“Yes, I just adopted him. He’s name is Max and he’s a collie.” I have heard phrases similar to this countless times by friends and on television/movies. Our society uses the terms “adopting” or “fostering” a pet as interchangeable with adopting or fostering a child. When I searched online for “adopt pets” there were over 22 million hits. Websites included adoptapet.com and petsmart.com/adoption.
I have never liked the use of “adopt” and “foster” when referring to animals. I feel it degrades their meaning when used in the same manner as adopting or fostering a child. I am a full supporter of helping animals in shelters; I grew up with and continue to have pets. But, I describe it as “rescuing” an animal, not adopting or fostering an animal. Adoption is a lengthy process with serious legal and moral commitment. Adoption of animals should not be used in the same context as adoption of children.
Using the same terms—adoption and fostering—for both children and pets can lead to several unsettling questions for adopted children. What if the “adopted” pet gets returned to the shelter because of behavior problems; will the adopted child think that could happen to him? It also encourages confusion about the adoption process. The process to adopt a pet cannot be compared to adopting a child. Adopting a child involves uncertainties and then more uncertainty. It is not the easy process of pet adoption, which basically consists of going to the humane society or rescue and picking out a pet. Use of the terms “adoption” and “fostering” with animals could cause questions for the adopted child. “Did my birth parents not want me”? Often, people who can’t take care of or who don’t want their pet anymore give it to an animal shelter. Animal Rescues save animals who are not loved. Using the same term could raise doubts in the child that their adoption isn’t permanent; that his birth parents didn’t love him.
Therefore, I hope our society would not equate adopting children with “adopting” pets. I believe it signifies that adopted children are adopted because they were not wanted and sends negative signals.