Table of Contents
What is Child Adoption
Accepting or relinquishing legal, social, and family responsibilities for a nonbiologic child. Adoption is an option within FAMILY PLANNING for people who desire children. Placing a child for adoption also an option in a circumstance of an unplanned PREGNANCY. About 150,000 adoptions take place in the United States each year. Adoptions may be open, in which there is direct or indirect contact between the biologic parents and the adoptive parents, or closed, in which the court seals the adoption records and biologic and adoptive parents do not know each other or anything about each other.
Each state in the United States has its own laws and procedures that regulate both sides of the adoption process. However, all states recognize and honor legal adoptions made in other states. Adoption laws regulate factors such as what information may be (or in some states, must be) made available to adult adopted children, the legal rights of biologic and adoptive parents, and the rights of biologic fathers who do not know their children were relinquished for adoption.
Countries around the world have their own laws and procedures for adoption that may or may not be consistent with practices in the United States. Though the United States generally recognizes foreign adoptions, federal immigration laws require specific evidence of legal adoption and other documentation. The US Department of State handles such matters. No matter the state or country, the legal issues of adoption are complex. It is prudent to obtain advice from a qualified adoption attorney before proceeding.
Health Concerns in Adopting a Child
Many adopted children come to their adoptive families with health concerns. Though it is ideal to have a full health history, including family history, for the adopted child, this does not often happen. As a matter of course many adoptive families have the child undergo a comprehensive medical examination. Children adopted from other countries often have parasitic infections and other health conditions uncommon in the United States. FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME, congenital INFECTIONwith SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES (STDS), HEPATITIS, RICKETS, TUBERCULOSIS, and hearing loss and VISION IMPAIRMENT are also common, especially with international adoptions. Though these are often treatable conditions, they do require prompt medical attention. Children older than one year may have emotional and psychologic problems as well. Sometimes, even in a closed adoption, the intermediary (adoption agency or attorney) is able to obtain more specific health information about the child to pass onto the adoptive parents. Conditions that require ongoing care, such as fetal ALCOHOL syndrome or developmental disabilities, are special needs.
Placing a Child for Adoption
Women have varying and often deeply personal reasons for placing their biologic children for adoption. Common reasons for being unable to retain parental rights include
- serious DRUG or alcohol abuse problems
- extreme youth or immaturity
- pregnancy that was the result of rape or incest
- health or disability issues that prohibit properly caring for a child
As well, mothers sometimes abandon their children without known reason. A woman who desires to place her child for adoption can notify her doctor, a community service agency, an adoption service, or an attorney. Typically there are no expenses to the relinquishing parent. Depending on circumstances the biologic mother may choose the adoptive family, especially if she is pregnant at the time she makes the decision to place the child for adoption.
The decision to place a child for adoption, which on the surface may appear straightforward, has lifelong emotional consequences for mother and child. The mother may feel guilty for “giving up” her child. The child, when old enough to understand what adoption means, may feel abandoned regardless of the circumstances of the adoptive family. It is important for adoptive families to be loving yet as open as possible about questions adoptive children may ask. Many communities have SUPPORT GROUPS for adoptive parents, adopted children, and people who placed their children for adoption. Support groups can help people share their concerns, feelings, and solutions to common problems.
Parenting and family are life experiences that have challenges and accomplishments, perils and joys, no matter what their configurations. For many adults who adopt, adoption brings to fruition a lifelong dream to raise and parent a child, either starting or adding to a family. And for many children who are adopted, adoption is daily evidence that someone wants them and loves them very much.
See also CULTURAL AND ETHNIC HEALTH CARE PERSPECTIVES; GESTATIONAL SURROGACY; PARENTING.