In General Knowledge for the Family

Adopted Children: Putting a New Face on an Old Procedure

What exactly is child adoption?

As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, child adoption is a legal procedure that is used to create a family relationship where one did not previously exist between the parties. By authorizing the adoption of children, jurisdictions are able to arrange family environments for homeless, at risk and orphaned children in their custody. Adoption permits a structure for caring for these faceless young strangers who have no family to call their own, for all practical purposes.

Adoption has ancient roots

The first recorded “adoption” in history was that of Moses early in the Old Testament, after he survived a threatened death at the hands of Pharaoh. The story reveals that he was found alive, floating alone by the shore of the river. Ironically, his birth mother was chosen to be his nursemaid, so he survived and was raised by Pharaoh’s own daughter. An evil plan was thwarted and the first incident of someone famous being raised by parents other than his own was documented. Moses was far from the usual adoptee!

Are all adopted children alike?

There is a huge population of children who have been adopted by childless couples to complete their families or by a step-parent or relative. Often, children are adopted by individuals who see the need to assume control and raise the child when no one else is able to step up to the responsibility.

All of these “chosen” children face a unique and separate set of issues which must be addressed. All of these do have traits in common with other adoptees, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their adoption. These bear no relation to the social welfare issues that are usually associated with children who have been in the custody of the state. These psychological factors give all adoptees common grounds, regardless of whether they recognize that or not.

How common are adoptions?

Adoptions are common in the family oriented social service system. Many eligible children who are up for adoption are wards of the state they live in and are in the state’s child welfare system prior to adoption. There is usually a long list of eligible parents wishing to adopt children, and this list is historically longer than the list of eligible adoptees.

There is always a surplus of older children waiting for foster families and/or adoptive families. After a valid traditional adoption, children of any age become actual members of the adoptive family, with even their state-issued birth certificates being altered to reflect that they were born to the adoptive parents rather than the birth parents.

This act has engendered much unhappiness among older adoptees who feel entitled to search for their birth families in violation of the secrecy the birth families were promised at the time of the original surrender of the infant to the adoptive family. Some states have even changed their adoption policies to allow adopted children to search for their roots.

Most states encountering this dilemma attempt to balance the rights of the adoptees against the rights of the birth parents, many of whom have never disclosed the existence of a child to other family members since there was never any reason to bring up what was most likely a painful time.

How many children are adopted each year and what types of adoptions are these?

According to the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry. approximately 120,000 children are adopted each year in the United States alone. Adopting children occurs in a vast diversity of ways. This includes couples adopting children to complete their families, adopting step children within blended families, foreign adoptions of children from outside the U.S., bi-racial adoptions of children who are not the same race as the adoptive parents, and non-traditional adoptions by same gender couples wishing to raise children in a family setting.

It is not uncommon to find the desire for adoption by older parents who would traditionally have been considered too old to adopt. One factor affecting the state of adoptions is the “healthy white baby” syndrome. Because there is a shortage of healthy white babies and a greater supply of willing adoptive parents, adoptions are increasingly taking place across traditional lines, making adopted children and their adoptive parents responsible for creating a new face of families to accompany the new millennium.

What is the current view on adoption in the average family?

As adoptions are increasing, the secrecy surrounding adoptions is becoming a thing of the past. Anonymity and secrecy in the adoption arena are giving way to acceptance and understanding as open adoptions without the secrecy requirements are becoming more common.

The need for an infant adoption was previously shrouded in silence. While there formerly was a stigma associated with adoptions for a variety of reasons including the potential for illegitimacy, the prospect of being associated with an adoption is no longer a force to be reckoned with for adoptive children or their adoptive parents. Social mores have relaxed to the extent that having a child while still unmarried is no longer the scandal that it once was, and the label of illegitimacy is no longer considered a destiny-destroying disaster for the parties. This shift in public opinion makes it easier on adopted children because the related “stigma” of being special is no longer attributed to them by their families, friends or schools.

The bright future of adoption

Changes in societal views have made adoption a viable alternative for anyone wishing to participate in the process, from the birth parents to the adoptive family. Adopted children are increasingly viewed in the same way as any other children born to a family rather than being considered special. That is a plus for the adopted children, as they can become special on their own merits as a result of their gifts and talents rather than because of the situation of their births and the acts of others.

Adoption provides a means to create families where there is no chance of a biological one being created. This brings great joy to adoptive parents who could otherwise not have children. This also injects adopted children into the mainstream of society, where they have an excellent chance of fitting in and adjusting well due to the relaxed standards and greater acceptance of society.

The future of adoption in our modern society is a bright one, with children finding forever families without the stigma of former years. With the help of state agencies acting in the best interests of children in uniting them with qualified parents, the situation for adopted children can only get better as time moves on.

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