When we think of kids who need a home, we think of those kids on late-night TV from other countries who look poor, sad, and disheveled. Internationally adopted children are sometimes victims of war, natural disasters, genocide, or poverty, just to name a few. However, American children need to be adopted also! Consider these facts:
– There are 1 million people in the U.S. wanting to adopt.
– There are approximately 100,000 foster children waiting to be adopted.
– About 20,000 teens age out of the foster care system every year without ever being adopted.
Why Do American Children Need to Be Adopted?
Yes, here in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, there are children that are living in less than stellar conditions. Not all children living in poverty, homelessness, or with ill parents need to be removed from their biological families. However, there are special circumstances in which a child can become available for adoption.
– Unplanned pregnancy. Perhaps the largest cause of adoption is due to unplanned pregnancies. A young woman finds herself pregnant unexpectedly and wonders how she is going to support herself and a child. There are many reasons that may factor into choosing adoption: teenage pregnancy; mental illness; homelessness; poverty; pregnancy through rape or incest; etc. In this case, a parent voluntarily relinquishes their rights in order for a child to be adopted by another parent. The most loving choice that a young lady in one of these situations can make may be to make a life plan for their child. Another family who has more a fortunate situation may be able to better provide for their child. Adoption may be the perfect choice for all.
– The opioid crisis. The real victims of the opioid crisis are the children that addicts leave in their wake. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1999 to 2017, more than 700,000 people died from a drug overdose. Many of them left behind their own children. Those that didn’t overdose but are still addicted may become involved with Child Protective Services. If they cannot recover, they may lose their parental rights, which makes the child free for adoption. Sad, but true. Every child deserves to live in a drug-free environment.
– Alcoholism. Getting drunk is not enough to lose custody of your children. However, when children are put in harm’s way due to alcoholism, Child Protective Services may become involved. For example, if physical or sexual abuse is involved, the parent may lose custody. If a parent is driving drunk with their children as passengers, that parent may lose custody involuntarily. Foster care is one option, but if the parents do not recover, the children may be placed for adoption.
– Incarceration. Occasionally, one or both parents may find themselves incarcerated. When this is the case, the child goes into foster care or into the care of a relative. If the parents are not released for a long period of time, adoption may be a real option.
– Death of a parent. Though rare, children may become orphans. When this is the case, the state or county gets involved to find an appropriate placement. If a relative, teacher, or neighbor is not available to adopt, the child may go into foster care and possibly become free for adoption.
What Different Types of Adoption Are There in the U.S.?
– Domestic private adoption. Private adoption involves three people, all of whom have a deep need. 1) A woman who may have a crisis or unplanned pregnancy; 2) an adoptive couple who may be infertile or simply want to adopt a child; 3) the unborn child who needs a stable and loving home. I call this the adoption triad. This is significant because careful planning and consideration is made for the life of one precious child!
In order to start the process, you will need an adoption attorney and possibly an adoption agency. If you are a prospective adoptive parent, you may want to develop an adoption profile so that expectant mothers can make an educated decision on who to place their child with. The costs to adopt privately can be prohibitive, however, there are now programs to assist adoptive parents with the process, so don’t let that scare you. In the end, three people’s lives will be changed: the birth mom, the adoptive mom, and, of course, the child who has been given the gift of a forever family!
– Foster care adoption. This is also known as a public adoption because the children who are adopted are wards of the court. These are foster children who are adopted by foster parents. These kiddos are in foster care, through no fault of their own, due to abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment. There are over 400,000 children in foster care. Most of them are returned to their family, but 25 percent of those who aren’t, are free for adoption and are waiting for a forever family. In this case, the biological parents’ rights are involuntarily severed, and the child is released (free) for adoption. Yes, some of these children will have special needs, but all it takes is one special family to meet those needs. Are you that family?
– Kinship adoption. Also known as relative adoption, this is where a blood relative adopts someone in their own family. Grandparents, cousins, and even older siblings are able to adopt if they are qualified. The reason why this is becoming more and more of a trend is because of these reasons: 1) the child is familiar with their adoptive parents’ values, customs, and principles; 2) the child does not have to be placed with a stranger; 3) the child may already be familiar with the adoptive parents’ home. In other words, kinship adoption is a win-win situation. What every adoption social should strive for is to move a child into the least restrictive environment. This means that to minimize trauma for a child, things need to remain the same as much as possible. So, what is better than to move to a home that he is already familiar with and with people that he already knows?
What Type of American Child Is Available to Adopt?
– Infants. Most adoptive couples seek to adopt infants. There are two ways this can be accomplished. Firstly, if a couple knows a pregnant mom, they can proceed with private domestic adoption. This can be done with attorneys alone and approved by a court. Secondly, if a couple does not have an identified child, they can search for a child with the help of an adoption agency. An adoption agency can also help prospective adoptive couples to come up with a profile that pregnant moms can view should they wish to make a life plan for their child. Lastly, an adoption agency can write a home study which needs to be approved by a court.
– Older children. School-aged children provide a unique challenge. They are old enough to be somewhat self-sufficient but still young enough to need help and guidance. Most older children who need to be adopted will come out of the foster care system.
– Teens. When we think of adoption, we usually think of babies. They’re cute, cuddly, and don’t talk back. However, teenagers need to be adopted, too! They need a forever family. As a matter of fact, the longer a teen stays in foster care, the longer he will move from foster home to foster home, without any permanency. If a foster youth “ages out” of the system before being adopted, meaning they turn 18 years of age, they are more likely to be homeless, jobless, incarcerated and/or pregnant. Foster youth need to have a family to go back to when time gets tough; they need to know where to go back to at holidays; they need to know they belong to someone. Teens need help transitioning into adulthood. Adoption of a teen can prevent many of these risks. As a matter of fact, in most states, adults can be adopted up until the age of 21! They need help to fulfill their hopes and dreams such as college, starting a business, buying a home, and marriage. We usually think of adoption as meeting our needs, but in the case of adopting teenagers, it may be a total act of self-sacrifice!
– Sibling groups. Children should not be separated from their brothers and sisters! Siblings share the same parents, the same last name, the same culture, a similar appearance, and in some cases, the same trauma. Because of all of these similarities, they should be adopted together! There is nothing worse than growing up apart from your brother or sister and wondering if they are safe, wondering how they are being raised, and wondering if they are having the same experiences.
The hesitation some have about adopting sibling groups is the expenses, time, energy, and logistics it takes to do so. Going from zero children to two or three is quite an undertaking! Practical considerations such as food and supplies, clothing, schooling, and transportation all need to be taken into consideration. Some may be hesitant to do so because it seems like you have to be rich to take in a sibling group! But do not be discouraged! If adopted from the foster care system, there may be financial aid in the forms of adoption subsidies to assist with raising these children. Check with your state’s child welfare system.
– Children with disabilities. It takes a special person to adopt a child with developmental disabilities. These children are born with physical disadvantages, and they will need lifelong care. Disabilities such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, and others may require constant care. Sometimes parents are ill-equipped to care for these children. The most loving thing the parent can do, in this case, may be to allow another person to care for their child.
– Children with other special needs. I consider all adoptive kids as having special needs, by virtue of the fact that they have been separated from their biological parents. Even if they are adopted at birth, that bond has been broken between mom and child. But specifically, a lot of these children may have special needs that are unseen. They may have attention deficit disorder, reactive attachment disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, self-injurious behavior, feeding issues, and a myriad of other challenges to adoptive parents. However, they still deserve a loving home. I suggest that prospective adoptive parents receive the training and experience they need before receiving a special needs child into their home.
– ICWA. The Federal Indian Child Welfare Act was specifically enacted to protect Native American children from illegal or unethical adoptions. This act ensures that Native Americans are considered first in adoptions before any non-Natives are. It gives jurisdiction to the local Native community for any registered member of a tribe, over the local Child Protective Services. You must keep this in mind if you are a non-Native wishing to adopt a Native child. On the other hand, if you are a registered member if an Indian Tribe, you receive special consideration when adopting a Native child.
– Open adoptions. If you have a safe, courteous, positive, and respectful relationship with your child’s biological family, you may consider a post-adoption communication agreement, also known as an open adoption. This contract, approved by the courts, outlines under what circumstances contact with your adopted child is allowed. In some states, this contract in enforceable, in some states, it is not. There are pros and cons to every open adoption, but the bottom line is that it be done in the best interest of the child.
– ICPC. The Interstate Compact for the Protection of Children is an act that oversees the placement and adoption of children over state lines. You will need to find an adoption agency that is contracted to do this.
There are many reasons to adopt an American child, but none of them are because they are somehow unworthy, are second class citizens, have “bad genes,” have baggage, or are somehow damaged. They may have undergone trauma, but they deserve a loving permanent home just as a much as the next child. There are kids, right here in the U.S. that also need a home! Some of them may be in your hometown. Will you consider adopting one of them?
Derek Williams is an adoption social worker and has been in the field of child welfare and behavioral health since 2006, where he has assisted families in their adoption journey. He and his wife started their adoption journey in 1993 and have eight children, six of whom are adopted. His adopted children are all different ethnicities including East Indian, Jamaican and Native American. He loves traveling with his family, especially to the East Coast and to the West Coast and is an avid NY Mets fan! Foster care and adoption are his passions and callings for Derek, and he is pleased to share his experiences with others who are like-minded.