Being a Marriage and Family Counseling major, I get to read all kinds of amazing things from life-span mental and physical development, to how the family dynamic differs between cultures. Of course, living in the U.S., we focus primarily on Americans. I also read lots of textbooks with information.
I read about studies conducted to see how a mother’s age can affect her unborn child, and the struggles many children face when malnourished in lower socioeconomic status (SES) regions. Something I’ve noticed in reading in two particular textbooks is how one-sided and matter-of-fact they make all the poor outcomes seem to be. They both have tendencies to focus on the negative and make them appear almost unavoidable simply because of “unfavorable” circumstances.
Some of the most infuriating information is about adoption and unplanned pregnancies. Now I do want to point out that this may very well be the author’s interpretation of the studies done, but for people who are unfamiliar with adoption and the struggles of an unplanned pregnancy, they paint a very dark and bleak picture for both the child and birth parents. I would like to debunk a lot of the misconceptions they are spreading to students.
“Adoption agencies try to ensure a good fit by seeking parents of the same ethnic and religious backgrounds as the child and, where possible, try to choose parents who are the same age as typical biological parents.”
I understand things were different only a decade ago when open adoptions weren’t as common and social workers didn’t have the same amount of studies to draw upon when learning about the field. But may I be so bold as to say that birth parents are not incapable of choosing a family for their child. They are just as, if not more qualified, and want nothing more than the wellbeing of their child. They aren’t going to discount every family that isn’t their same race or age. They choose families they think will raise their children with love, respect, and in a safe environment.
“The biological mother may have been unable to care for the child because of problems believed to be genetic, such as alcoholism or severe depression.”
Not once is it mentioned that birth mothers can be stable, normal individuals who happened to get pregnant at an unexpected time. This particular book alludes that adopted children having struggles are most likely caused by their biological families; whether it be unfavorable heredity or a “history of conflict-ridden family relationships.” While this can be true for some, it is not true for all. By failing to point out any other circumstances a birth mother could have, adoption sounds like most children will be hard to manage and their birth families are unsafe, which is not always the case.
“Many teenagers give birth to children who are unwanted at the time of conception. But married people also bear children who are unwanted at the time of conception. The fact that a child is not wanted at the time of conception does not mean that the child is still unwanted at birth, of course.”
This is the thing that upset me most of all. Based on my experience and conversations with others in similar situations, whether it be a pregnant teen or a pregnant adult, it isn’t the child that is unwanted. It is the responsibility, lifestyle changes, cost, and other factors that are unwanted. To say that a child could be wanted only after their birth is ridiculous to me. Children do not go unwanted until they are placed in the parent’s arms – whether that be a birth parent or adoptive parent. It is just silly to tell a bunch of students something so heartless and distorted.
Again, I understand this could all be because of the wording the author chose. However, to phrase things so negatively in university-level textbooks when students are trying to learn how to help people in these situations is more of a hindrance. This is all part of being informed. It’s not just about getting a ton of tests and statistics from noteworthy researchers and facilities. It’s about being truthful, accurate, and fair to all sides of a situation so there is understanding for all parties. I do not want to belittle these books, the authors, or the research. I just want students, as well as the community, who don’t have firsthand involvement in adoptions to have accurate and complete information provided for them.
The first two articles quoted were from:
Berk, L. E. (2013). Development Through the Lifespan, 6th Edition.New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.
The third one quoted was from:
Lauer, R. H. & Lauer, J. C. (2012) Marriage & Family: The Quest for Intimacy, 8th Edition. Boston: McGraw-Hill.