Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Adoption 101: The Basics

This post is an extract of a presentation I shared with our families over Thanksgiving dinner 2007 to provide them with some basic information about adoption and to inform them of our decision to pursue it.

It's a Brave New World
Much of what you think you know about adoption has probably changed. This is because of major developments in reproduction in the U.S. in general over the last 30 years. Such as:

  • Row v. Wade and birth control
  • Feminism and changes in sexual mores
  • Less stigma to unplanned pregnancy

= many fewer children to adopt

175,000 in 1970
127,000 in 1992 (last year of reliable data)

Adoption has also changed because we now have more social science research about adoption.

For example, we now know:
  • Kids’ levels of socio-emotional adjustment are the same as non-adopted as peers
  • Kids’ levels of self-esteem are the same as non-adopted peers
  • The sense of oneself as an adopted person emerges during adolescence and is related to qualities of relationships within the adolescent’s family
  • The strongest predictor of problematic adjustment outcomes during middle childhood is the parents’ perception of the child’s incompatibility with the family
  • ALL adoptees are curious about their birth families

There are Four Main Types of Adoption in the U.S.

Intra-family Adoptions
About 50,000 per year

Public (state) Adoptions: “Fost Adopt”
About 50,000 per year

Intercountry (international) Adoption
About 24,000 per year

Domestic Private Adoption
About 15,000 per year

2 - 4% of American children are adopted (excluding intra-family)

Domestic Open Adoption: What is It?

Family building that emphasizes openness and honesty!

It's an arrangement allowing for ongoing contact between members of the 'adoption triad' (adoptive family, birth family, and adopted child).

The most basic definition of open adoption is one in which the original birth certificate is not sealed, so the identities of the birthparents can be known.

Birthparents are typically involved in selecting families.

Domestic Open Adoption: The Bad News

  • Many adoptive families = the competition
  • Disruption (about 40% of matches through our agency do not end in adoption)
  • Unpredictable time and cost (because so much depends on the birthmother's situation)

Domestic Open Adoption: The Good News
  • Age of children (M. and I would really like to begin parenting with a newborn)
  • Health and family histories (these are usually available for the birthmother, and sometimes available for the birthfather)
  • Prenatal care (most birthmothers work hard to provide a healthy prenatal environment)
  • More control over match (we can opt out of a situation if it doesn't feel right for us)
  • Cost and time (our adoption will likely cost less and take less time than adopting internationally)
  • And, most important, in our view, it is healthiest for the child (for the reasons presented in the research outlined above and below)

How Open is Open Adoption?

Levels of openness in the relationships vary widely, spanning from mediated contact - which implies letters and photographs sent through a third party (so that the adoptive family can maintain privacy) - to full disclosure of the adoptive family's personal information, with visits between the birth family and the adoptive family.

We have become strong advocates for openness and hope to be able to have ongoing, regular contact including visits.

Some More Research Findings:

Adolescents who had contact with birthmothers reported higher degrees of satisfaction with their level of adoption openness and with the intensity of their contact.

Birthmothers in fully disclosed adoptions had lower adoption-related grief and loss than those in confidential adoption. Most indicated that placing a child for adoption had no effect or a consistently positive effect on their relationships with their current romantic partner or spouse.

Adoptive parents in fully disclosed adoptions generally reported a stronger sense of permanence in the relationship with their child as projected into the future, and less fear that the birthmother might try to reclaim her child.

Today, most domestic adoptions have some degree of openness.

Options for Open Adoption:

  • Private adoption (lawyers)
  • Agency adoption (profit and non-profit)
  • Adoption facilitators (non-regulated)

The Independent Adoption Center (IAC):
Why did we choose it?

  • Open adoption pioneer = years of experience
  • Non-profit organization, not religiously affiliated
  • Large, national agency w/office in Los Angeles
  • Competitive stats (cost, time)
  • Good marketing to adoptive parents and prospective birthparents
  • Services and support, particularly for the birthparents

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