If ever there was a loaded question, perhaps asking “Is Adoption Good?” would be high at the top of the list.

You may have asked this question before or you may have answered it for someone else. Maybe you’ve been on both the giving and receiving end. Perhaps you aren’t sure how you feel or maybe you know how you feel and aren’t sure you want to share. You may not know enough about adoption to feel comfortable weighing in. 

No matter where you fall in the equation, the question “Is adoption good?” can trigger heightened emotion—both positive and negative, curiosity, insecurities, and healthy debates. Some people may argue that this type of question is too big and too complex to be limited to a simple yes or no answer.

Approximately 7 million Americans are adopted with around 140,000 children are adopted by American families each year. Adoption can mean different things to different people—even for those living within the same family. For some expectant parents, adoption may be a solution to dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. For parents who hope to grow their family in a non-traditional way, adoption is a prayer answered. For the 400,000 children in foster care, approximately 120,000 of whom are waiting to be adopted, it may be their only means to becoming part of a forever family. And because no two adoptions are alike, nor are the stories of the birth families or the adoptive families that have led up to the consideration of adoption—the answer to this complex question will most certainly vary from person to person.

What Do Birth Parents Think?

Clearly one of the most difficult decisions a mom could ever make in her life on behalf of what is best for her child as well as herself—adoption can feel like a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is a sacrifice made in the name of love and may bring relief to an expectant parent who was not expecting to become a parent for any number of reasons. But on the other hand, while the sacrifice may bring peace on behalf of a child, it may lead to feelings of loss and grief.

Birth mom, Amanda Hadfield writes, “Choosing to place my child for adoption was by far the hardest decision I have ever made in my life. When I made that decision, I never thought about what my title would be or how the world would address me once I placed her into her parent’s arms, but once I discovered the title ‘birth mom’, it was instantly a title I loved.” Not only is Amanda a birth mom, but she is also an Adoption.com storyteller. In her article, I Am a Birth Mom she talks about some of the questions and concerns that birth moms may have such as where they fit in and what role they play. 

Another writer and birth mother, Heather Mitchell, shares this about how birth mothers cope after placing a child: “A birth mom will struggle, but that struggle is worth fighting through. If I could answer this question, ‘How do birth mothers cope after placing a child?’ I might say this: ‘One day at a time, with tears in her eyes, and a smile on her face. She chooses LOVE!’”

What Do Adoptees Think?

Who better to weigh in on the question of “Is Adoption Good?” than an adoptee. In her Adoption.org article titled Is Adoption Good or Bad? writer and adoptee Ashley Foster indicates that it depends on who you talk to. She states, “from my own personal experiences and how I view the world, adoption is a good thing. Adoption gives children a family, who otherwise would not have had one. Adoption gives hope to a child who has lost his or her parents. It provides a life for babies who otherwise might have been put to death. Adoption turns men and women into parents, giving them one of the most important jobs in the world. Families are put together to grow and thrive.” However, if someone has a less than stellar time with their adoptive family, you might think you would have been better off with your birth family. There is no guarantee.

Writer and adoptee Stephan Petryczka shares why he believes birth mothers owe it to their child to let go of their birth mom guilt, stating, “The connection linking a child to their mother is the most important human relationship there is. Any mother knows that relinquishing their responsibilities to their child is going to have an impact on that child’s outcome.” Peter goes on to explain that in general, adoptees love their birth parents and always will, they want you to be happy, letting go can lead to healing, they want you to be strong, and you will always be one of their parents.

What Do Adoptive Parents Think?

In her Adoption.org article, “Why is Adoption Good?” Writer and adoptive mom Lita Jordan shares that while adoption, especially open adoption is inherently good in that it helps to create forever families while not closing the door on the birth family, it’s important for both expectant parents and potential adoptive parents to understand that all adoptions come from a place of loss. And so it’s important to acknowledge that while one family is overjoyed and growing, there is typically a large amount of loss that a birth parent will experience as well as the rest of the birth family.

There is a fairytale out there that for adoptive families, adoption is all sugar-coated and rainbows—like a Hallmark movie. Adoptive parents are often portrayed as having saved a child and praised for their selflessness. Or, the complete opposite—they are accused of being self-serving and selfish to steal someone else’s joy. Adoptive parenthood, like other types of parenthood, can bring tremendous joy—and a sizeable amount of stress, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

The truth is, just like it is for birth parents and adoptees, not everything about adoption is rosy for adoptive parents either. And like others in the adoption community, adoptive parents,  have endless questions about adoption, what’s best for their family, for the adoptee, and how to make it work for all parties involved, not just on day one of adoption, but for the many years that follow.

As adoptive mom Tumara Jordan writes, children who were adopted often have questions about their birthplace. She acknowledges that in regard to her daughter who was adopted from Ethiopia, “Although adopted children literally and figuratively are at home with their adopted parents, their birthplace still holds significance. Adoptions inherently bring to light that a child’s life started somewhere else. For many, it is where milestones occurred or where the birth family they don’t remember or never met still resides.” And while for the most part parenting itself presents its own set of challenges, it’s important that adoptive parents embrace the fact early on that there are some differences in parenting an adopted child that they should be open to learning about so they can experience a happy and healthy family life.

What Do the Relatives of Birth Parents and Adoptive Parents Think?

As mentioned, adoption is not a temporary solution, but a forever commitment that impacts all parties connected to it. Even in the case of open adoption, choosing to place a child for adoption can pose challenges and doing research and understanding what adoption will mean for you is the first step in becoming aware of the issues and effects associated with the adoption experience.

While birth parents and their relatives may find great comfort in choosing an adoption plan for their child, the truth is, grief and loss are common reactions for birth parents after they place their child for adoption. It’s important for parents considering an adoption plan to work with their adoption professional or agency in order to find out what resources and services are available to them to help with emotional issues such as grief and loss. 

Same when it comes to relatives of adoptive families. Although the addition to any family via adoption is cause for joy and celebration, it may also be a shock to the system for relatives and extended family members who have never experienced adoption before.

Adoptive families need support like any other family and it’s important that adoptive parents spend some time helping to prepare their relatives for what to expect. Some family members may feel awkward or even threatened at the idea of sharing a child with a birth family and so it’s important to educate those closest early on to avoid conflicts and issues later. What should be most important now and later is what’s in the best interest of the adopted child. Most relatives, extended family, and close friends offer great support for adoptive families, but like everyone else involved, it’s an ongoing learning process. 

Is Adoption Bad?

We’ve talked a lot about mainly the good parts of adoption or at least how to make the best out of a trying situation no matter whose shoes you’re wearing. And truth be told, the majority of adoptions are good and with each year that passes and more understanding and openness surrounding what once was such a taboo subject, there is hope and grace to be found even when adoption may not go 100 percent as planned.

But we should also talk about some of the hardships and negative impacts that are possible and can impact birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees. There’s no question that the decision to relinquish birth rights of a child is going to have psychological effects on a birth mother. She may feel an instant sense of loss or she may grieve weeks, months, or even years later wondering if she’s made the right decision after all.

Although for the most part, statistics show that adoptees grow up to be happy and well-adjusted adults, it is also true that some adoptees may struggle with identity issues, have difficulty with trust and forming meaningful emotional attachments as well as suffer from low self-esteem—especially if they have unanswered questions surrounding their adoption and the reason behind it.

Adoptive parents also don’t skip merrily into the sunset once the adoption has been finalized and they bring their child home for the first time. For many adoptive parents, this is when the deeper dive of understanding just what adoption means is going to begin. Adoptive families evolve as the child grows and becomes more curious as to what being an adoptive child means. That’s not to say it has to be negative. On the contrary, a child’s adoption story can be a beautiful story; however, adoptive families must acknowledge that all adoptive children can experience adoption-related-trauma. Adoptive families oftentimes may question how they’re handling everyday situations—and may feel as if they are not being supportive enough (or just the opposite—looking for problems where none exist).

So Is Adoption Good?

I think adoption is good but like anything else, it has the potential to be bad. I think it’s important for expectant parents and prospective adoptive parents especially to do the work, research, soul searching, and make sure that before entering into adoption they understand and are comfortable with a huge decision they will be making on behalf of a child.

No matter the type of adoption—open-adoption, semi-open adoption, or closed adoption and whether it is to proceed through an agency, independently, domestically, or internationally—the focus should always remain on what is best for the child. Find out more about adoption and whether or not it’s right for you by clicking here.

Sue Kuligowski is an author at Adoption.com. The mother of two girls through adoption, she is a proposal coordinator, freelance writer/editor, and an adoption advocate. When she’s not writing or editing, she can be found supervising sometimes successful glow-in-the-dark experiments, chasing down snails in the backyard, and attempting to make sure her girls are eating more vegetables than candy.