Adoption Myths Guide

Whether you're adopting domestically, internationally or through foster care, there are many misconceptions about adoption.

Sarah M. Baker January 21, 2015

Whether you are considering adoption for yourself or would like to debunk some common adoption myths for friends and family, we are here to help you!  Adoption can be a scary topic, especially as things have changed with how adoptions work now verses 20+ years ago.  Built on fear and lack of knowledge, myths and misconceptions form.  Horror stories told through the grapevine become distorted versions of the truth, and that is all people cling to.  So let’s set the record straight on some of the most common myths in the adoption world.  Open your mind and put your fears to rest.  We won’t sugarcoat the truth, but rather inform you so you can make the best decision for your family and educate your friends and extended family along your journey.

Are you considering growing your family through domestic infant adoption? For a free and confidential consultation with an adoption professional, click here.

Adoption Myth: You have to be rich to adopt
1. Adoption Myth: You have to be rich to adopt

While being financially stable may be a requirement, it doesn’t mean you have to be wealthy to adopt. You may be required to show your debt ratio, incoming vs. outgoing funds or even a be subjected to a credit report, but this is more for demonstrating your fiscal responsibility and ability to have positive cash flow while adding to your family. You don’t want to be living beyond your means and then find out that affording another mouth to feed, body to clothe, and mind to educate is beyond your capabilities.

Adoption Myth: You cannot love adopted children the same as if they were biological
2. Adoption Myth: You cannot love adopted children the same as if they were biological

When starting the adoption process you may fear that you may not bond with or love the child the same way you would if he or she were born to you. We find love in many ways. Our spouses aren’t related to us; sometimes we love friends more than family!

Many parents of biological children actually experience similar fears about bonding and attachment. For some adoptive parents the love is immediate, but sometimes it takes time to develop. As a parent of both a biological son and a son through adoption, I can tell you, I adore them both. My love didn’t divide, it multiplied. They are both my sons through and through.

Adoption Myth: You can’t have any medical issues to adopt
3. Adoption Myth: You can’t have any medical issues to adopt

While some medical ailments can throw a hurdle into your adoption journey or even prevent you from adopting, many people have some sort of medical problem that will not foil their plans to adopt.

Most home studies will require a medical report. You will be asked to list anything you are currently being treated for, medications, and prognosis. They may additionally ask for a letter or form to be filled out by the doctors who are treating you stating that none of your medical diagnoses will prevent you from parenting. It’s usually a simple and uncomplicated step. If you have obstacles, working with your doctor in advance to overcome them will better prepare you for this portion of your adoption process.

Adoption Myth: Adoption is expensive
4. Adoption Myth: Adoption is expensive

This myth is half true. The answer is not so simple as true or false. It depends on the type of adoption you are pursing. Adoption can range from free to over $50,000. While foster care adoption is free or has minimal costs, there can be hidden costs if the children need therapy or additional care. With private adoption you have many routes to take and depending on the state or agency you work with, the fees can vary greatly. International adoption tends to be about the same price as domestic adoption, but travel costs can add up. There are many ways to pursue adoption, and doing plenty of research to find the route that best fits your family and pocket book will pay off. Second jobs, fundraising, grants, loans, and adoption tax credit can help families in their adoption efforts.

Adoption Myth: You can’t/shouldn’t parent outside your race
5. Adoption Myth: You can’t/shouldn’t parent outside your race

There are many resources out there for parenting beyond your race. It is an individual decision that only you can make. When weighing your ability, you will need to account for your knowledge, your willingness to incorporate culture and history, your family’s influence, your friends, your neighborhood, church, school, and potential future obstacles. If you are considering parenting outside your race, it can be done! You will find an abundance of support and resources in the adoption community. Your child will grow up with an amazing amount of knowledge about two cultures if you provide that. Parenting outside your race will not be without challenges, but it will be worth it!

Public Adoption Myth: You can only adopt teens through foster care
6. Public Adoption Myth: You can only adopt teens through foster care

400,540 children are in the U.S. foster care system. Most children are placed temporarily in foster care due to parental abuse or neglect. The median age of a child in foster care is 9 years old; however, the highest percentage of children in foster care are between the ages of 1-5 years old. As children age, they become increasingly more difficult to be adopted. An abundance of teens are still waiting for their forever homes.

Public Adoption Myth: Children from foster care all have special needs, are violent, or are troubled
7. Public Adoption Myth: Children from foster care all have special needs, are violent, or are troubled

While many children in foster care do indeed have some special needs that need addressing, it doesn’t mean they are troubled or violent. These children have suffered a terrible loss and sometimes a traumatic early life. They are strong and capable of healing. They may test boundaries, push buttons, need time, extra love and support, or even medical, therapeutic or educational assistance, but it is not something that should keep you from considering public adoption. Education is your best defense and preventative measure in succeeding in this type of adoption!

Public Adoption Myth: You can’t have an open adoption if you adopt through foster care
9. Public Adoption Myth: You can’t have an open adoption if you adopt through foster care

While often public adoptions are legally “closed” adoptions, it is possible to have a healthy open adoption. Open adoptions can look very different in every situation. Some open adoptions are just shared information, knowledge, medical history, etc. While other open adoptions can include letters, updates and pictures. When it’s healthy and safe, open adoptions from foster care can also include visits and mending relationships. Open adoptions through public adoption sometimes are not with the birth parents, but with siblings, aunts and uncles or grandparents. Biological connection can be very important to an adopted child, but under some circumstances it can also do more harm than good. You must work hard to maintain a safe and healthy environment for your child.

Public Adoption Myth: You have to be a foster parent before adopting through foster care
10. Public Adoption Myth: You have to be a foster parent before adopting through foster care

Many people who adopt from foster care do not foster the children or other children prior to adoption. While many people do foster before adopting, it’s not a requirement. There is a high demand for foster parents who are willing to work toward reunification of the birth parents and their children if parental rights are not terminated. Those people are very valuable to the foster program. The need to have foster families available for those situations is key to running the program, but there are many children that are past the point of ever being reunited with their birth family and are looking for their forever family. That’s where people who would like to adopt come in!

Private Adoption Myth: Open adoption is too confusing for a child
11. Private Adoption Myth: Open adoption is too confusing for a child

This seems to be a huge misconception about adoption. While open adoption can be confusing and emotional for young children who are trying to understand their place in a family, it is not always confusing and typically the good outweighs the bad. Many studies have been done on how the adopted child is more confident, has a more solid self-identity, and copes better with their adoption when there is openness. Adult adoptees from closed adoptions have been asked about their experience and most begin their search for their birth family as soon as they are able to. Open adoption does not mean co-parenting and does not diminish the role the adoptive parents play in everyday life. But it does provide children with roots and a foundation to understanding who they are and how much they are loved.

Click here for more information on open adoption.

Private Adoption Myth: Adoption takes years of waiting before placement
12. Private Adoption Myth: Adoption takes years of waiting before placement

The fact is, every adoption is different. When we first started talking about adoption to our family members, we heard a lot of “It will take 5 years or more!” from people. Horror stories are something you hear more than the good stories. It largely depends on many different factors. What route are you pursuing in adoption? What are your set preferences on what you are looking for in your adoption? What is your budget? What are the placement rates of the professional you are working with?

I know people who have waited less than a week for their placement after going active with an agency, some just a few months and others for more than a year or two. Doing research prior to signing with an adoption professional will help you in your journey.

For more domestic adoption stories, click here.

Private Adoption Myth: Birth mothers are all troubled, poverty stricken or addicts
13. Private Adoption Myth: Birth mothers are all troubled, poverty stricken or addicts

Birth mothers (and fathers) don’t wear horns. They are usually not bad people. They have come to a decision to make an adoption plan for many reasons. Often fear, love, future, lifestyle, or other circumstances play a role. It doesn’t make them bad people; It also doesn’t make them saints. They are human. The average birth mother is in her early twenties and often parenting another child or has other hopes for her future but is not in a place to parent this child.

You can read stories written about or by real birth mothers on Adoption.com by clicking here.

Private Adoption Myth: Birth parents can come back at any time to take a child back
14. Private Adoption Myth: Birth parents can come back at any time to take a child back

In most cases, adoptions are not contested. When the Termination of Parental Rights is signed, most states either have a set period for revocation or they are irrevocable upon signing. Depending on how the adoption is procured, the finalization will take place and that makes it a done deal. Birth parents in private adoption usually make the adoption plan on their own accord for reasons that are important to them. They may at times feel a great loss, but they placed their child with you for a reason. Short of coercion, fraud, or other illegal activities, once an adoption is final, there is no “coming back for their child." In today’s adoption climate, open adoption is becoming the norm and allows birth parents to have a connection to the child that they previously may not have had. It is not something to fear.

International Adoption Myth: International adoption costs more than domestic adoption
15. International Adoption Myth: International adoption costs more than domestic adoption

International adoption and domestic adoption fees vary greatly depending on many factors. Some international countries are more expensive to adopt from based on the legal fees, orphanage fees, and travel costs. But some agencies that facilitate domestic adoptions also have very large fees that can compare or even be more than some international adoptions. Researching what an agency's fees are for and understanding the breakdown in costs will help you decide what you are comfortable with and how much you can afford.

International Adoption Myth: You won’t have to “deal” with the birth parents if you adoption internationally
16. International Adoption Myth: You won’t have to “deal” with the birth parents if you adoption internationally

The birth family will always be a part of your child’s life whether you have a direct relationship or not. The connection will always be there. Your child may struggle more with the unknown and desperately need to find a way to relate to their culture, society, country and family ties. Understanding that out of sight does not mean out of mind is an important part of educating yourself about international adoption. It is possible in some situations to have an open adoption with international adoptions.

International Adoption Myth: International adoption is easier than domestic adoption
17. International Adoption Myth: International adoption is easier than domestic adoption

Ease of adoption is something that is a personal viewpoint. What you look for in an adoption and what you find easy is dependent on your own situation. There are different laws, guidelines, and training for international adoption. Adoption in general is not for the faint of heart. You will learn new strengths you never knew you had when pursing any adoption route.

For international adoption stories click here.

International Adoption Myth: International adoption is more self-sacrificing than domestic adoption
18. International Adoption Myth: International adoption is more self-sacrificing than domestic adoption

Adoption shouldn’t be about YOU. There has been a recent movement to “save orphans.” It is very rewarding to parent a child and that is what adoption is about—parenting. It is not about praise from your community, friends, or church congregation. It is about connection, youth, providing, loving, and being a family. If your adopted child is a prize or badge of honor, you may be doing this for the wrong reason.

Adoption Myth: No one else understands
19. Adoption Myth: No one else understands

One wonderful thing about infertility and adoption is that there is a huge community of resources out there of people who DO understand what you are going through. They will help you learn, provide support, give advice, and help you navigate the sometimes-confusing waters.

Visit our forums to find topics that pertain to your specific adoption questions.

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Sarah M. Baker

Sarah is a Staff Storyteller for Adoption.com and passionate about teaching others the power of open adoption. She is very active in the adoption community, where she spends a lot of time advocating as the founder of Heart For Open Adoption. She is the mom of two boys in addition to parenting her niece. She is a mother biologically and through domestic infant open adoption. Sarah promotes adoption education and ethical adoptions. She and her husband were featured on Season 2 of Oxygen’s “I’m Having Their Baby,” which tells the story of their first adoption match failing. Sarah hopes to bring her personal experience to you and help anyone who wants more information about adoption to find it with ease. Though it was once a taboo subject, Sarah hopes to make adoption something people are no longer afraid to talk about. You can learn more about Sarah and her family on her blog.


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