For those who are unfamiliar with the process, adoption can be confusing. What exactly does it mean? How does it work? Who are the people involved in adoption?
Adoption is more common than you probably think. Today, 135,000 children are adopted in the United States each year, whether from foster care, family members, private domestic agencies or other countries. It’s a beautiful way to create families and far removed from the secrecy and shame associated with adoptions that took place as little as 50 years ago.
If you’re interested in adoption, it’s a good idea to research the many different processes, as each type of adoption is fairly unique. We’ll also provide a general overview of adoption in this article and throughout this website to help you learn more.
How Does Adoption Work?
There are several different ways that adoption can occur. Generally, it takes place when a child is legally and permanently placed with a new family other than their biological parents.
How adoption works varies depending on the specific kind of adoption completed. Here, we’ve explained how the more common adoption processes work:
- Private domestic adoption: A pregnant woman or a woman who has just given birth decides that adoption is the right choice for her baby. An adoption professional connects her with a waiting family, after which they get to meet each other and create a relationship that’s comfortable for them both. Once the woman gives birth, she signs her adoption consent and the adoptive family is able to take their new adopted baby home and legally finalize the process.
- Foster care adoption: While the foster care system is ultimately designed to reunite children with their legal parents, sometimes parents cannot complete the necessary steps to take back custody of their child and provide a safe and stable home. These children are then made available for adoption. They may wait in foster homes until they are placed with an adoptive family after their parents’ rights are terminated in court.
- International adoption: Many children adopted internationally are abandoned or placed into orphanages and foster home when their parents cannot care for them. Prospective parents from other countries are matched with a child through an international adoption agency, and either they or their agency will travel to the child’s home country to meet them and start the international adoption process. After going through the necessary international requirements, the parents can take their new child back to their country.
- Family adoption: The legal parents of a child decide that they cannot parent the way that their child deserves, or certain circumstances make it clear that they cannot raise the child in a safe and stable environment. Rather than place their child with a family through an adoption professional, they decide to have a family member adopt their child through a private legal process.
- Stepparent adoption: When a stepparent to a child wants to become their legal parent, they must complete the legal adoption process. This involves obtaining the consent of the other legal parent involved, because their parental rights will be terminated during this process.
- Adult adoption: These adoptions are commonly completed to formalize an existing parent-child relationship. For example, former foster children may wish to be adopted by their former foster parents, or a child may wish to be adopted by a stepparent or parent figure after they turn 18
In every adoption process, prospective adoptive parents get to decide what kind of child they wish to adopt (their age, their race, their medical conditions, etc.). In private infant adoptions, a pregnant woman can decide what kind of adoptive family she wants to raise her baby and what kind of relationship she wants to have with the adoptive parents before and after placement. This means that every adoption is unique; within each type of adoption, there are many variables that impact the process.
What are Some Important Things to Know about Adoption?
If you haven’t experienced the adoption process or known someone who has, your understanding of adoption may not be entirely accurate. Adoption has changed a lot in the past 50 years, but many people still have lingering misconceptions from the earlier eras of adoption.
Here are some truths you need to understand about the adoption process:
- A woman choosing adoption is not “giving her baby up” or selling them to an adoptive family. When an expectant mother chooses adoption, she does it out of love. She knows that she cannot provide the life she wants for her baby, and so she chooses to place them with a family who can. While an expectant mother may receive some financial assistance for certain living expenses and pregnancy-related costs, she is not directly paid to place her child for adoption and she always has the ability to change her mind any time before she signs her adoption consent.
- Children who are placed for adoption come from many different backgrounds and circumstances. When a child is placed for adoption, it is never their fault. Instead, it’s because their birth or legal parent understands that, for one reason or another, they can’t provide the care and proper parenting their child needs to grow up happy and healthy. While many children in foster care are labeled “special needs,” this doesn’t always mean they have disabilities; it can be because they’re multi-racial, older or part of a sibling group. Of course, there are children who are placed for adoption that have disabilities or medical conditions, but there are also plenty of healthy infants and children who are ready to be adopted, as well.
- Adoptees are not in the dark about their adoption, and birth parents can have contact with their child and the adoptive family. Thanks to pop culture and misinformation, many people think adoption means a birth parent never seeing their child again and a child being raised with no knowledge of their adoption. Fortunately, it’s exactly the opposite; today’s open and semi-open adoptions allow the birth parents to stay in contact with their child’s adoptive family through photos, letters and even in-person meetings. Adoptees never remember a time when they don’t know they’re adopted, thanks to new evidence that openness and acknowledgment is always the best course. Of course, how open an adoption relationship is will vary based on individual situations.
Why Should I Know About Adoption?
Even if you’re not personally involved in the adoption process, it’s important to be educated. Adoption is incredibly common in the United States; in fact, 6 out of 10 Americans have had a personal experience with adoption, either themselves or through a family member or a close friend. So, odds are you will meet someone at some point who was involved in adoption — and it’s important to have the right information so you don’t accidentally offend or upset them with your misconceptions.
Adoption is a wonderful way to build a family, but some people still give it a bad reputation. By learning the truth yourself, you can help prevent these misunderstandings from spreading — instead, helping spread awareness about the joys of adoption.