November is a month recognizing National Adoption Awareness, which concentrates not only on the importance of adoption-related topics, it’s also a time to remember that our nation is full of foster children waiting for a permanent home.
In 2014, there were 50,600 foster-adopted children within the United States, which were a result of parental rights terminated, or due to abandonment. The amount of children in foster care, who are waiting for adoption hovers around 26 percent, which ranges from 102,000 to 108,000 based upon the 415,000 kids who are in foster care nationwide on any given day. Because of circumstances, the variation of children’s needs, ages, backgrounds and cultural standards can weigh down the placement for many kids, but being adopted has a lifelong impact to any child that feels unwanted.
As the writer of this topic, I can proudly share that this is a topic close to my heart, as I was adopted at six weeks of age. There are many aspects surrounding the subject of “adoption” so it is best to present several individual stories throughout November, in an effort to educate and present a small understanding to a subject that is commonly not known as the Adoption Triad.
Within the adoption community and counseling arenas, there is a triangle which labels an “adoptee” at the top and birthparent(s) at the left of the base and across from that is the adoptive parent(s). Adoption has many variations, influenced by societal changes within our cultures. Before the mid 1960’s, adoptions were considered “closed” which left both the birth parent(s) and the adopting parent(s) anonymous. This also left the adoptee without details of their own life, such as their true nationality or potential medical issues.
There were records taken, but the collective facts or extensive details were only as good as the record keeper at the time of adoption. Many older adoptees can attest to the lack of information taken upon their birth, much of which would’ve been enough to suffice any basic questions or concerns, but it was not a concentration within that era.
As time moved on and society was opening up to a free, less restrictive movement, “open adoptions” began to slowly catch on. In an open adoption, there was at first the potential for an adoptee to make contact once they were 18 years old, through the agency in which the adoption took place. This created at least the ability for an adoptee to check their records and possibly make contact with the birth parent, should both parties agree. The stigma was still in place that both parties had to agree to the open policy, which sometimes never manifested an actual face-to-face meeting.
Today there are “open adoptions” which include the adopting parents in the birthing process and beyond. With an open communication agreement, pictures can be shared throughout the adoptee’s childhood. It is not unusual for both sides to call one another, or plan visits through the child’s lifetime as a co-involvement.
This was unheard of in the adoptions done primarily in the Pre-Vietnam era, as there was not only a closed adoption – it was also considered a closed conversation. Unwed mothers were sent away to have their children, with some mother’s never seeing their child or being told the sex of the child they had birthed. The topic was hushed and most times buried away as a bad memory, while the adopting parents united with a precious new gift, given to them as a fulfillment to their family unit.
Today there are overseas adoptions, specialized agency adoptions, internet adoptions with better documentation and different adoption guidelines to meet today’s society. United States citizens adopted nearly 13,000 children from 106 different countries in 2009; a little more than two-thirds of all children coming from China, Ethiopia, Russia, South Korea and Guatemala as the predominant five countries. There are estimates of $20,000 to $35,000 for out of country adoption costs, and some governments propose strict rules which require that the adopting parent be a couple, married, be working in successful careers, be under 50 years old and healthy.
The criteria and attitudes about adoption may have changed, but the underlying fulfillment remains the same. There are children that are in need of a secure, stable home who would love to find parents to love them. There are birth parents who are not ready to raise a child properly, who need guidance toward an adoption decision.
The next article in this series will be dealing with the topic of the adoptees, exploring the feelings of the adoptee. What are the questions and adjustments for a child? How do adoptees adjust to knowing they were given away by a birth parent? Some local adoptees will be weighing in with their experiences.