s photolisting page for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families. For adoptive parents, please visit our Parent Profiles page where you can create an incredible adoption profile and connect directly with potential birth parents.

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MK Menon

MK Menon is a transracial international adoptee. She was adopted as an infant in a closed adoption yet managed to successfully trace her roots in her twenties. This year she hopes to publish her memoir about her journey to her birth mother. She's a vocal advocate for adoptees tracing their roots. She works as a research scientist and freelance writer. When she and her husband aren't chasing their toddler around the house, she loves cooking up a storm. She currently lives in California.


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