There is a growing diversity among families which has created more opportunities for families to experience a multicultural life. The United States Census Bureau’s 2018 data would support the statement that families look much different than years of the past. A new term to describe how families are interchanging nationalities, cultures, and race is hybrid family. It simply means that they take their different cultural backgrounds, join them together, and find their own family identity. Bonding and learning to communicate effectively through their differences can enrich their perspectives and can help them to appreciate the value of the other cultural influences and the ever-changing world around them. This evolution of the common family has resulted in families expanding differently than before, too. The prior limitations of growing families have been removed.
There are many combinations of family configurations that make the modern families we see today. Fortunately, this includes adoption. As we continue to see the rise of awareness and acceptance of families of adoption and their diversity, we will see this number increase. Nearly one hundred million people have adoption in their immediate family. Currently, approximately two million couples are waiting to adopt. These hopeful parents come from all different backgrounds and all have varying reasons for choosing to adopt.
Families with Impaired Infertility
In the past, we have generally associated adoption with impaired fertility. It has been the initial question asked when most people present the idea of adoption. Infertility is not a big dark secret or a forbidden topic anymore. Women and men have fertility complications and, while it can put a strain on a person’s mental health, it is not the end of family-growing options. There is a thriving community of support for women who are struggling with reproductive health obstacles. The Center for Disease Control has reported in the past that more than half of women being treated with infertility intervention have considered adoption. While not as commonly talked about, men also have fertility issues contributing to about thirty percent of all infertility cases. The Mayo Clinic estimates that about 15 percent of couples have been diagnosed as infertile. Adoption can provide the hope of having the family they always wanted. Choosing this alternative route to parenthood also provides loving homes for children.
There also are couples that discover their infertility even after they have already had biological children, which causes them to explore other options to continue growing their family to their desired size. There may have been complications during pregnancy or childbirth that enabled infertility to take place. Specific medical conditions in both men and women can also cause infertility which may have occurred after their child planning has started. Again, adoption is the option many people turn to for growing their family.
Though not necessarily fertility-related, some couples feel like they have exceeded their body’s natural childbearing years and would rather adopt. The average marrying age now is 35 for women and 37 for men. Medically women are considered advanced maternal age at 35, and though it is possible and we are seeing it more often now, some would still rather not explore that option.
Families that Foster to Adopt
As of 2020, there were over 400,000 children in foster care. Adoption through the foster system makes up 59 percent of all adoptions. In most states, parental rights are terminated after about 22 months. As the number of adoptable children increases, so does the opportunity for permanent families to be established. Most states provide partial funding or reimbursement that goes toward legal fees that the family may encounter. Although the goal of foster care is ultimately reunification, these families still extend their homes and their hearts in a very selfless and compassionate way, but families who adopt through the foster care system still have to go through the proper court proceedings with legal counsel.
In 2002 it was predicted by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation that by 2020 the adoption population would surpass the number of children in foster care. This hypothesis was based on the monitored trajectory of the increased adoption in the states of New York, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, and New Jersey between the years 1998 and 1999. Sadly, it was not proven to be true by 2020. Even though this projection fell short, the awareness—especially on social media—of the urgent needs of foster care continues to contribute to the increased support.
Laws that previously prohibited single-parent adoptions were lifted in the 1960s, which then allowed single-parent adoptions in all 50 states. In 2017 almost a quarter of adoptions nationwide were single parent, with an estimation that 15,000 single women adopted and 2,000 single men. This was a significant increase from the adoptions of the 1970s and 1980s when single-parent adoption was in its infancy. Though studies surround the theory that nuclear families are what is best for children, the rise of single-parent homes has proven it is possible to raise happy, healthy children alone. In the United States, roughly 25 percent of all children live in single-parent homes. Even as the responsibility lays solely on one person, single-parent families often describe themselves as a team, especially with decision-making tasks. Allowing their children to be part of decisions builds trust and positive responsibility habits. A good support system is suggested and, like all parenting, it will have its challenges, but it is not out of the realm of possibilities.
Although statistically there is an increase, there are still limitations for single-parent adoption opportunities. Some agencies are still enforcing strict restrictions eliminating the eligibility of single fathers to adopt, and some potential fathers even have their intentions for adoption questioned.
Interethnic families do include but are not limited to solely interracial families. When a couple has already established a relationship of welcoming each other’s cultures, it can help the cultural acknowledgment that provides an adoptive child with comfort. Creating a global context allows the family to explore identity, perspectives, or cultural expressions and can also provide the diversity needed for the child to adapt healthily. Also, seeing the differences between parents can give a sense of inclusion and emotional security.
Carl and Helen Doss pioneered interethnic family adoptions; they adopted a total of 12 children, all of whom were of various ethnicities. Helen later wrote about her experience in the 1954 memoir The Family Nobody Wanted, where she shares her family’s encounters with racism and scrutiny. At the time, adoption agencies were very discriminatory and considered these children unadoptable or defective because of their multicultural heritage.
Thankfully times have changed, as transracial adoptions are now probably the most publicized—maybe because you can physically see that there is a genetic barrier between the child and the parents. It has brought much awareness to transracial adoption, which has changed the way adoptive parents approach their children of a different race and has become an essential part of the transracial adoption lifestyle. Making an effort to ensure that the children know about their culture and connect with positive role models of the same race is a key component in helping them find their own identity. Pretending that there is no difference is not beneficial to anyone, but acknowledging and addressing their reality whether it is racism, prejudice, or physical features will reflect on the parents’ commitment to maintaining a balanced household.
Hopefully, we will continue to see the population of interethnic families grow despite the challenges they face.
Approximately 6 million children in the United States are being raised by grandparents or other relatives. More recently, we see families adopting within their family due to the increase of substance abuse, incarceration, mental health issues, and death. Kinship guardianship, which can lead to adoption, is usually the first option for Child Protective Services. Even siblings raising younger siblings has become a more common scenario. The desire to keep children somehow connected to their genetic links serves as a priority. Adoption between family members due to troubling circumstances can cause a shift in the family dynamic because adjusting to new boundaries and learning how to introduce the truth can be somewhat complicated. There is a long tradition of relative adoption, though often it is informal. And while these families are not necessarily planning for adoption, they do go through the same process as a private adoption.
What is a type?
Families come in all shapes and sizes. The idea of a typical family is thankfully dissipating. All families face the challenges of differences. Disagreements on things like religion, education, household language, and a million other things will always present themselves. However, if the hybrid family model has done anything it has proven that love, communication, and acceptance will surpass the walls of differences, and it has significantly changed the previous image of a picture-perfect family. The beauty of difference is that where there is a difference there is also purposeful inclusion. Acknowledging the fact that we are all unique and choosing to love despite the unlikenesses between each other shows mindfulness and commitment. It is hard to describe a specific type of family that is looking to adopt because the face of adoption is changing as fast as the face of a typical family.