Should I write a post just about what adoption is? Is that boring because people already know? The answer is no…they do not know. It’s interesting how much people do not know, considering how many people are actually adopted. I bet you know a few people yourself who are. My best friend as a child was adopted, as are several people I know today. Many celebrities are as well, but you wouldn’t know until they show up on a “Guess Who Is Adopted” Buzzfeed list.
Much of the adoption world is shrouded in secrecy. I don’t think it has to be that way. I respect the right to privacy, but I believe a better awareness needs to exist in this country as to what adoption means. This is hard because every adoption story is different; however, I have gleaned from talking to many people, even some close friends, that there is a lack of “common knowledge” when it comes to adoption. This is mainly due to the fact that adoptions of the past were all closed, not open.
About eight months before our son was born, during our wait, on an evening full of wine and Cards Against Humanity, a few friends asked us about the process. One friend, visibly confused, asked, “I don’t get it–does the birth mom get to see the kid again?” I began explaining about open vs. closed adoptions and she interjected, “Like to me, adoption is a baby in a dumpster and they call you to come get it.” That was a blunt statement. That taught me that people just don’t know. It’s not ignorance, not stupidity. My friend is a very intelligent girl; but like many people, she just didn’t know what adoption meant.
Nia Vardalos (the lady from My Big Fat Greek Wedding), adopted a child after thirteen tries with IVF. Her book, Instant Mom, is a great read for those considering adopting an older child. She discusses one contributing factor to lack of adoption awareness–the media. The media doesn’t like to report about anything other than extremes. You will hear crazy stories on the news about people kidnapping children, or fighting over custody and driving to another state, or the desperate wannabe mom who stabbed a lady and tried to take her unborn baby. These are media field days. But know this: those are rare occurrences. They just make it seem as if adoption is lawlessness and chaos.
On the other hand, the media has also perpetuated the myth of the “saint-like” adoptive parent who is “rescuing” a child, as if they are some shelter dog and Sarah McLachlan is crooning in the background. It is bizarre to experience this. I called about our insurance one day and the lady asked why we were making adjustments with our account. I explained we had to because we were adopting a child. “Wow! Good for you! What a great thing you are doing, bravo! That is so wonderful,” she gushed. I went stiff, not knowing how to respond, and murmured “Um, thanks.” We really don’t feel like rescuers. I mean, we want a child too. We want a family… so there’s a “self-serving” reason beyond “rescuing.” I would never say it’s “selfish” though. We are not selfish people for wanting a family.
No price is ever put on a human being’s life.
Researching adoption online is overwhelming. It’s an extraordinary task to sift through the numerous sites and choose your path. I can promise you though, your time researching is well spent. Do read the fine print and don’t rely on hearsay. Each site will convince you that their way is the way to go. Trust your instincts. Know that whatever you choose, it is going to be only a framework. Within that framework are complicated creatures: people. No two families will experience the same adoption, even if they use the same type of adoption.
You can adopt internationally, domestically, privately, with an agency, or from the state foster system. Domestic infant adoption is our path and that’s what I can answer the most questions about. First of all, please know there are numerous laws in place to protect all parties involved in an adoption. No, a birth mother cannot just “come and take back” a child after a year. Conversely, we do not get to “choose a child” from a shiny book of orphans. Another important point: a child does not cost anything. No price is ever put on a human being’s life. There are tons of expenses, yes, but they go to the agency for the work they do in handling paperwork, matching, counseling, etc…
Think adoption “doesn’t happen” anymore? The National Council for Adoption estimates that 20,000 or more U.S. born infants are placed for adoption each year–slightly more than the 19,000 international adoptions. Yes, adoption is still happening, and yes, the landscape has changed–an adoption today is not a 1950’s adoption. One growing trend is the decision of having an “open” relationship between birth mothers, children, and adoptive parents. We chose a local adoption agency that facilitates open adoption arrangements.
Adoption paperwork is overwhelming: autobiographies, reference checks, background checks, fingerprinting, family histories, medical histories, child preference forms, and the social worker home visit (a stressful time involving creation of an emergency survival tub, cleaning of things you didn’t know needed cleaning, and for us, trying to appear wholesome whilst husband is recovering from food poisoning and wife is hobbling around on a broken toe). After you’re approved as a waiting family, there are more forms- declaring you’ll let the agency know if you travel, declaring you agree to foster the child until adoption is finalized in court, etc…
For those involved with adoption, explaining the process can seem like a burden. Natural parents with natural families do not have to deal with all these questions. They don’t have to defend it or explain who the birth mother is or be judged for choosing a certain race or gender of child. It is up to those like us, who are involved, to dispel the myths and inform more people about the process. Most importantly, the children need this awareness. They need to understand (A) Adoption is forever. (B) They are safe (C) They are loved (by adoptive as well as birth mothers and fathers who placed them, not “gave them up”).