I was scrolling through Facebook the other night when I came across an article whose title was something along the lines of “These Parents Adopted Children and Regretted It – Here’s Why.” The article talked about a handful of parents sharing their horror stories with the children they adopted. Most of the parents talked about severe behavioral issues which led them to resent their children. A few people talked about how they adopted children too old and the adoption(s) ended up ruining their retirement plans and financial stability. One person talked about how their parents “returned” an adopted child because he was deaf. One especially ecclective individual talked about how they abandoned their adopted child after that child burned their house down.
Reading this as a person who was adopted was eye-opening. I ruminated on the fact that these are the kinds of inaccurate, fear-inducing articles that discourage people from choosing adoption. Here are some of the most common myths I dislike about adoption:
All Adoptees Have Health Problems
One myth I often hear is that adopted children always have birth defects, severe health issues, and/or special needs. When my parents adopted me, I had multiple health problems: I had giardia (a parasite I got from drinking bad water) as well as croup (a respiratory infection). My parents got me the appropriate medical treatment and now, I am much healthier. Most of the children I was adopted with, and most of the adoptees I know today, have no health problems whatsoever.
Although not much research is conducted regarding adopted children, a 2007 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey found the following statistics:
- Most adopted children (85 percent) are in excellent or very good health.
- Adopted children are more likely than children in the general population to have health insurance (95 compared with 91 percent).
- The incidence of special healthcare needs is about twice as high in the population of children who were adopted as it is among the general population of U.S. children (39 compared with 19 percent). However, because adopted children comprise such a small share of the general population, the absolute number of adopted children with special health care needs is far smaller (702,000, compared with 14,136,000 of all U.S. children).
All I have to say about this is that it is important to keep in mind that many adopted children do come from hard places or parents not having access to proper medical services. For these reasons, many children placed for adoption probably do have health conditions ranging from minor to severe. Furthermore, the term special needs has a different definition in the adoption realm than many of us are used to. Some children seeking to be adopted are labeled as special needs because they are older than a certain age or are a part of a sibling group. The reality is that many adoptees do not have physical health problems and perceiving all adoptees as unhealthy is misleading. Parents who raise biological children have a chance that their child will have health conditions and/or special needs as well. You can read more about adoption of children with special needs here.
All Adoptees are Violent and/or Depressed
This is probably the most dangerous stereotype I hear about adoptees: we’re all violent, depressed, or both. I will admit that being adopted may have caused me to struggle more with my identity and heritage than many others my age. I don’t struggle with depression; I have a fair amount of anxiety, but that mainly stems from things that every kid has to go through such as school and worrying about the future. I do not think I, or any adoptee I know, is violent or unhinged. We generally grow up to live fairly average lives.
The 2007 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey found:
- Only a small minority of children who were adopted have ever been diagnosed with disorders such as detachment disorder, depression, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or behavior or conduct disorder.
- 88 percent of children who were adopted ages 6 and older exhibit positive social behavior.
- Compared to the general population of children, children who were adopted are more likely to have ever been diagnosed with and to have moderate to severe symptoms of depression, ADD/ADHD, or behavior or conduct disorders.
It may be true that some adoptees deal with depression, attention deficit disorders, or other disorders, but it is hard to separate how much of that is from being adopted and how much of that is just from growing up and transitioning into adolescence. Adoption took me a while to process, and I am sure it takes other adoptees a certain amount of time to heal and grow from it, but every child has their struggles. Adoption agencies screen for safety in adoptive homes to ensure adoptees do not end up in unsafe, unfit homes.
Many Parents Regret Adopting Their Child
I always laugh when I hear this stereotype because this actually has nothing to do with adoptees and everything to do with a decision a grown adult makes. There may undoubtedly be a handful of parents who regret adopting children, but this is not a feeling exclusive to parents who chose adoption. According to a study conducted in the U.K., one in twelve (8 percent of) parents regret having children. Another 6 percent had regrets earlier, but do not anymore.
In regards to adoption, the 2007 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey found:
- 87 percent of adopted children have parents who said they would “definitely” make the same choice to adopt their child, knowing everything then that they know about their child.
- More than 9 out of 10 adoptees ages 5 and older have parents who perceived their child’s feelings towards the adoption as “positive” or “mostly positive”
Growing up is hard and children struggle. I cannot speak to being a parent because I am not one, but as an adoptee, it is unsettling to read articles about the horror stories of adoption when in reality, that is a very small portion of the adoption population in the grand scheme of things. If you are considering adoption, there is a good chance you will end up with an adoptee like me and most of my adopted friends – healthy and well-adjusted. I hope articles like the one I read the other day do not shake your confidence. Having kids is a big decision and whether through biology or adoption, you never know what the future could hold.
Katie Kaessinger is an international adoptee from China now residing in Southern California. After graduating from the University of California, Irvine in June 2020 with her BA in English, Katie started law school at the California Western School of Law. Katie hopes to be a family lawyer and specialize in child advocacy and dependency to work with children in the foster care system and adoptees as well as foster and adoptive parents. In her spare time, Katie enjoys listening to and writing music, singing, drawing, playing with her pets, and spending time with her friends (with a mask on and from six feet away!).