The arrival of June means summer is here and school is out. But before that final school bell sounded, many students suffered through final exams to test what they had learned in their classes. Like school students, prospective adoptive parents are also on a learning journey. There is a great deal to know about adoption. Could you pass a final exam on this subject? Take this true or false test to find out.
1. Only babies are adopted.
False. The common perception of adoption is that it involves bouncing bundles of joy being placed with ecstatic adoptive parents, and many adoptions fit this mold. In private adoptions, 62% of children are placed in their adoptive homes within a month of birth. But plenty of adoptions involve adoptees who are not newborns or even babies.
Adoptions out of foster care rarely involve infants. Over 60% of children in foster care are in the system for two to five years prior to being adopted, and the average age of a child in the system awaiting adoption is 7.7 years old. With over 66,000 adoptions out of foster care in FY 2018 and some 63,000 adopted out of foster care in FY 2018, clearly, thousands of children (who are not babies) are adopted yearly.
Adults can be adopted as well as infants and children. Such adoptions are, in fact, more common than ever. This type of adoption may occur when stepparents adopt their grown stepchildren, when foster parents adopt long-time foster children when those children reach legal age, or when someone adopts to provide care for an adult with a disability or diminished capacity.
2. An adoptee who is famous is rare.
False. Many public figures are adoptees. Dave Thomas, the founder of the fast-food restaurant chain Wendy’s, is probably the highest-profile adoptee. Thomas was open about being adopted and became actively involved with adoption efforts during his life. His Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is the only public nonprofit U.S. charity focused exclusively on foster care adoption.
Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, Inc., is another adoptee who found success in the business world. Jobs was adopted as an infant. His biological father was a Syrian graduate student studying in the United States; Jobs’ mother was a college student in a class for which his father was serving as a teaching assistant.
Adoptees also populate the fields of sports. Figure skater Scott Hamilton was adopted as an infant. Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles’ biological grandparents adopted her.
The entertainment field boasts its share of adoptees as well, including country singer Faith Hill, actor Ray Liotta, Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth, and Oscar winner Frances McDormand. Hill, Liotta, and Chenoweth were adopted as infants, while McDormand was adopted when she was 1 year old.
Well-known actor Jack Nicholson was born to a 17-year-old birth mother and adopted by his grandparents. It was not until he was age 37 that Nicholson learned that the woman he viewed as his sister was really his biological mother and that his parents were really his grandparents.
3. International adoptions are on the rise.
False. The number of international adoptions rose for decades but then dropped dramatically after 2004. For example, 19,942 such adoptions were completed by U.S. citizens in 2007, but only 9,319 were completed in 2011. Why such a dramatic drop in numbers? Foreign countries have become more restrictive in regulating adoptions in recent years. In addition, sentiment has been growing in countries such as China and Russia against sending orphans abroad. Countries do not like to feel that they are incapable of providing for their own people, especially their children.
4. Guatemala is currently a popular country for Americans to adopt from.
False. Between the 1990s and the mid-2000s, tens of thousands of Guatemalan children were adopted internationally. According to State Department estimates, 30,000 of these children were adopted in the U.S. alone. Unfortunately, some Guatemalans began using their country’s legal adoption system as a business from which to profit. They stole and sold children for adoption. Because of widespread fraud and corruption, Guatemala halted new intercountry adoptions in 2007. Americans cannot currently adopt from Guatemala.
5. Accounts of adoption are found in the Bible.
True. Adoption plays a part in some familiar Biblical stories. Moses was born in Egypt to a Hebrew birth mother at a time when Pharaoh had ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed. Hoping to save Moses’ life, his mother placed him in a basket in the Nile River; his floating basket was discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter when she went to the river to bathe. She rescued the Hebrew child and took him home to raise as her own son, meaning she adopted him.
Esther was the Jewish queen of King Ahasuerus. She was chosen to be queen when the king sought a new wife after his queen, Vashti, refused to obey him. Esther, an orphan, had been taken in and raised by her cousin Mordecai, basically an instance of a relative adoption.
6. Infertility is the only reason people pursue adoption.
False. While infertility, either primary or secondary (the inability to have additional biological children), is a common reason for prospective adoptive parents to pursue adoption, it is by no means the only reason for doing so. Health issues can also prompt those desiring to have children to turn to adoption. A concern may exist about passing on an inheritable disease or it may be risky for a woman to become pregnant due to medical conditions she has.
In a kinship adoption, the impetus is typically not a desire to have children. The motivation in these circumstances may simply be the desire to preserve a family connection. Grandparent adoptions are good examples of this scenario. The grandparent may be past the childbearing age, but the existing bond with the grandchild (biological and emotional) fuels the desire to adopt.
Religious beliefs are another factor in taking the adoption path. Individuals on this path feel compassion for children in need and feel it is incumbent upon them, who have been blessed materially, to help them.
7.Adoption is a modern development.
False. Adoption was recognized as early as some four thousand years ago in the Code of Hammurabi. That code was a Babylonian legal text composed around 1755 to 1750 B.C. and was one of the earliest and most complete legal codes. Hammurabi, the Babylonian king who reigned from 1792 to 1750 B.C., purportedly wrote the code which includes an explanation of the rights of those adopting and the responsibilities of adoptees.
Roman law also addressed adoption. Such laws were explained by the Code of Justinian, an early 6th century A.D. codification of Roman law ordered by Justinian I, a Byzantine emperor in Constantinople.
In contrast to these early legal treatments of adoption, the first statute regarding adoption in the United States was not enacted until 1851. The modern era of adoption began with Massachusetts passing the Adoption of Children Act that year.1851 Adoption of
8. Adoptions have decreased since 1970 due to social stigma.
False. According to The Adoption History Project, adoptions were at the height of their popularity in 1970. However, the adoption rate and the total number of adoptions have been declining since that date. The century high point of 175,000 adoptions in 1970 has been followed by a sharp drop in the number of children adopted in recent years, approximately 125,000 per year.
Paradoxically, the number of adoptions has dropped even while adoption itself has become more visible. The rise in transracial and international adoptions, which create families where the parents and children may not look anything alike, has contributed to the attention given to adoption. Such attention has led to an increased acceptance of adoption and less social stigma.
What, then, has produced this dramatic drop in adoptions since 1970? Several factors have played a role including the introduction of the birth control pill, legalization of abortion, better family-planning services provided to young and low-income women, and declining fertility rates.
The decline in fertility rates has been dramatic. The year 2020 was not only the year of the pandemic, but it was the sixth consecutive year the number of births has declined in this country. The 2020 rate was the lowest since 1979. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, the current level is “below replacement”. This characterization means more people are dying daily than are being born. Fewer babies are thus available to be placed because fewer babies are born overall.
9. Three main categories of adoptions exist in the United States.
True. Prospective adoptive parents in this country have three options available to them as to how to adopt a child. First, they may adopt a child out of foster care, a process involving an adoption from a state itself. Second, they may adopt a child from a foreign country such as China; this process is known as an international or intercountry adoption. Third, prospective adoptive parents may adopt domestically. In this category, the child is adopted from a non-government resource in this country with the assistance of an adoption agency or adoption attorney. While all of these options involved an adoptee, prospective adoptive parents, and the legal system, the procedures, costs, and timeframes vary widely between these options
10. Native American heritage will impact the adoption process.
True. While adoption is a matter of state law, federal law does dictate what must happen when an “Indian child,” as defined by federal statute, is to be placed for adoption. In 1978, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act. Its enactment was prompted by the practices of state entities that tended to remove inordinately large numbers of Native American children from their homes. The law’s stated purpose was to
“protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards for the removal of Indian children from their families and the placement of children in foster or adoptive homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture….”
Per the U.S. Code, an inquiry must be made in every adoption situation as to whether the biological parents have any Native American ancestry. The information obtained about this background is typically written up in a document often referred to as an Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) Affidavit.
Determining the applicability of ICWA is not an easy task. The federal law defines an “Indian child” as “an unmarried child under eighteen who is a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe or eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe….” While determining the adoptee’s age and marital status are straightforward, the rest of the definition is less so.
An adoptee’s Native American heritage is only a concern if the tribe is federally recognized and the adoptee is either a tribe member or eligible for membership in such a tribe. Numerous tribes exist, and not all of them are federally recognized; furthermore, each tribe sets its own requirements for eligibility to be a member. Research will take time and effort and may increase the cost of an adoption and the length of time required to finalize it. If a child is determined to be an “Indian child,” further steps such as notice to the tribe and specific procedures and timing for a parent to execute a consent to the adoption must be followed.
As if complying with ICWA itself is not daunting enough, the constitutionality of the federal law has been called into question. A federal district court in Texas found ICWA to be unconstitutional on several grounds including a violation of the Equal Protection Clause for being based on race. A recent lengthy and divided opinion by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in that case has further muddied the waters on ICWA’s validity. An appeal to the United States Supreme Court is likely and may greatly impact adoption practice where adoptees have Native American ancestry.
Adoption is a broad subject with many concepts and facts to be aware of. While no prospective adoptive parent will be required to take a test of adoption knowledge to be allowed to adopt, a good understanding of adoption makes for a more enlightened adoption journey. A grasp of what is and is not true about the process may even be the difference between success and failure in a quest to adopt.