When we first started our adoption journey, we didn’t have any prior knowledge of the process. In fact, we hardly had any exposure to adoption besides what you see in movies or television or the random stories you hear about so-and-so’s adopted child.
As we went about our adoption journey, we became more and more aware of the misconceptions that are out there. We found that our family and friends were very much as clueless as we once were. With that, we became passionate about sharing the ins-and-outs of adoption, in hopes of educating others so they can more informed and compassionate towards all sides of adoption.
It was the following misconceptions that made the decision to adopt more difficult than it needed to be for us. Many of the fears or beliefs we had were nothing but myths and once we took the dive into adoption, we realized that the most powerful thing to help prepare us was simply knowledge.
So in this post, we’ll share some of that knowledge. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about adoption.
Adoption is the easiest way to grow your family because there are so many children that need good, loving homes.
Well let’s start by saying that the word “easy” is never used to describe any part of adoption. Nothing about it is easy, on anyone. While pregnancy and infertility treatments aren’t necessarily an easy option for growing your family either, adoption is challenging in a variety of other ways. But we will absolutely admit that when we first made the decision to adopt, we thought it would be much easier than it turned out to be.
First, it’s important to understand the different types of adoption. There’s domestic infant adoption – adopting an infant from the United States; there’s international adoption – adopting a child of any age from another country; and then there’s foster to adopt – adopting a child through the state because the biological parents’ rights have been terminated. Of course there’s also kinship adoption – adopting a family member’s or close friend’s child due to their inability to parent, but we’ll focus on the three main types of adoption.
With all three types of adoptions, there are different sets of challenges. Each one, however, requires an extensive amount of paperwork, interviews, and background checks on the adoptive parents. This step in the process is called getting “home study approved”.
After getting home study approved, many people assume you’re ready to go and will get a child immediately. It’s as if some people imagine adoptive couples choosing a child from a catalog, in the same way you’d select a pet to adopt from the humane society. But in actuality, the parents have to be chosen first.
With domestic infant adoption, it’s quite competitive, as many couples prefer to adopt a baby. It’s not uncommon for adoptive parents to wait years before they are selected by a birth mother. Wait times vary based on an adoptive parent’s preferences in terms of race, gender, location, medical factors, etc. It can also take longer depending on the adoptive parents budget, whether they are adopting privately or through an agency, and other factors.
We discuss international adoption more in the next misconception below, but the process is usually even lengthier and less straight-forward than domestic. Domestic infant and international adoption are also surprisingly expensive, ranging on average between $20,000 – $50,000. While foster to adopt is significantly less cost wise, it comes with it’s own unique set of emotional challenges.
Adoption through foster care is rarely guaranteed when a child is placed in your home. The goal of the foster system is family reunification, so adoption is a last resort. There are, sadly, many foster children who are waiting for forever homes whose parents rights have already been terminated. But again, it’s not just a matter of adoptive parents “choosing” a child. A social worker will determine whether it’s a good fit for everyone and these children often have trauma and high needs that a family should be equipped to support.
This is a very brief overview of the different types of adoption and their processes, but the most important thing to understand is that adoption is a very lengthy, challenging, and emotional journey for not just adoptive parents but the child and birth family, too.
The adoption process goes quicker if you adopt from orphanages in other country’s.
When the adoption process began to immediately show it’s challenges, many of our friends and family were quick to say, “I guess that’s why people adopt from China or other countries”. But the idea that international adoption is faster or easier couldn’t be any farther than the truth.
In fact, international adoption was originally the path we had wanted to take. But when we made the decision to adopt, we had already been waiting seven years to become parents. We wanted the most straightforward path, which we discovered through an initial adoption informational meeting that international adoption was not that.
In some ways it’s harder than ever to adopt internationally due to stricter laws and procedures. The international adoption process tends to be more expensive when factoring in travel costs and additional requirements. It can also be less straightforward or reliable, as countries may abruptly close to foreign adoptions due to their political climate and other factors.
While we are no experts on international adoption, we can only share the information we were given by a local agency we met with. We were informed that should we choose to move forward with international adoption, to be prepared for it to take three to five years. However, so much of the process and wait time highly depends on the agency, country, and child.
American Adoptions has a good guide for comparing international adoption to domestic adoption.
It’s better to adopt a baby.
This is really just a matter of personal preference and the circumstances surrounding adoptive parents decision to adopt. Adopting a baby is many parent’s choice because they want to have their child from the moment they are born. Many people believe that adopting a baby can avoid the additional trauma that may come with taking a child from their biological parents later in life. However, regardless of the age that a child is adopted, there is always loss involved.
No matter how beautiful of an adoption story an individual has, no matter how great of an adoptive family they have, no matter how great of a relationship they have with their birth family, adoption still represents a piece of their identity. And there are many emotions that come with that. It’s something they carry with them for life. So choosing to adopt a baby because there may be less trauma involved should not necessarily be an adoptive parents reasoning.
It should also be said that every child deserves a loving home, no matter his of her age. Each family and each adoption is very different and there are benefits and sacrifices in all adoption paths. When you open your heart to adoption, you have to be open to whatever child God has for you, which can sometimes surprise adoptive parents. It doesn’t usually go the way you plan it to. But it’s always a beautiful blessing in the end.
Birth moms are either teenagers or selfish to “give up” their baby.
We have movies and TV to blame for this misconception. But we’d be lying if we said we weren’t hoping to connect with a pregnant teenager when we first started the process. It feels like a much easier story to explain to your child someday.
However, teen pregnancy rates are actually at record lows and these days there’s considerably less stigma around being a young, unwed mother. It’s also less likely that a teenager would choose adoption since often times parents step in to help raise the child. So while it’s a “dream scenario” for many adoptive families, it’s extremely rare.
Birth moms come in all shapes and forms. Most are in their 20’s and 30’s, many have children already, some are facing hard times or addictions and other’s simply make the decision because they believe it’s truly what’s best for their child. Regardless of the reason, we need to make a few things very clear here…
In the adoption world, it’s considered insensitive to say that a woman is “giving away” or “giving up” her child. Saying she “placed” her child with another family or “made an adoption plan” is much more compassionate for the difficult decision that a birth mom makes. It’s important to familiarize yourself with positive adoption language.
We’d also argue that the decision a birth mom makes is the farthest thing from “selfish”. Most parents could never fathom ever making the decision to have someone else raise their child. But until you’re in a birth mom’s shoes you really have no right to judge. They are making the ultimate sacrifice, regardless of their reasoning, to give their child what they think they deserve. Plus, they are blessing families like ours who may otherwise not be able to be parents.
Having contact with a birth family is confusing for an adopted child.
Extensive research has been done on adoptees and the long-term impacts adoption has on their life and well-being. The verdict is in and open-adoption is the clear winner! Evidence shows that their are many benefits of having an open adoption, not only for adopted children, but also adoptive families and birth families.
Open adoption will look differently for every family. It can be semi-open, where the adoptive family shares photos and updates to very open with visits and birth family involvement in the child’s day-to-day life. While each family (adoptive and birth) have to determine what is best for them and their child, having some level of contact is helpful for everyone involved.
Open adoption isn’t confusing to a child, in fact, the opposite is much more confusing for them. Wondering where they came from, not having answers to questions about their adoption, not having access to family medical history, etc. is much more detrimental for an adoptee. The peace of mind that an open adoption provides a birth family is critical for their healing, as well. It helps them to see their child thriving.
For us, the decision to seek an open adoption was a no brainer. Of course we would honor whatever wishes a birth mom had, but we want what research shows is best for our child. Adoption is difficult and painful enough and we felt that having some openness would alleviate many of the challenges and emotions that all parties experience.
Our thought has always been that there is never too much love and support that a child can receive. We have confidence that the bond and love we share with our child will be completely separate than the bond they will share with their biological relatives. It would be selfish of us to feel threatened or want to protect our role as mom and dad at the cost of our child.
Of course the relationship with a birth family may change and evolve over the course of an adoptee’s life. But that is no different than any relationship we experience and choose to have. It was comforting for us to know, as parents, that we had the right to cut off communication with a birth mom or family if that relationship became toxic to our child.
The birth family can take the child back any time.
The idea of an open-adoption immediately sparks concern for many people who aren’t familiar with adoption laws. The fear that a birth mother or father or other birth relative would try to take the child back is a very common misunderstanding.
There’s not a whole lot to say about this other than it’s just simply not legal and therefore, not possible. If a birth family tried to take the child back it would be considered kidnapping.
Let’s be clear on this though, there is a period of time in which birth parents can revoke their consent to an adoption. And yes, it’s every adoptive families worst nightmare to take a child home only to have to return him or her to their birth parents. Each state has different laws and different revocation periods, but once that period is over, it becomes much harder (if not legally impossible) for a birth parent to contest the adoption.
Once an adoption is finalized (this also varies based on state requirements) and a judge grants the adoptive parents permanent legal guardianship, it is all said and done. At this point there is no way for birth parents or relatives to regain their parental rights to the child.
It’s easier if children don’t know their adopted or you wait to tell them when they’re older so they can better understand it.
Adoption should never be kept a secret like it used to be back in the day when babies were born out of wedlock. Secrets are kept because of shame and adoption is something to be honored. Adoption doesn’t have to define or label a child, but it is an important part of their story that they should feel comfortable with.
A child’s adoption story should be shared with them from the moment they are infants, when possible. When they grow up and are asked “when did you find out you were adopted”, their answer should be “I’ve always known”. There shouldn’t be a particular day where adoptive parents sit the child down to tell him, that’s traumatic. Instead, it should just be a part of the family’s story, in the same way that parents would share about their marriage and how they came together as a family. Adoption unites a family, it shouldn’t isolate any member.
If adoptive parents feel the need to hide adoption, chances are the adopted child will feel ashamed and want to hide it as well. This can lead to identity problems, trust issues, and feelings of abandonment and disconnectedness.
It also helps if adoption stories are shared in a positive light, regardless of the situation and the reason the birth parents chose adoption or had their rights terminated. Children should also be told their adoption story in an age appropriate way until they are old enough to ask questions themselves and seek their own information.
You can’t love an adopted child as much as a biological child.
This is a very common concern for parents considering adoption, especially those who have biological children and know the unconditional and instant love they felt the moment they were born. It’s understandable for adoptive parents to feel uncertain about the connection, bonding, and attachment they will feel towards their adopted child. That is natural when you’re facing something you’ve never experienced before.
We’d be lying if we said this wasn’t something that concerned us when we were making the decision to continue fertility treatments or adopt. But it helped us to consider this…
Do you love your spouse or best friends?
Do you only love people who are biologically related to you?
Of course not! In fact, you love your pets and they aren’t even the same species as you! You often hear people talk about their “chosen family”. In some cases, people love friends or non-related individuals even more than their biological family.
Adoption is no different and if you ask any parent of both biological and adoptive children, they’ll likely tell you the same. The love a parent has for their child goes far beyond DNA. And while we can’t speak from experience in terms of biological children, the act of waiting, praying, wanting a child so intensely and then choosing to love them despite genetics is one of the purest forms of love that a parent can have for a child.
If you’re a Christian like us, God adopting us as His children is the perfect example of this kind of love. While bonding may take more time or feel different with an adopted child versus a biological child, the love will still be very much there!
Adoption is usually plan B.
Some people assume that adoptive parents are mostly infertile or gay/lesbian couples. However, many perfectly fertile couples chose to adopt or choose adoption to grow their family in addition to having biological children. Single women and men choose adoption because they want to be parents regardless of whether they have a partner or not. Adoption is for everyone.
It’s also a calling. So even infertile couples who discover they cannot have biological children together, like us, would tell you it is not “second best” or “plan b”. While it may not be the first way they attempted to grow their family, it is still their choice to pursue adoption. And trust us, the adoption process can be so difficult, that you have to continually choose to pursue it and work for it.
We also would bet that if you asked any adoptive parent, they’d tell you that their child was meant to be theirs. That it was not a coincidence. And that they’d do it all over again – it was the only way to finding their child, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Even if the beginning of the adoption process feels like plan b in some ways, once you hold your child in your arms, you realize it was the path you were meant to take all along.
We hope we’ve cleared up these misconceptions about adoption once and for all! Whether you’ve been touched by adoption, plan to adopt, or are supporting a loved one who is adopting or adopted, knowledge is the greatest tool to have. Feel free to leave your comments or questions below.