Finding out you are unexpectedly expecting can feel like falling down Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole. It can be surprising, confusing, thrilling, daunting, and everything in between. For some expecting parents, news of an unplanned pregnancy can bring excitement. But for others, it can bring a lot of stress. Now may not be the right time in your life to parent a child or to parent another child. You may feel that your life was headed in one direction, but news of your pregnancy sent it off in another direction. If you are reading this article, you may be considering placing your child with an adoptive family. Choosing adoption is a loving, difficult choice, and many expectant parents wonder, “Is adoption good for the child?” The answer is yes, but it’s complicated. Here are a few things to consider:
1. Focus on You
The first thing to consider when evaluating the choice of adoption is what is right for you right now. You may be in a place in your life where obtaining educational and career goals is important to you, and a child would hinder that. You may not be in a place where you are financially or emotionally prepared to parent a child. And that can be a scary feeling. You may feel like you want children one day, but not now. Or you may have children but feel like you are unable to parent another child. Whatever your reason, taking the time to evaluate where you are and what adding a child into your life might mean is an important first step. Adoption can benefit the adoptive parents, the child, and you if it is the right choice.
2. You Have a Choice in Adoptive Parents
Just as you have a choice whether to place your child for adoption, you have a choice as to who will parent your child. In fact, these choices are more like rights as you, as the expectant parent, have the right to decide both your and your child’s fate. You can choose whoever you want to parent your child, and no one may influence your decision. You may choose to pursue a kinship adoption, but most expectant parents evaluate awaiting parent profiles to find the best prospective adoptive parent match. When considering a prospective adoptive parent, think about what is important to you. If your child could be raised anywhere, in any circumstances, what would their family look like? Take some time and read through different waiting parent profiles. When you think about whether adoption is good for the child, who do you believe will provide the best, most stable, and loving environment for your child? Your adoption facilitator or adoption agency will help you make contact with the prospective adoptive parents. And if they are not a good fit, know there are hundreds, if not thousands, more to consider.
3. You Can Stay in Touch
Just because you place your child with an adoptive family does not mean you are out of your child’s life forever – unless you choose to be. While closed adoptions used to be the norm, the landscape of adoption began to shift towards semi-open and open adoptions twenty years ago. Semi-open and open adoption have shown to benefit all adoption triad members as it allows for some form of ongoing contact. Contact may come in the form of phone calls, video chats, letters, emails, or even in-person meetings. For the adoptee, semi-open and open adoption allow them to understand their medical history and the circumstances around their adoption. It also provides them with a sense of identity. For the birth parents, open adoption and semi-open adoption can lower post-adoption grief and provide a sense of comfort. And for the adoptive parents, having you in their life means their child is more loved and more supported. But remember, post-adoption relationships are not a “one size fits all” scenario. Every adoption triad is unique, and it is up to each part of the triangle to define what is right for them.
4. Focus on the Child
When considering whether adoption is good for the child, many expectant parents fear the child will not grow up to be happy and healthy. Rest assured that you have the ability to interview as many prospective adoptive parents as you like until you find a good match for you and your child. Each prospective adoptive parent has been screened and completed an adoption home study. Over the course of an adoption home study, prospective adoptive parents explore and state their motivations for adoption and what type of child they hope to bring into their family. Prospective adoptive parents will answer a long series of questions about their parenting styles, their religious beliefs, their extracurricular activities, and their thoughts on discipline to name a few. Prospective adoptive parents must provide personal and professional references that will speak to their ability to parent a child. And at least three in-person visits will take place with a state-licensed social worker in the prospective adoptive parent’s home. All of these elements combined together are designed to show that the prospective adoptive parents are physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially stable and have the resources necessary to raise a child. Much of the answers given in the home study will be used by the prospective adoptive parents in their waiting parent profiles. As an expectant parent, this will give you a good sense of what life for your child will be like with the adoptive parents. The home study can also give you peace of mind that the home you will place your child in is a loving, nurturing, stable environment.
5. Pre-Adoption Training
During the home study process, all prospective adoptive parents must go through a certain number of hours of pre-adoption training. The number of hours required varies state to state, but typically somewhere between 20-40 hours of training is required. Like the peace of mind that comes with the home study, when considering whether adoption is good for the child, know that prospective adoptive parents have spent many hours studying, reading, and even attending classes on becoming an adoptive family. Topics of the classes include everything from how to foster attachment with your adoptive child, how to support a child struggling with identity issues, and the different parenting types that should be employed with adoptive children. Suppose the adoptive family is transethnic or transracial. In that case, the prospective adoptive parents must show ways they will incorporate the adoptive child’s heritage into their family’s fabric. Prospective adoptive parents will learn the importance of creating a Life Book. All of these subjects are covered to support the adoptee in their new life with the adoptive family.
Perhaps most importantly, prospective adoptive parents will learn how to communicate with their child about adoption. Practicing positive adoption language means honoring each member of the adoption triad and ensuring that each triad member is treated with respect. Every adoptive parent I know speaks well of their child’s birth parents. Even when the situation surrounding the placement was difficult, as adoptive parents, it is important to tell the adoptee their birth parents made the difficult but loving decision to place them with another family. Placing a child for adoption is an incredibly caring, selfless decision. Placing a child for adoption means that you want your child to have the best life possible. At the time of placement, the best life possible was with an adoptive family. When we speak about adoption in this light, it leads to positive feelings about adoption, essential for the adoptee.
When you consider a prospective adoptive parent, ask them what kind of language they will use to discuss adoption with your child. How will they speak about you? What role will you have in the child’s life, and what part will you play in their story? Having these tough conversations early on in the matching process can be the difference between a good placement and a great one.
6. Lots of Available Resources
Expectant parents choose to place their child for adoption for many reasons. Your reason may be the same as someone else’s or completely unique to you. Just as no two pregnancies are the same, no two adoption stories are the same. All adoption stories have in common, though, the desire for a better life for the child. In thinking about whether adoption is good for the child, one aspect to consider is what resources may be available to the child with the adoptive family. When selecting prospective adoptive parents, what things do you hope your child has access to pursuing? Dance classes, music, hokey, art classes, concerts, plays, or sporting events? What about down the line? Good public schools, or private schools? College, graduate school? What do you hope for your child?
7. No Adoption Stigma
While it is always best for a child to be in the most loving, stable environment possible, there was a bit of a stigma around adoption in decades past. At the time, the pervasive thinking was to keep a child’s adoption a secret – both from them and from the rest of the family. This led to identity crises in many adoptive children, particularly transracial and/or transethnic families. Not only did the child feel that adoption was something to be ashamed of, that guilt extended to the birth parents as well. Today we know that adoption should be celebrated and should be spoken about openly. Having open and honest conversations with an adoptive child leads to healthier attachment. It also builds a greater sense of self-identity. We no longer believe that children should just “fit in” with the adoptive family; rather, we acknowledge and celebrate differences. For example, in my family, we celebrate our children’s Chinese and Indian heritage through foods and festivals throughout the year. We involve our extended family and neighborhood in the celebrations. Our children are tremendously proud of their culture and heritage. We also read books on adoption and have made contributions to our children’s classrooms and school libraries to have their own experiences reflected in the books they and their peers read. Families come into being through many avenues, and adoption is just one way in which that might happen. And by normalizing the idea of adoption, we remove the stigma of adoption from all adoption triad members. And that’s a powerful thing.
8. It’s a Personal Decision
One final way to decide whether adoption is good for the child is to read articles of others who have walked this path. Watch videos of birth mothers sharing their stories in their own words. Listen to the experiences of adoptive parents. Read as adoptees write eloquently and passionately about their own personal experiences. The one thing you will find in common is adoption is lovingly complicated. No two adoption triads are the same, and everyone’s experiences will change over time. Adoption is a personal decision, and it is one that you and you alone can make. But it is an incredibly loving choice. As an adoptive mother, I am forever grateful to my children’s birth parents for choosing adoption for my son and my daughter. I don’t know what led to their decision. I don’t know what life may have been like for my children had they stayed with their birth parents. Sill, I know I have two incredible, happy, energetic, smart, talented, amazing kids who light up my family’s world in ways we never thought imaginable. So yes, adoption is good for the child. Yes, choosing to parent is good for the child. Know that whatever choice you make will be the right one for you and your child. The fact that you are reading this article is evidence of that. And that is a beautiful, powerful thing.Are you considering adoption and want to give your child the best life possible? Let us help you find an adoptive family that you love. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.
Jennifer S. Jones is a writer, performer, storyteller, and arts educator. She holds an MFA (Playwriting) from NYU Tisch. She has written numerous plays including the internationally renowned, award-winning Appearance of Life. Her amazing transracial transcultural family was created through adoption from China and India. She is passionate about the adoption community and talks about the ins and outs, ups and downs, joys and “is this really us?!” whenever she can. She writes about her experiences at www.letterstojack.com.