According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, 641,000 children lived in foster care in 2012. Even with 52,000 adoptions in 2012, 102,000 were still legally ready for adoption with no parental rights' strings attached. Many have a wonderful experience in the adoption process, but some have a poor one. Consider the pros and cons of adoption carefully before you embark on this journey.
Pro: Rescue a Child
The adoption screening process should find parents who are good adoption candidates while removing those unable to handle the arrangement. When a good family adopts a child, he receives the love and support necessary to have a good childhood. He may get to experience new siblings in this new family and build bonds that last a lifetime. Some adopted children come from an abusive or neglecting background and get to experience the peace of a functional family life with their adoptive families.
Pro: Help the Birth Mother
In many cases, adoption will provide benefits for the birth mother. In some cases, the birth mother is a single teen parent who would struggle to provide for herself and the child while attending school and working a job. In other cases, the parents are physically or emotionally unable to raise the child. When these parents terminate parental rights for adoption purposes, they are seeking the help they need while still providing a good life for their baby. Adoptive parents will typically provide for medical care for a new birth and pay all expenses regarding the legal process.
Pro: For the Adoptive Family
Families seek to adopt a child for various reasons. Some see it as a civic or religious duty to grow their family with an adoptive child. Others cannot have a biological child and desire the completeness and satisfaction some feel in raising children. Still others do not want to tax their body through the challenging pregnancy process or cannot take the necessary time off of work to have a child but still want to love a child of their own.
Con: Long, Challenging Process
Adopting a child is typically a long, drawn-out process. Once you decide the kind of agency best suited to your situation, you will begin an application process. You will complete a state-required, two-month home study process that investigates your ability to raise a child and your background. Once you are certified as an eligible adoptive family, you are placed on a waiting list for a baby -- which can take months or years. You may receive a notice of an available baby only to find out the birth mother changed her mind about adoption or seeks to restore parental rights.
Even a smooth adoption can be expensive. Foster care adoptions in which the birth mother has already terminated parental rights are the least expensive adoptions, at up to $2,500. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a resource from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, licensed agency adoptions can cost from $5,000 to $40,000 or more to complete and maintain. Some grants and tax credits are available to help defray these expenses. Some employers also offer financial assistance or paid leave to help with this process.
Con: Challenging Children
Adopted children often assimilate very well into a new family that loves and provides for them. Some children, especially if adopted later in childhood, can experience depression and other emotional problems caused by the fact that they are adopted. Some children feel they are a hindrance to the family or were to blame for their adoption and may have low self-esteem or depression. Some children adopted through closed adoptions may not have adequate information about birth parents and may want to see them. Family dynamics problems between birth children and adoptive children can lead to family tension. You will likely discuss these and similar issues in the counseling leading up to your adoption.
- Administration for Children and Families: Trends in Foster Care and Adoption FY 2002-FY2012
- Adoption.org: Adoption Statistics
- American Pregnancy Association: Benefits of Adoptions
- Community Counselling Services, Inc.: Choosing to Adopt
- American Pregnancy: The Adoption Process
- Findlaw.com: Costs of Adopting: Fact Sheet for Families
- Help Us Adopt: Frequently Asked Questions
- National Adoption Center: The Cost of Adoption
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: Costs of Adopting
- Aroostook Mental Health Center: Long-Term Issues for the Adopted Child