Adoption in America
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In the last four decades, the concept of the American family has undergone a radical transformation, reflecting society's growing openness. Among all segments of society, there is a greater acceptance of a variety of family structures from single parenting to blended families to same sex parenting of children. The introduction of openness into the process of adoption offers new opportunities for children in need of a parent or parents and prospective parents wishing to create or expand their families. Meeting the requirements to become eligible to adopt no longer means being constrained by the conventions of an earlier generation.
As defined in Children of Open Adoption by Kathleen Silber and Patricia Martinez Dorner (Silber and Dorner, pg 9):
Open adoption includes the birthparents and adoptive parents meeting one another, sharing full identifying information, and having access to ongoing contact over the years. . . .In open adoption, the birthfamily is extended family, like other relatives within the adoptive family.
Current statistics show that open adoptions are increasing in the United States. Despite the challenges and emotional issues involved in open adoption, its incidence is growing and providing a means for families to share their lives in different ways and allowing adoptive children to feel positive about themselves and about adoption.
Statistics show that the rate of adoption has grown since the 1900s. In 1944, about 50,000 adoptions took place in the U.S. The greatest known number of adoptions took place in 1970 when 175,000 children were adopted. Currently, there is only limited statistical information on U.S. adoptions. (Child Welfare Information Par. 2) The most complete statistics were gathered by the National Center for Social Statistics (NCSS) from 1957 through 1975. Most new statistical information about adoption is being gathered and analyzed by private organizations, through private surveys and research. (National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, http://statistics.adoption.com/information/adoption-statistics-overview.html)
States with the highest number of adoptions are states with greater populations, with California, New York, and Texas generally leading the nation. In 2000 about 9,054 adoptions took place in the state of California alone. (Child Welfare Information par. 1) In 2001, New York had the highest number of adoptions with 10,209 cases. In 69% of public and private agency adoptions, the birth parents had met the adoptive couple. (Berry, 1991)
Societal attitudes toward adoption have made great advances since the 1900s, both in the understanding of the complexities of adoption and the acceptance of adoption as a positive path for children.
It is estimated that about 1 million children in the United States live with adoptive parents, and that between 2% to 4% of American families include an adopted child. (Stolley, 1993)
The majority of Americans are personally affected by adoption. A 1997 survey by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Insititute found that 6 in 10 Americans have had personal experience with adoption, meaning that they themselves, a family member, or a close friend was adopted, had adopted a child, or had placed a child for adoption. (Evan B. Donaldson Institute, 1997)
Along with adoption come stereotypes and myths which can make it difficult for parents to want or to be able to adopt. Some people assume that it¡¯s harder to love a child whose not of the own parent¡¯s blood. But sometimes it seems as though adoptive parents love their child even more when their child is adopted. People also assume that children who are adopted are insecure, poorly adjusted and more prone to behavioral problems than other children.(Institution for Adoption, Russ Logan par. 4) Most of the time people don¡¯t understand the pressure and guilt that the birthmother has to endure when making the decision to give up her baby. When a mother becomes pregnant there is a lot of pressure from parents, family and professionals to give up the child. It can be extremely difficult for a mother to be unselfish and do what¡¯s best for her baby but she eventually learns to have flexibility. After the mother gives birth and picks a family for her child there is always the option of open adoption.
Open adoption actively involves the three affected parties ¨C birthparents, child, and adoptive parents. The adoptive parents want a child of their own to care for and to love as their own but on the other hand the birthparents are feeling guilt and sadness at the loss of their child and might want to see their child on a regular basis. There are a lot of things to consider during the process of adoption.
Pros and Cons of Open Adoption
Adoption is a big decision for birthparents (and adoptive parents). There are so many factors to consider when putting a child up for adoption and also when adopting a child. A majority of the time the birth father isn¡¯t even considered in the decision. Birthparents often begin to second guess their decision of adoption usually after the birth of their child. They get attached instantly and don¡¯t want to give the child up. There are lots of pros and cons and some people don¡¯t even consider when they make comments about adoptive parents and children and open adoption.
In 1982, Kathleen Silber and Phyllis Speedlin wrote a groundbreaking book about open adoptions, ¡°Dear Birthmother, Thank You For Our Baby.¡± This book opened an ongoing dialog on the subject of open adoption. The authors present open adoption as being child-centered and about love, honesty, trust, and communication. It is about making a lifelong commitment ¨C and it isn¡¯t easy. No lifetime commitment is easy and this one, that brings to the fore our roles as parents ¨C whether by adoption or biology ¨C is one of the most sensitive and complex. (http://open.adoption.com, par. 4¨C7)
Below are some of the common pros and cons of open adoption.
¡ñ There is less pain and guilt for the birth mother to endure because she knows that her child is in a better environment than she could¡¯ve provided
¡ñ The adoptive parents are ecstatic about being chosen as a parent
¡ñ The child has more attachment to the family that they¡¯re in because they know that they¡¯re birth parent is there and didn¡¯t completely desert them.
(Pros and Cons of Open Adoption, Par. 2)
¡ñ The birth parents might feel the pressure to choose open adoption so they won¡¯t feel as guilty about the choice they made.
¡ñ Sometimes the adoptive parents feel obliged to let the birth parents stay in contact with the child because they feel they owe it to the mother for giving up the child.
¡ñ If the contact stops the child might feel unwanted and rejected because of the birth mother¡¯s decision to not interfere with the adoptee and the new family.
In general, as the growing trend in open adoption indicates, the positive aspects of open adoption outweigh the difficulties. (Pros and Cons of Open Adoption par. 2)
Every child is a blessing and every child deserves a loving home. Birth parents have seen that giving a child up for adoption can be one of the best choices they could ever make for their child. Even though parents may not want to have to give up a child and not even have a child in the first place, killing an innocent life for the parents mistake is not right. If people want to act irresponsibly then they need to take responsibility for their actions and at least give the child a good and loving home which every child deserves no matter their situation.
In the past few decades the number of open adoptions has increased significantly. Gone are the secretiveness and forced confidentiality of prior generations of adoptions. One of the ongoing challenges for adoptive families is convincing relatives and friends that open adoption is not something to be feared and uncomfortable about.
Most importantly, experts say, biological and adoptive parents must remember that open adoption is about meeting the needs of children, not adults. Openness does not magically wipe away feelings of grief, fear, or insecurity involved in an adoptive placement. ¡°It removes the mystery, but it doesn't remove the grief,¡± said Claude Riedel, a psychologist and family therapist who co-directs the Adoptive Family Counseling Center in Minnesota. ¡°The reality is that, at certain stages, it¡¯s normal to have questions: why did you choose not to parent me, not to keep me? And there may be complexities: have you kept your other children, but not me?¡± (Carney, Eliza Newlin, Understanding Open Adoption, www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=577)
Love, honesty, trust, and communication are the basis of Silber and Speedlin¡¯s original premise: that love comes naturally; honesty is a promise we make to our children; and trust builds over time. (http://open.adoption.com, par. 4¨C7)
As with other areas of a more open society, open adoption requires communication to achieve its promise. Open and ongoing communication is the key to the work that needs to be done to enter into a positive open adoption, to keeping it open, and accomplishing its ultimate aim ¨C to bring adopted children a secure sense of who they are and who they can become.