Breaking Down the Myths About Adoption

adoptionNovember is National Adoption Month, which means it's as good a time as any to address some of the myths about adoption. As common as it is, there are a ridiculous amount of misconceptions out there, ranging form the well-meaning (you're rescuing some poor unwanted baby) to the outright bizarre.

Shannon LC Cate, who is a former coworker of mine at another group parenting blog and one of the smartest, most thoughtful writers you're ever going to meet, breaks down some of them in a BlogHer post this week. Check them out (comments are mine):

  • Birth mothers are all teens: Nope. Women place children for adoption for lots of reasons, and some already have children or are older and facing an unplanned pregnancy.
  • Open adoption is confusing to kids: Actually, if handled well it can be better for everybody in the "adoption triad". Kids don't lose their connection to their heritage and birth family, the birth mother doesn't have to wonder what kind of people are raising her baby or what kind of life they have, and the adoptive parents get another person who loves their child. Yes, it can be emotionally fraught sometimes, but what close human relationship isn't?
  • They hate girls in China: Do we seriously have to tell anyone about China's "one child" policy? That, coupled with a cultural expectation that wives become part of their husband's family and care for his parents in their old age, is why girls are more often placed for adoption. And you can adopt a boy from China ... my friend did.
  • Black babies are a trend among celebrities: Oh, there is much to be said about these celebrity adoptions from Africa, but "It's a trend" is not one of those things. 
  • Black children in the US, especially black boys, are least likely to be adopted.
  • Adoptive parents are saintly: Ha ha. No. People adopt because they want a child, not to "save" a baby. Every single adoptive parent I know would reject the halo ... they yell, get exasperated, and make mistakes just like all the rest of us.
  • Adopted kids are lucky: Again, no. Adoptive parents would generally call themselves lucky to have their children; their kids, on the other hand, had to suffer a lot of loss before landing in their loving home. And this makes it sound like these kids are such rejects they were incredibly fortunate to find someone to love them: not true.
  • Adoption costs a lot of money and only rich people can afford it: Here's where I part ways with Shannon. Adoption is really, really expensive if you go the international route, and the wait for a domestic adoption can take months, even years.  Adopting a child out of the foster system costs very little, but at least in my state it takes forever to clear children for adoption and often the kids are much older.
  • The child could be given back to or taken back by biological family members: Shannon points out that in many of the most high-profile cases of this happening, the adoption was never finalized and the adoptive parents knew about the issues that caused it to be disrupted. However, in my state, there is case after case of judges letting even the most tenuous biological connection trump the family that loved and cared for this child for most of her life. Even if the ink hasn't dried on the adoption decree, I think that needs to change.
  • Birth mothers are saints (or birth mothers are horrible): They're women who faced a crisis pregnancy and dealt with it as best they could. Nothing more, nothing less.
  • Adoption is the opposite of abortion, and if one exists, we don't need the other: I wrestle with this one sometimes. I am pro-choice, but I struggled to get pregnant and had started the adoption process when I found out my daughter was on the way. I wish a lot more people opted for adoption; the picture would not be so bleak for so many would-be parents if that were true. But I have never dealt with a pregnancy that was anything but much-wanted and prayed for, so I don't get to judge that for anyone else.

If you want to see Shannon's take, and you should (as an adoptive mom herself, she knows a lot more about this than I do) check it out over at BlogHer. What it comes down to, though, fundamentally? Engage your brain before you open your mouth when you want to comment on someone's family.


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