February 19, 2007) — Fear and misconceptions can prevent families from embracing adoption and discourage the community from supporting adoptive families.With more than half a million children in foster care or group homes in America, and about 115,000 waiting for families, adoption is vital. Each year a child spends without a family decreases that child's chances of being placed. The average age of a child freed for adoption in the United States is 13.
Children of all ages deserve permanent, stable families. Misconceptions must be erased for more teens to find families before they "age out" of the system and try to live independently.
Here are some common adoption misconceptions:
Adopted children have more problems than biological children and are harder to raise.Most people have heard horror stories about adoption. The news focuses on extreme or heart-breaking stories. The reality is that parenting is difficult, whether your child possesses your genetic makeup or not. "None of us can predict where our children's journeys will take us — be they birth or adopted children," says Maryjane Link, executive director of Children Awaiting Parents, a national, nonprofit adoption organization based in Rochester. "We only know we need to give children in foster care a chance for a real family life — forever."
Only rich people can afford to adopt.Forming a family is a costly, challenging process — by childbirth or adoption. However, funds are available to assist adoptive families.
Only the traditional, two-parent household can adopt.The ideal adoptive parent(s) are those who plan to love, support and protect their child forever. All prospective families who fit that guideline are encouraged to offer children homes, whether the family consists of a single woman or man, an older couple, same-sex couples, couples with children, singles with children or those who have been divorced.
If a child does not instantly bond with the family there is something wrong with the family or the child.Although bonding may come quickly, children who have been abandoned need time to understand that this family will stay with them forever. Parents need to know that an adjustment period is natural and that the child may test the parents to see if they are serious about their commitment.
Birth parents will always be a threat.Once an adoption is finalized, the family is connected by law; it would be just as difficult for a biological child to be taken from his or her home. By the time a child is freed for adoption, birth parents have had many chances to conserve their family. Disruptions because of birth parents, although highly publicized, are extremely rare.
Although the child's birth parents are no longer able to care for them, they will forever be a part of that child's history. It is natural and important for a child to talk about biological roots with their adoptive family.
Adoption is second-best.Children join families for many different reasons. The most important reason for adoption or childbirth is a parent's desire to create a loving family. Adoption may be a second idea for creating a family, but it is never second best. Families who adopt are doing so for the same reasons that families give birth — they want to be parents.
Once you adopt you are on your own.The good news for parents is that after adopting there are many post-adoption services available to help them adjust and care for their child. Parent support groups, financial assistance, therapy, workshops and books are very popular and help equip parents with useful tools to handle the good and the bad.
Marciano is media and events coordinator, Children Awaiting Parents Inc.