Impacts of Adoption and Factors to Consider During Adoption

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Adoption is fairly common, talked about topic in today’s society. With an estimate of over 437,000 children in the United States who were in foster care during the year of 2016. It has long been a solution for children and infants who find themselves without parents or caretakers, or who happen to be in harmful situations or other personal complications. Adoption, not only is a solution for children, is beneficial to those who are infertile and have trouble reproducing, or for couples of the LGBT+ community. But, one issue of adoption that seems to be rarely discussed, or even acknowledged, is: How is the adoption going to impact the child? Socially, emotionally, and academically? These are a few of the questions one should ask themselves when considering various types of adoption.

The process of adoption has been around for centuries, being used by the Romans, Greeks, Babylonians, and Egyptians; even being mentioned in the Bible. It wasn’t up until 1851 when Massachusetts passed what historians call “the first “modern” adoption law.” This law recognized adoption as being a social and legal procedure, based on children’s welfare and needs, rather than the adult’s title and benefits. In the 1851 Adoption of Children Act, Sect. 5, the governor of Massachusetts states that “If, upon such petition, so presented and consented to as [previously said], the judge of probate shall be satisfied of the identity and relations of the persons, and that the petitioner, or, in case of husband and wife, the petitioners, are of sufficient ability to bring up the child, and furnish suitable nurture and education, having reference to the degree and condition of its parents, and that it is fit and proper that such adoption should take effect, he shall make a decree setting forth the said facts, and ordering that, from and after the date of the decree, such child should be deemed and taken, to all legal intents and purposes, the child of the petitioner or petitioners.” -- This being a historical “defining moment” for adoption, it was the first step towards modernized, open adoptions.

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Conservative estimates (which disclude informal adoptions) propose that almost five million Americans today are adoptees; as well as 2-4% of families have adopted, and 2.5% of all children under the age of 18, are adopted. These percentages may seem minuscule, but with each and every year, they steadily increase. It is difficult to find the global adoption statistics, for a majority of them happen “underneath” the law, and aren’t recorded. Adoption now comes in a few different types, a few of the most commons ones being foster care, adopting internationally, private adoption, adopting as a same-sex couple, and open adoption. Starting off with foster care, the foster care system is a temporary service or arrangement provided by the states, for when children are unable to continue living with their families. Once a child is placed into foster care, they then have the ability to be housed with relatives or non-relatives, as well as being placed into group homes, residential/local care facilities, and supervised independent living. This form of adoption or care annually costs the United States a total of $4.3 billion dollars. International adoption is typically the first form of adoption that pops into mind. International, also known as interracial/multiracial adoption, is actually one of the most difficult types of adoption to complete or fulfill. When adopting a child who is a citizen of a foreign/different country, the adoption aspirant is required to appease both the laws of the state you currently reside in, as well as the laws of the child’s host country. The parents who are adopting the child is also required to obtain the child an immigrant Visa through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Once approved and completed, the child is automatically admitted United States Citizenship when entering the United States. Private adoption happens when the adoptive parents are considered by an adoption attorney, or are able to adopt a child they already know/will be given at birth, by the birth mother. This way, parents looking to adopt do not have to go through an agency and often do not have to be put on a “waiting list”. Same-sex couples have always played a large role in adoption, whether or not their sexual orientation was openly spoken about. Adoption hasn’t always been an easy process for gay and lesbian couples, but as of 2016, same-sex adoption officially became legal in all 50 states. Studies show that within the last ten years, an estimated 6 to 14 million children have a lesbian or gay parent. Open adoption is another form of adoption, where the biological and the adoptive family have some form of contact with each other. This contact can vary, with some open adoptions being more open or closed than others. Some examples of an open adoption can be sharing basic information with one another, such as first and last names, street addresses, phone numbers, and can include in-person visits before and after the adoption. Every open adoption is different, each one being a meaningful and unique experience to the birth mother, and adopting parent(s). Each type of adoption plays a major role in the development throughout an adoptees life. The different types of adoption issues are determined by the specific adoption type and experience adoptees undergo. There happen to be three main research approaches on assessing the psychological impact adoption can obtain on an adopted person, one of those three main approaches is when a study examines how the behavioral and personality characteristics adjust throughout those who are adopted, and those who are not (non-adopted). This particular form of studying can be clinical and nonclinical, ranging in ages from infancy to adulthood.

Researchers typically conduct more studies in clinical settings, with most studies concluding that adopted children have a higher chance of “acting out”, expressing behaviors and actions filled with aggression, defensiveness, hyperactivity, mood swings, lying, and other standoffish behaviors. Other studies following these same standards also found that those who are adopted, to also display increased rates of personality disorders (such as Borderline Personality Disorder, Paranoid Personality Disorder), as well as eating and learning disorders, and substance abuse. When adopting an infant, the child will become attached to their main caregiver, regardless of being aware if the caregiver is their biological parent, biological relative, or not. This happens to be one of the main reasons couples and those looking to adopt, strive to adopt infants and toddlers. As the adopted child begins to develop, it is important for the adoptive parents to inform their child that they too had a birth mother, and were reproduced in the exact same ways as everyone else. Thus, allowing them to begin to grasp the understanding that they are not any different, due to not living or being with their biological birth mother or father. Although children typically cannot comprehend their adoption stories at such young ages, it is something they can and typically repeat. Parents who adopt that tell their children their adoptive stories at earlier ages may find it easier to touch base on the subject later on in their children’s lives, allowing it to become a more comfortable topic to discuss. Once an adoptive child reaches early youth or is school-aged, they begin to realize how their adoption story and history makes them different from those who are non-adopted. They understand that most children live with a biological parent or adult in their household, and can begin to feel singled-off, and different from the rest. These feelings and “realizations” can lead a child to feelings of anger and abandonment, sadness, and loneliness.

Children with these feelings begin to be withdrawn from social activities and academic participation, and often question their self-worth and self-identity. With the self-realization of adoption, children may begin to mourn their biological family, and “what could have been”. In these trying times, it is important for the adoptive parents to remind their child that the birth mother put them up for adoption with only the greatest intent. She wanted a better future for him or her, and was setting them a plan. Remind them that they are loved, and were wanted by the adoptive parents. It is also a good note to inform the school, as well as “outside of school” faculty about the issues your child may be experiencing. The fear of abandonment is a feeling often present throughout an adoptees life. With transitions or “big changes” such as family-altering events, like a sibling moving out or close-relatives death, these can affect an adopted person more critically than those born and raised by their biological parents. When in the adolescence stage of development, an adopted person of this age typically feels like they have experienced “two losses”, with the fresh feeling of losing their childhood, as well as continuing to cope with what can feel like “the loss of [their] biological family”. Continuing through the adolescence stage of development, the common adopted adolescence will typically begin to question their genetic and historical background. They wonder “who may still be alive?”, as well as questions and being curious if they resemble their biological parents or any other form of distant family members. These repetitive, stabbing questions can become detrimental to an adoptees mental state of mind, especially at such young ages. These emotions and feelings often can lead to adulthood relationship problems. Whether those relations be romantic, professional, personal, or platonic; the constant questioning of oneself can lead to poor relational habits. Those who are adopted interracially can often have feelings of being the odd one out within the family, questioning their racial identity. The Evan B. Donaldson Institute is a non-profit organization that researches and provides education on adoption.

The Evan B. Donaldson Institute also examined national transracial adoption statistics within the United States over the last twenty years. Inside the particular report, “Finding Families for African American Children”, the study implies that adoption agencies, and those looking to adopt as a whole, should heavily consider race. Even making statements that agencies should be allowed to screen non-African American families who are looking to adopt an African American child. Jennine Lee, a writer for Time Magazine, overviewed this same article. Lee noted that: “The study also says that minority children adopted by white parents are likely to express a desire to be white, and black transracial adoptees have higher rates of behavioral problems than Asian or Native American children adopted transracially; they also exhibit more problems than biracial or white adoptees or the biological children of adoptive parents.” -- Although the “Finding Families for African American Children” study is widely known, there are many contrary studies that show, regardless of their adoptive parents race, African American children adopted had no indifference in self-esteem issues in comparison to other children their age.

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