Adopting children is a common phenomenon in our society. Although adoption has been in existence for a long time, motivation, process, and effect of adoption have changed with time. The 21st century has brought new and unique challenges in adoption. Some families are not able to support their children due to poverty, drug addiction, family conflicts, and many other emerging challenges. In some cases, some children are abused by their biological parents, necessitating alternative parenting. Apart from infertility, emerging issues such as same-sex relationships have led to new motivations for adoption. It has also become common for celebrities and public figures to adopt children. Unlike traditionally where domestic adoption was predominant, international adoption has become very common. Adoption is aimed at providing alternative parenting to a child and is believed to be beneficial to adopted children and their new families. However, adoptions in the 21st century raise various issues. The paper addresses issues surrounding adoption; challenges and families’ reactions to adoption.
Care for children is considered a collective responsibility. Many people feel uncomfortable when they see an innocent child suffering because of deprivation, unstable family, abuse or natural disasters. Although there are many ways to offer short-term or long-term care to a needy child, adoption is a unique way of doing so. Unlike foster care and other short-term and long-term care, adoption calls for a unique level of commitment (Hertz, 2006). Unlike other forms of care, adoption places a child to a new parent/s permanently. Through adoption, the adopted child becomes a permanent member of the new family and has the equal right as other children in the new family, if any. Adoption implies that the parenting rights of biological parents are terminated permanently and instead they are taken over by the adopting parent/s (Kelly & Mabry, 2006). In adoption, the rights of parenting are given to the adopting parents in a legal process. Likewise, an adopted child also gains legal rights in the new family just a child born to the adopting parents. As a legal process, adoption implies the relationship in the new family is legally binding and can be enforced. The process gives adopting parents the legal right to make parenting decisions such as education and discipline but also makes it a crime for the parents to abandon the child (Kelly & Mabry, 2006). This is contrary to other casual care where an individual cannot be liable to legal penalties if parenting roles are not fulfilled. Although adopting a child is a legal issue involving a lot of evaluation and documentation, in too many families it is considered an act of love.
Family expansion remains the main reason why people may consider adopting children, even though the reasons may sometimes vary. Many individuals adopt children to add another member to their family. Individuals have varying specific motivations for deciding to adopt a child. The traditional and most common motivation is infertility. Couples that are medically unable to have children often opt for adoption as a solution. One partner or both may not be able to have a child making it impossible to have biological children. The common form of infertility that leads to adoption is the case where the woman is not able to bear children due to her age (Brodzinsky, Smith, & Brodzinsky, 1998). This form of infertility has been common because of a trend where individuals put off marriage until late in their lives. At an age that is more than forty-five years, a woman may not be able to bear children naturally. Because of social-economical changes that force many individuals to put off having children until later in their lives, adoptions have increasingly become an alternative way for having children.
Adoption is not an option only for couples that completely lack children but also for those that want to expand their families. Some couples may completely not be able to have children on their own leaving adoption as the only option. Some couples on the other hand may have been able to have a number of children during their younger age but are not able to bear another child later in their lives. After failed attempt to have another child, the couples can opt for adoption as a way to expand their family. In some cases, couples opt for adoption as a way of bringing a boy or a girl into their family.
Apart from infertility, there are other motivations for opting for adoption. Some individuals are motivated by health-related issues in making the decision. For instance, natural birth may threaten the health of some women due to their health state. Unwilling to risk the health of the mother, a couple may opt for adoption as an alternative (Brodzinsky Smith, & Brodzinsky, 1998). In some cases, some couple seeks adoption as a way of preventing some gene from passing down to their children. Such couples may have information that natural birth can pass the serious medical or genetic condition to their biological children.
Adoption is sometimes opted for as an altruistic deed. Some families may adopt a child to save such a child from some unfavorable conditions. For instance, a family can opt to adopt children living in unhealthy living conditions to provide them with favorable conditions for growth. Poverty, illness, family problems, underage pregnancy, and drug abuse are some conditions that can limit a child from living a healthy life (Zastrow, 1977). A child brought in a family of drug abusers may end up abusing the drug. In such a case adoption can be one of the options for providing a healthy living condition for a child. Adoption is also used by individuals that want to remain single but need a family (Kelly & Mabry, 2006). Despite remaining single, many singles have a passion for parenting. As having children requires genetic material for both a woman and a man, a single person can opt for adoption as an alternative. Homosexual couples who want to have children may also opt for adoption. In addition, adoption has been a common option for celebrities and public figures that don’t wish to have biological children.
Changing Trend in Adoption
Adoption today is significantly different from what was traditionally carried out. The main reason for adoption was natural infertility where a couple could not bear children. Although infertility is still the common motivation for adoption, most infertility cases result from delays in having children. This implies that most adopting families are above fifty years. In the past adoption, records were put away from the public. This was a mechanism for protecting a child from being regarded as illegitimate (Brodzinsky, Schechter, Braff & Singer, 1984). This traditional adoption implied that connection with biological parents was completely terminated and there was no communication between the adopted children with biological parents. This trend, however, is coming to an end. A new trend is emerging where individuals involved in adoptions constantly share information and in some cases even have direct contact (Kelly & Mabry, 2006). Changes in society have led to more adoption.
Alcoholism and drug abuse have led many families to be unable to bring up their children leading those children to be placed in foster homes (Adoption.com, 2010). While in the past the children could have remained in foster homes, today children that cannot be taken back to their biological parents are easily adopted. Another prevalent trend in adoption is that children adopted are older than in the past. Before being adopted most of the children undergo trying periods in life such as abuse or even neglect.
The United Sates has about six million adoptees. Most of these adopted children have their biological parents in addition to the adoptive parents. The children also have their adoptive as well as biological siblings. In addition, the children have extended families as well as friends. As a consequence, adoption does not only involve the adopting family but directly affects many individuals. In fact, it is estimated that about sixty percent of Americans have a connection with adoption. They are either themselves adopted, have a family member who is adopted, have adopted, know of a friend that is adopted, or have their biological children that are placed for adoption.
Effect of Adoption
Adoption is usually a complex issue. Although the main objective of adoption is to bring happiness to the adopted child and the adopting parents, this is not always the case. Adoption calls for adjustments to create a place for the new member. An adopted child also finds difficulties in finding their place in the new family. The problem is even worse when the adopted child is old and had an attachment to its biological parents (Tizard, 1990). One of the challenges that face international adoption is the difference in cultures between the parties involved. In some cases, the child and the adopting family have very different cultural backgrounds. Cultural differences have a greater effect when the children are adopted at an older age (Wegar, 2006). Interracial adoption also poses additional challenges to adopting families. Arrival to adopting families is usually a disruptive event for adopted children. Even if the child had experienced deprivation before, finding a place in a new family framework is usually a challenge. The children have to adjust to their new parents, other new family members, and the new environment in general. The adjustment is usually a challenge not only to the child but also to other members of the family. Behavioral and relational problems are usually observed with the children. The major challenge is attachment to the adoptive parent. This attachment can greatly affect the growth and development of the child and prevent the child from living a normal life.
Adoptive parents have the responsibility of bringing up and ensuring that the children live a normal life as much as possible. Despite the effort to bring up the children in the best way possible, the children may demonstrate negative behavior. Various issues may especially come up when the adopted children realize that they are adopted. The adopted children may undergo grief due to the loss of biological parents. The feeling of loss is especially more common in closed and semi-open adoption (Mainemer, 1998). As the child older, they start to understand reproduction and may realize that they do not belong to the families where they are brought up. The children may start to imagine their biological families and question the reasons as to why they were placed for adoption. In some cases, older adopted children may demand to be shown their biological parents.
Extended families’ reaction is usually a challenge to adopting families. Although the extended family is not directly involved in day to day parenting of an adopted child, their reactions affect parenting. When a child is adopted, it becomes not only a member of the nuclear family but also to the extended family. The child gets other sisters and sisters, aunties, uncles, and grandparents in the extended family. The major challenge to adopting families is when the extended family does not approve of the adoption (Adoption.com, 2010). Family members can have various reasons for not approving the adoption. For instance, family members may be concerned that adopting may not be able to raise the additional child. They may also be concerned over the effect of adoption on other children and family members and in some cases, they may be concerned over the race or cultural background of the adopted child (Glidden, 1990). Most reactions, however, are adjustment behaviors that go away with time but some reactions may continue for a long time.
Adoption remains the most common method for having children and participating in parenting. With the increase of children in foster homes due to drug and alcohol abuse, family instability, and child abuse, adoption has become an important method for providing alternative parenting. Through adoption, the adopted child becomes a permanent member of the new family and has an equal right to other children in the new family, if any. Reasons for adoption have changed significantly from traditional reasons. Many couples seeking to adopt children above forty-five years and cannot be able to have children in a natural way. Some of them have biological children but seek to enlarge their families. Although adoption is considered a noble thing, it involves various challenges. The extended family may not approve the adoption while adopted children may fail to accept their new family. Adoption is beneficial to both adopted children and adopting families. Thus, challenges experienced should not discourage individuals from adoption, but instead, adopting parents should seek assistance from relevant authorities.
- Adoption.com. (2010). How to Handle Extended Family Reactions to Your Adoption.
- Brodzinsky, D., Schechter, D., Braff, A., & Singer, L. (1984). Psychological and academic adjustment in adopted children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 52(4): 582-590.
- Brodzinsky, D., Smith, D., & Brodzinsky, A. (1998). Children’s adjustment to adoption: developmental and clinical issues. New York: SAGE.
- Glidden, L. (1990). Formed families: adoption of children with handicaps. New York: Routledge.
- Hertz, R. (2006). Single by chance, mothers by choice: how women are choosing parenthood without marriage and creating the new American family. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Kelly, L., & Mabry, C. (2006). Adoption law: theory, policy and practice. Massachusetts: Wm. S. Hein Publishing.
- Mainemer, H. (1998). Parenting Stress in Families Adopting children From Romanian Orphanages. Journal of Family Issues 19(2): 164-180.
- Tizard, B. (1990). Intercountry Adoption: A Review of the Evidence. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 32(5): 734-756.
- Wegar, K. (2006). Adoptive families in a diverse society. Toronto: Rutgers University Press.
- Zastrow, C. (1977). Outcome of Black children-White parents transracial adoptions. New York: R & E Research Associates.