Adopted For Life Summary Essay

“Russell Moore has given the church a God-centered, gospel-saturated, culturally-sensitive, mission-focused, desperately needed exploration of the priority and privilege of adoption. Readers will find themselves laughing on one page, crying on the next, and ultimately bowing before God thanking him for adopting them into his heavenly family and considering how to show his love to the fatherless on earth.”
David Platt, President, International Mission Board; author, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

Adopted for Life is one of the most compelling books I have ever read—both deeply touching and richly theological. You will never look at adoption or the gospel in quite the same way after reading this book. How could the church have been missing this for so long?”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Personal, practical, and rich in theology, this book is a ‘must-read’ for anyone interested in adoption. Dr. Moore reveals the love of God through the redemptive beauty of adoption. Whether your interest is personal or church related, this book is for you.”
Kelly Rosati, Vice President for Community Outreach, Focus on the Family

“Anyone who has adopted, who is considering adoption, or who has been adopted should read Adopted for Life. And anyone who wants to a get a glimpse of the greatness of the Father’s love for him or her should read it as well.”
Thom S. Rainer, President and CEO, LifeWay Christian Resources

“This book is for all who have been adopted by God. Moore illumines the beauty and wonder of our adoption in Christ and its profound implications for orphan care. If you want to deepen your worship of the God who adopts, Adopted for Life will serve you exceptionally well.”
Dan Cruver, Director, Together for Adoption; author, Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father

“This book offers both practical advice and courage to every couple considering adoption. For all readers, it shows how the act of adoption actually reveals core truths about the gospel of Christ.”
Allan C. Carlson, President, The Howard Center for Family, Religion, & Society; Founder and International Secretary, the World Congress of Families; Distinguished Visiting Professor of History, Hillsdale College

“Dr. Moore draws on his family’s own experience with adoption to help others understand that by adopting orphaned children we can grow in love of God and neighbor and come to appreciate more deeply our own adoption into the family of God.”
Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University

“Russell Moore has done the church a tremendous service by reminding us of the call of God to meet the ever pressing needs of these little ones. Read with the intent to obey.”
Johnny Hunt, Former President, The Southern Baptist Convention; Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church Woodstock, Woodstock, Georgia

“I know of no other book so biblically rich, so very practical, and so authentic and heart-felt about the beautiful gift of adoption as this one. It’s a powerfully insightful book of how adoption is a beautiful act of love and mission for the gospel. I pray that God uses it to encourage and impact many, many lives.”
Dan Kimball, Pastor, Vintage Faith Church; author, They Like Jesus but Not the Church

“Russell Moore has out of personal experience and with biblical accuracy produced in this work an understanding of God’s purposes in adoption and its connection with gospel compassion. Every pastor should consider the responsibility he has in making adoption a priority for the church as a viable representation of the gospel doctrine of adoption.”
John MacArthur, Pastor, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California; President, The Master's University and Seminary

“Russell Moore invites readers to learn to think of adoption in the light of Christian faith. This is a book not only for those who have adopted, those who may adopt, or those who have been adopted, but for all who know themselves to have been freely adopted by God’s grace.”
Gilbert Meilaender, Duesenberg Professor in Christian Ethics, Valparaiso University

Adopted for Life

For other uses, see Adoption (disambiguation).

Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting of another, usually a child, from that person's biological or legal parent or parents, and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities, along with filiation, from the biological parent or parents. Adoption can be done by a couple or an individual person but children have to be 14 years younger and the adoptive parents can not have been legally incapacitated.[clarification needed]

Unlike guardianship or other systems designed for the care of the young, adoption is intended to effect a permanent change in status and as such requires societal recognition, either through legal or religious sanction. Historically, some societies have enacted specific laws governing adoption; where others have tried to achieve adoption through less formal means, notably via contracts that specified inheritance rights and parental responsibilities without an accompanying transfer of filiation. Modern systems of adoption, arising in the 20th century, tend to be governed by comprehensive statutes and regulations.

History[edit]

Antiquity[edit]

Adoption for the well-born

While the modern form of adoption emerged in the United States, forms of the practice appeared throughout history.[1] The Code of Hammurabi, for example, details the rights of adopters and the responsibilities of adopted individuals at length. The practice of adoption in ancient Rome is well documented in the Codex Justinianus.[2][3]

Markedly different from the modern period, ancient adoption practices put emphasis on the political and economic interests of the adopter,[4] providing a legal tool that strengthened political ties between wealthy families and created male heirs to manage estates.[5][6] The use of adoption by the aristocracy is well documented; many of Rome's emperors were adopted sons.[6]Adrogation was a kind of Roman adoption which required the adrogator to be at least 60 years old.

Infant adoption during Antiquity appears rare.[4][7]Abandoned children were often picked up for slavery[8] and composed a significant percentage of the Empire's slave supply.[9][10] Roman legal records indicate that foundlings were occasionally taken in by families and raised as a son or daughter. Although not normally adopted under Roman Law, the children, called alumni, were reared in an arrangement similar to guardianship, being considered the property of the father who abandoned them.[11]

Other ancient civilizations, notably India and China, used some form of adoption as well. Evidence suggests the goal of this practice was to ensure the continuity of cultural and religious practices; in contrast to the Western idea of extending family lines. In ancient India, secondary sonship, clearly denounced by the Rigveda,[12] continued, in a limited and highly ritualistic form, so that an adopter might have the necessary funerary rites performed by a son.[13] China had a similar idea of adoption with males adopted solely to perform the duties of ancestor worship.[14]

The practice of adopting the children of family members and close friends was common among the cultures of Polynesia including Hawaii where the custom was referred to as hānai.

Middle Ages to modern period[edit]

Adoption and commoners

The nobility of the Germanic, Celtic, and Slavic cultures that dominated Europe after the decline of the Roman Empire denounced the practice of adoption.[15] In medieval society, bloodlines were paramount; a ruling dynasty lacking a "natural-born" heir apparent was replaced, a stark contrast to Roman traditions. The evolution of European law reflects this aversion to adoption. English Common Law, for instance, did not permit adoption since it contradicted the customary rules of inheritance. In the same vein, France's Napoleonic Code made adoption difficult, requiring adopters to be over the age of 50, sterile, older than the adopted person by at least 15 years, and to have fostered the adoptee for at least six years.[16] Some adoptions continued to occur, however, but became informal, based on ad hoc contracts. For example, in the year 737, in a charter from the town of Lucca, three adoptees were made heirs to an estate. Like other contemporary arrangements, the agreement stressed the responsibility of the adopted rather than adopter, focusing on the fact that, under the contract, the adoptive father was meant to be cared for in his old age; an idea that is similar to the conceptions of adoption under Roman law.[17]

Europe's cultural makeover marked a period of significant innovation for adoption. Without support from the nobility, the practice gradually shifted toward abandoned children. Abandonment levels rose with the fall of the empire and many of the foundlings were left on the doorstep of the Church.[18] Initially, the clergy reacted by drafting rules to govern the exposing, selling, and rearing of abandoned children. The Church's innovation, however, was the practice of oblation, whereby children were dedicated to lay life within monastic institutions and reared within a monastery. This created the first system in European history in which abandoned children did not have legal, social, or moral disadvantages. As a result, many of Europe's abandoned and orphaned children became alumni of the Church, which in turn took the role of adopter. Oblation marks the beginning of a shift toward institutionalization, eventually bringing about the establishment of the foundling hospital and orphanage.[18]

As the idea of institutional care gained acceptance, formal rules appeared about how to place children into families: boys could become apprenticed to an artisan and girls might be married off under the institution's authority.[19] Institutions informally adopted out children as well, a mechanism treated as a way to obtain cheap labor, demonstrated by the fact that when the adopted died, their bodies were returned by the family to the institution for burial.[20]

This system of apprenticeship and informal adoption extended into the 19th century, today seen as a transitional phase for adoption history. Under the direction of social welfare activists, orphan asylums began to promote adoptions based on sentiment rather than work; children were placed out under agreements to provide care for them as family members instead of under contracts for apprenticeship.[21] The growth of this model is believed to have contributed to the enactment of the first modern adoption law in 1851 by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, unique in that it codified the ideal of the "best interests of the child."[22][23] Despite its intent, though, in practice, the system operated much the same as earlier incarnations. The experience of the Boston Female Asylum (BFA) is a good example, which had up to 30% of its charges adopted out by 1888.[24] Officials of the BFA noted that, although the asylum promoted otherwise, adoptive parents did not distinguish between indenture and adoption; "We believe," the asylum officials said, "that often, when children of a younger age are taken to be adopted, the adoption is only another name for service."[25]

Modern period[edit]

Adopting to create a family

The next stage of adoption's evolution fell to the emerging nation of the United States. Rapid immigration and the American Civil War resulted in unprecedented overcrowding of orphanages and foundling homes in the mid-nineteenth century. Charles Loring Brace, a Protestant minister became appalled by the legions of homeless waifs roaming the streets of New York City. Brace considered the abandoned youth, particularly Catholics, to be the most dangerous element challenging the city's order.[26][27]

His solution was outlined in The Best Method of Disposing of Our Pauper and Vagrant Children (1859) which started the Orphan Train movement. The orphan trains eventually shipped an estimated 200,000 children from the urban centers of the East to the nation's rural regions.[28] The children were generally indentured, rather than adopted, to families who took them in.[29] As in times past, some children were raised as members of the family while others were used as farm laborers and household servants.[30] The sheer size of the displacement—the largest migration of children in history—and the degree of exploitation that occurred, gave rise to new agencies and a series of laws that promoted adoption arrangements rather than indenture. The hallmark of the period is Minnesota's adoption law of 1917 which mandated investigation of all placements and limited record access to those involved in the adoption.[31][32]

During the same period, the Progressive movement swept the United States with a critical goal of ending the prevailing orphanage system. The culmination of such efforts came with the First White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children called by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909,[33] where it was declared that the nuclear family represented "the highest and finest product of civilization" and was best able to serve as primary caretaker for the abandoned and orphaned.[34][35] Anti-institutional forces gathered momentum. As late as 1923, only two percent of children without parental care were in adoptive homes, with the balance in foster arrangements and orphanages. Less than forty years later, nearly one-third were in an adoptive home.[36]

Nevertheless, the popularity of eugenic ideas in America put up obstacles to the growth of adoption.[37][38] There were grave concerns about the genetic quality of illegitimate and indigent children, perhaps best exemplified by the influential writings of Henry H. Goddard who protested against adopting children of unknown origin, saying,

Now it happens that some people are interested in the welfare and high development of the human race; but leaving aside those exceptional people, all fathers and mothers are interested in the welfare of their own families. The dearest thing to the parental heart is to have the children marry well and rear a noble family. How short-sighted it is then for such a family to take into its midst a child whose pedigree is absolutely unknown; or, where, if it were partially known, the probabilities are strong that it would show poor and diseased stock, and that if a marriage should take place between that individual and any member of the family the offspring would be degenerates.[39]

The period 1945 to 1974, the baby scoop era, saw rapid growth and acceptance of adoption as a means to build a family.[40] Illegitimate births rose three-fold after World War II, as sexual mores changed. Simultaneously, the scientific community began to stress the dominance of nurture over genetics, chipping away at eugenic stigmas.[41][42] In this environment, adoption became the obvious solution for both unwed people and infertile couples.[43]

Taken together, these trends resulted in a new American model for adoption. Following its Roman predecessor, Americans severed the rights of the original parents while making adopters the new parents in the eyes of the law. Two innovations were added: 1) adoption was meant to ensure the "best interests of the child;" the seeds of this idea can be traced to the first American adoption law in Massachusetts,[16][23] and 2) adoption became infused with secrecy, eventually resulting in the sealing of adoption and original birth records by 1945. The origin of the move toward secrecy began with Charles Loring Brace who introduced it to prevent children from the Orphan Trains from returning to or being reclaimed by their parents. Brace feared the impact of the parents' poverty, in general, and their Catholic religion, in particular, on the youth. This tradition of secrecy was carried on by the later Progressive reformers when drafting of American laws.[44]

The number of adoptions in the United States peaked in 1970.[45] It is uncertain what caused the subsequent decline. Likely contributing factors in the 1960s and 1970s include a decline in the fertility rate, associated with the introduction of the pill, the completion of legalization of artificial birth control methods, the introduction of federal funding to make family planning services available to the young and low income, and the legalization of abortion. In addition, the years of the late 1960s and early 1970s saw a dramatic change in society's view of illegitimacy and in the legal rights[46] of those born outside of wedlock. In response, family preservation efforts grew[47] so that few children born out of wedlock today are adopted. Ironically, adoption is far more visible and discussed in society today, yet it is less common.[48]

The American model of adoption eventually proliferated globally. England and Wales established their first formal adoption law in 1926. The Netherlands passed its law in 1956. Sweden made adoptees full members of the family in 1959. West Germany enacted its first laws in 1977.[49] Additionally, the Asian powers opened their orphanage systems to adoption, influenced as they were by Western ideas following colonial rule and military occupation.[50] In France, local public institutions accredit candidates for adoption, who can then contact orphanages abroad, or ask for the support of NGOs. The system does not involve fees, but gives considerable power to social workers whose decisions may restrict adoption to standardized families (middle-age, medium to high income, heterosexual, Caucasian).[51]

Although adoption is today practiced globally, the United States has the largest number of children adopted per 100 live births. The table below provides a snapshot of Western adoption rates. Adoption in the United States still occurs at nearly three times those of its peers although the number of children awaiting adoption has held steady in recent years, hovering between 133,000 and 129,000 during the period 2002 to 2006.[52]

CountryAdoptionsLive birthsAdoption/live birth ratioNotes
Australia270 (2007–2008)[53]254,000 (2004)[54]0.2 per 100 live birthsIncludes known relative adoptions
England & Wales4,764 (2006)[55]669,601(2006)[56]0.7 per 100 live birthsIncludes all adoption orders in England and Wales
Icelandbetween 20–35 year[57]4,560 (2007)[58]0.8 per 100 live births
Ireland263 (2003)[59]61,517 (2003)[60]0.4 per 100 live births92 non-family adoptions; 171 family adoptions (e.g. stepparent). 459 international adoptions were also recorded.
Italy3,158 (2006)[61]560,010 (2006)[62]0.6 per 100 live births
New Zealand154 (2012/13) [63]59,863 (2012/13) [64]0.26 per 100 live birthsBreakdown: 50 non-relative, 50 relative, 17 step-parent, 12 surrogacy, 1 foster parent, 18 international relative, 6 international non-relative
Norway657 (2006)[65]58,545(2006)[66]1.1 per 100 live birthsAdoptions breakdown: 438 inter-country; 174 stepchildren; 35 foster; 10 other.
Sweden1044(2002)[67]91,466(2002)[68]1.1 per 100 live births10–20 of these were national adoptions of infants. The rest were international adoptions.
United Statesapprox 127,000 (2001)[69]4,021,725 (2002)[70]~3 per 100 live birthsThe number of adoptions is reported to be constant since 1987.

Table 2: Adoptions, Live Births, and Adoption/Live Birth Ratios are provided in the table below (alphabetical, by country) for a number of Western countries

Contemporary adoption[edit]

Forms of adoption[edit]

Contemporary adoption practices can be open or closed.

  • Open adoption allows identifying information to be communicated between adoptive and biological parents and, perhaps, interaction between kin and the adopted person.[71] Rarely, it is the outgrowth of laws that maintain an adoptee's right to unaltered birth certificates and/or adoption records, but such access is not universal (it is possible in a few jurisdictions—including the UK and six states in the United States).[72][73][74][75] Open adoption can be an informal arrangement subject to termination by adoptive parents who have sole authority over the child. In some jurisdictions, the biological and adoptive parents may enter into a legally enforceable and binding agreement concerning visitation, exchange of information, or other interaction regarding the child.[76] As of February 2009, 24 U.S. states allowed legally enforceable open adoption contract agreements to be included in the adoption finalization.[77]
  • The practice of closed adoption (aka confidential or secret adoption),[78] which has not been the norm for most of modern history,[79] seals all identifying information, maintaining it as secret and preventing disclosure of the adoptive parents', biological kins', and adoptees' identities. Nevertheless, closed adoption may allow the transmittal of non-identifying information such as medical history and religious and ethnic background.[80] Today, as a result of safe haven laws passed by some U.S. states, secret adoption is seeing renewed influence. In so-called "safe-haven" states, infants can be left, anonymously, at hospitals, fire departments, or police stations within a few days of birth, a practice criticized by some adoption advocacy organizations as being retrograde and dangerous.[81] Closed adoption, lack of medical history and the broken thread of family continuity can have a detrimental impact on an adoptee's psychological and physical health. The lack of openness, honesty and family connections in adoption can be detrimental to the psychological well being of adoptees and of their descendants.

How adoptions originate[edit]

Adoptions can occur either between related family members, or unrelated individuals. Historically, most adoptions occurred within a family. The most recent data from the U.S. indicates about half of adoptions are currently between related individuals.[82] A common example of this is a "stepparent adoption", where the new partner of a parent may legally adopt a child from the parent's previous relationship. Intra-family adoption can also occur through surrender, as a result of parental death, or when the child cannot otherwise be cared for and a family member agrees to take over.

Infertility is the main reason parents seek to adopt children they are not related to. One study shows this accounted for 80% of unrelated infant adoptions and half of adoptions through foster care.[83] Estimates suggest that 11–24% of Americans who cannot conceive or carry to term attempt to build a family through adoption, and that the overall rate of ever-married American women who adopt is about 1.4%.[84][85] Other reasons people adopt are numerous although not well documented. These may include wanting to cement a new family following divorce or death of one parent, compassion motivated by religious or philosophical conviction, to avoid contributing to overpopulation out of the belief that it is more responsible to care for otherwise parent-less children than to reproduce, to ensure that inheritable diseases (e.g., Tay-Sachs disease) are not passed on, and health concerns relating to pregnancy and childbirth. Although there are a range of possible reasons, the most recent study of experiences of women who adopt suggests they are most likely to be 40–44 years of age, currently married, have impaired fertility, and childless.[86]

Unrelated adoptions may occur through the following mechanisms:

  • Private domestic adoptions: under this arrangement, charities and for-profit organizations act as intermediaries, bringing together prospective adoptive parents and families who want to place a child, all parties being residents of the same country. Alternatively, prospective adoptive parents sometimes avoid intermediaries and connect with women directly, often with a written contract; this is not permitted in some jurisdictions. Private domestic adoption accounts for a significant portion of all adoptions; in the United States, for example, nearly 45% of adoptions are estimated to have been arranged privately.[87]
    Children associated with Hope and Homes for Children, a foster care program in Ukraine
  • Foster care adoption: this is a type of domestic adoption where a child is initially placed in public care. Many times the foster parents take on the adoption when the children become legally free. Its importance as an avenue for adoption varies by country. Of the 127,500 adoptions in the U.S. in 2000[87] about 51,000 or 40% were through the foster care system.[88]
  • International adoption: involves the placing of a child for adoption outside that child's country of birth. This can occur through both public and private agencies. In some countries, such as Sweden, these adoptions account for the majority of cases (see above Table). The U.S. example, however, indicates there is wide variation by country since adoptions from abroad account for less than 15% of its cases.[87] More than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted in the United States since 1992,[89] and a similar number of Chinese children were adopted from 1995 to 2005.[90] The laws of different countries vary in their willingness to allow international adoptions. Recognizing the difficulties and challenges associated with international adoption, and in an effort to protect those involved from the corruption and exploitation which sometimes accompanies it, the Hague Conference on Private International Law developed the Hague Adoption Convention, which came into force on 1 May 1995 and has been ratified by 85 countries as of November 2011.[91]
  • Embryo adoption: based on the donation of embryos remaining after one couple's in vitro fertilization treatments have been completed; embryos are given to another individual or couple, followed by the placement of those embryos into the recipient woman's uterus, to facilitate pregnancy and childbirth. In the United States, embryo adoption is governed by property law rather than by the court systems, in contrast to traditional adoption.
  • Common law adoption: this is an adoption which has not been recognized beforehand by the courts, but where a parent, without resorting to any formal legal process, leaves his or her children with a friend or relative for an extended period of time.[92][93] At the end of a designated term of (voluntary) co-habitation, as witnessed by the public, the adoption is then considered binding, in some courts of law, even though not initially sanctioned by the court. The particular terms of a common-law adoption are defined by each legal jurisdiction. For example, the US state of California recognizes common law relationships after co-habitation of 2 years. The practice is called "private fostering" in Britain.[94]

How adoptions can disrupt[edit]

Main article: Disruption (adoption)

Disruption refers to the termination of an adoption. This includes adoptions that end prior to legal finalization and those that end after that point (in U.S. law, the latter cases are referred to as having been dissolved). The Disruption process is usually initiated by adoptive parents via a courtpetition and is analogous to divorce proceedings. It is a legal avenue unique to adoptive parents as disruption/dissolution does not apply to biological kin.[95]

Ad hoc studies, performed in the U.S., however, suggest that between 10 and 25 percent of adoptions disrupt before they are legally finalized and from 1 to 10 percent are dissolved after legal finalization. The wide range of values reflects the paucity of information on the subject and demographic factors such as age; it is known that older children are more prone to having their adoptions disrupted.[95]

Adoption by same-sex couples[edit]

Main article: LGBT adoption

Joint adoption by same-sex couples is legal in 26 countries, and in various sub-national territories. LGBT adoption may also be in the form of step-child adoption, wherein one partner in a same-sex couple adopts the biological child of the other partner.

Parenting and development of adoptees[edit]

Parenting[edit]

The biological relationship between a parent and child is important, and the separation of the two has led to concerns about adoption. The traditional view of adoptive parenting received empirical support from a Princeton University study of 6,000 adoptive, step, and foster families in the United States and South Africa from 1968 to 1985; the study indicated that food expenditures in households with mothers of non-biological children (when controlled for income, household size, hours worked, age, etc.) were significantly less for adoptees, step-children, and foster children, causing the researchers to speculate that, instinctively, people are less interested in sustaining the genetic lines of others.[96] This theory is supported in another more qualitative study where in adoptive relationships marked by sameness in likes, personality, and appearance, both adult adoptees and adoptive parents report being happier with the adoption.[97]

Other studies provide evidence that adoptive relationships can form along other lines. A study evaluating the level of parental investment indicates strength in adoptive families, suggesting that parents who adopt invest more time in their children than other parents and concludes, "...adoptive parents enrich their children's lives to compensate for the lack of biological ties and the extra challenges of adoption."[98] Another recent study found that adoptive families invested more heavily in their adopted children, for example, by providing further education and financial support. Noting that adoptees seemed to be more likely to experience problems such as drug addiction, the study speculated that adoptive parents might invest more in adoptees not because they favor them, but because they are more likely than genetic children to need the help.[99]

Psychologists' findings regarding the importance of early mother-infant bonding created some concern about whether parents who adopt older infants or toddlers after birth have missed some crucial period for the child's development. However, research on The Mental and Social Life of Babies suggested that the "parent-infant system," rather than a bond between biologically related individuals, is an evolved fit between innate behavior patterns of all human infants and equally evolved responses of human adults to those infant behaviors. Thus nature "ensures some initial flexibility with respect to the particular adults who take on the parental role."[100]

Beyond the foundational issues, the unique questions posed for adoptive parents are varied. They include how to respond to stereotypes, answering questions about heritage, and how best to maintain connections with biological kin when in an open adoption.[101] One author suggests a common question adoptive parents have is: "Will we love the child even though he/she is not our biological child?"[102] A specific concern for many parents is accommodating an adoptee in the classroom.[103] Familiar lessons like "draw your family tree" or "trace your eye color back through your parents and grandparents to see where your genes come from" could be hurtful to children who were adopted and do not know this biological information. Numerous suggestions have been made to substitute new lessons, e.g., focusing on "family orchards."[104]

Adopting older children presents other parenting issues.[105] Some children from foster care have histories of maltreatment, such as physical and psychological neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse, and are at risk of developing psychiatric problems.[106][107] Such children are at risk of developing a disorganized attachment.[108][109][110] Studies by Cicchetti et al. (1990, 1995) found that 80% of abused and maltreated infants in their sample exhibited disorganized attachment styles.[111][112] Disorganized attachment is associated with a number of developmental problems, including dissociative symptoms,[113] as well as depressive, anxiety, and acting-out symptoms.[114][115] "Attachment is an active process- it can be secure or insecure, maladaptive or productive."[116] In the UK some adoptions fail because the adoptive parents do not get sufficient support to deal with difficult, traumatized children. This is a false economy as local authority care for these children is extremely expensive.[117]

Concerning developmental milestones, studies from the Colorado Adoption Project examined genetic influences on adoptee maturation, concluding that cognitive abilities of adoptees reflect those of their adoptive parents in early childhood but show little similarity by adolescence, resembling instead those of their biological parents and to the same extent as peers in non-adoptive families.[118]

Similar mechanisms appear to be at work in the physical development of adoptees. Danish and American researchers conducting studies on the genetic contribution to body mass index found correlations between an adoptee's weight class and his biological parents' BMI while finding no relationship with the adoptive family environment. Moreover, about one-half of inter-individual differences were due to individual non-shared influences.[119][120]

These differences in development appear to play out in the way young adoptees deal with major life events. In the case of parental divorce, adoptees have been found to respond differently from children who have not been adopted. While the general population experienced more behavioral problems, substance use, lower school achievement, and impaired social competence after parental divorce, the adoptee population appeared to be unaffected in terms of their outside relationships, specifically in their school or social abilities.[121]

Effects on the original parents[edit]

Several factors affect the decision to release or raise the child. White adolescents tend to give up their babies to non-relatives, whereas black adolescents are more likely to receive support from their own community in raising the child and also in the form of informal adoption by relatives.[122] Studies by Leynes and by Festinger and Young, Berkman, and Rehr found that for pregnant adolescents, the decision to release the child for adoption depended on the attitude toward adoption held by the adolescent's mother.[123] Another study found that pregnant adolescents whose mothers had a higher level of education were more likely to release their babies for adoption. Research suggests that women who choose to release their babies for adoption are more likely to be younger, enrolled in school, and have lived in a two-parent household at age 10, than those who kept and raised their babies.[124]

There is limited research on the consequences of adoption for the original parents, and the findings have been mixed. One study found that those who released their babies for adoption were less comfortable with their decision than those who kept their babies. However, levels of comfort over both groups were high, and those who released their child were similar to those who kept their child in ratings of life satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, and positive future outlook for schooling, employment, finances, and marriage.[125] Subsequent research found that adolescent mothers who chose to release their babies for adoption were more likely to experience feelings of sorrow and regret over their decision than those who kept their babies. However, these feelings decreased significantly from one year after birth to the end of the second year.[126]

More recent research found that in a sample of mothers who had released their children for adoption four to 12 years prior, every participant had frequent thoughts of their lost child. For most, thoughts were both negative and positive in that they produced both feelings of sadness and joy. Those who experienced the greatest portion of positive thoughts were those who had open, rather than closed or time-limited mediated adoptions.[127]

In another study that compared mothers who released their children to those who raised them, mothers who released their children were more likely to delay their next pregnancy, to delay marriage, and to complete job training. However, both groups reached lower levels of education than their peers who were never pregnant.[128] Another study found similar consequences for choosing to release a child for adoption. Adolescent mothers who released their children were more likely to reach a higher level of education and to be employed than those who kept their children. They also waited longer before having their next child.[126] Most of the research that exists on adoption effects on the birth parents was conducted with samples of adolescents, or with women who were adolescents when carrying their babies—little data exists for birth parents from other populations. Furthermore, there is a lack of longitudinal data that may elucidate long-term social and psychological consequences for birth parents who choose to place their children for adoption.

Development of adoptees[edit]

Previous research on adoption has led to assumptions that indicate that there is a heightened risk in terms of psychological development and social relationships for adoptees. Yet, such assumptions have been clarified as flawed due to methodological failures. But more recent studies have been supportive in indicating more accurate information and results about the similarities, differences and overall lifestyles of adoptees.[129]

Evidence about the development of adoptees can be supported in newer studies. It can be said that adoptees, in some respect, tend to develop differently from the general population. This can be seen in many aspects of life, but usually can be found as a greater risk around the time of adolescence. For example, it has been found that many adoptees experience difficulty in establishing a sense of identity.[130]

Identity[edit]

There are many ways in which the concept of identity can be defined. It is true in all cases that identity construction is an ongoing process of development, change and maintenance of identifying with the self. Research has shown that adolescence is a time of identity progression rather than regression.[131] One's identity tends to lack stability in the beginning years of life but gains a more stable sense in later periods of childhood and adolescence. Typically associated with a time of experimentation, there are endless factors that go into the construction of one's identity. As well as being many factors, there are many types of identities one can associate with. Some categories of identity include gender, sexuality, class, racial and religious, etc. For transracial and international adoptees, tension is generally found in the categories of racial, ethnic and national identification. Because of this, the strength and functionality of family relationships play a huge role in its development and outcome of identity construction. Transracial and transnational adoptees tend to develop feelings of a lack of acceptance because of such racial, ethnic, and cultural differences. Therefore, exposing transracial and transnational adoptees to their "cultures of origin" is important in order to better develop a sense of identity and appreciation for cultural diversity.[132] Identity construction and reconstruction for transnational adoptees the instant they are adopted. For example, based upon specific laws and regulations of the United States, the Child Citizen Act of 2000 makes sure to grant immediate U.S. citizenship to adoptees.[132] Although this act is specific to particular laws created by the United States, it can be understood that such a notion reconstructs a sense of identity for adoptees as a United States citizen. Transnational adoptees also have to evaluate their racial, ethnic and cultural differences that are incognizant with their adoption family. Therefore, these factors may explain how tension is created with transracial and transnational adoptees.

Identity is defined both by what one is and what one is not. Adoptees born into one family lose an identity and then borrow one from the adopting family. The formation of identity is a complicated process and there are many factors that affect its outcome. From a perspective of looking at issues in adoption circumstances, the people involved and affected by adoption (the biological parent, the adoptive parent and the adoptee) can be known as the "triad members and state". Adoption may threaten triad members' sense of identity. Triad members often express feelings related to confused identity and identity crises because of differences between the triad relationships. Adoption, for some, precludes a complete or integrated sense of self. Triad members may experience themselves as incomplete, deficient, or unfinished. They state that they lack feelings of well-being, integration, or solidity associated with a fully developed identity.[133]

Influences[edit]

Family plays a vital role in identity formation. This is not only true in childhood but also in adolescence. Identity (gender/sexual/ethnic/religious/family) is still forming during adolescence and family holds a vital key to this. The research seems to be unanimous; a stable, secure, loving, honest and supportive family in which all members feel safe to explore their identity is necessary for the formation of a sound identity. Transracial and International adoptions are some factors that play a significant role in the identity construction of adoptees. Many tensions arise from relationships built between the adoptee(s) and their family. These include being "different" from the parent(s), developing a positive racial identity, and dealing with racial/ethnic discrimination.[134] It has been found that multicultural and transnational youth tend to identify with their parents origin of culture and ethnicity rather than their residing location, yet it is sometimes hard to balance an identity between the two because school environments tend to lack diversity and acknowledgment regarding such topics.[135] These tensions also tend to create questions for the adoptee, as well as the family, to contemplate. Some common questions include what will happen if the family is more naïve to the ways of socially constructed life? Will tensions arise if this is the case? What if the very people that are supposed to be modeling a sound identity are in fact riddled with insecurities? Ginni Snodgrass answers these questions in the following way. The secrecy in an adoptive family and the denial that the adoptive family is different builds dysfunction into it. "... social workers and insecure adoptive parents have structured a family relationship that is based on dishonesty, evasions and exploitation. To believe that good relationships will develop on such a foundation is psychologically unsound" (Lawrence). Secrecy erects barriers to forming a healthy identity.[136]

The research says that the dysfunction, untruths and evasiveness that can be present in adoptive families not only makes identity formation impossible, but also directly works against it. What effect on identity formation is present if the adoptee knows they are adopted but has no information about their biological parents? Silverstein and Kaplan's research states that adoptees lacking medical, genetic, religious, and historical information are plagued by questions such as "Who am I?" "Why was I born?" "What is my purpose?" This lack of identity may lead adoptees, particularly in adolescent years, to seek out ways to belong in a more extreme fashion than many of their non-adopted peers. Adolescent adoptees are overrepresented among those who join sub-cultures, run away, become pregnant, or totally reject their families.[137][138]

Concerning developmental milestones, studies from the Colorado Adoption Project examined genetic influences on adoptee maturation, concluding that cognitive abilities of adoptees reflect those of their adoptive parents in early childhood but show little similarity by adolescence, resembling instead those of their biological parents and to the same extent as peers in non-adoptive families.[118]

Similar mechanisms appear to be at work in the physical development of adoptees. Danish and American researchers conducting studies on the genetic contribution to body mass index found correlations between an adoptee's weight class and his biological parents' BMI while finding no relationship with the adoptive family environment. Moreover, about one-half of inter-individual differences were due to individual non-shared influences.[119][120]

These differences in development appear to play out in the way young adoptees deal with major life events. In the case of parental divorce, adoptees have been found to respond differently from children who have not been adopted. While the general population experienced more behavioral problems, substance use, lower school achievement, and impaired social competence after parental divorce, the adoptee population appeared to be unaffected in terms of their outside relationships, specifically in their school or social abilities.[121]

The adoptee population does, however, seem to be more at risk for certain behavioral issues. Researchers from the University of Minnesota studied adolescents who had been adopted and found that adoptees were twice as likely as non-adopted people to suffer from oppositional defiant disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (with an 8% rate in the general population).[139] Suicide risks were also significantly greater than the general population. Swedish researchers found both international and domestic adoptees undertook suicide at much higher rates than non-adopted peers; with international adoptees and female international adoptees, in particular, at highest risk.[140]

Nevertheless, work on adult adoptees has found that the additional risks faced by adoptees are largely confined to adolescence. Young adult adoptees were shown to be alike with adults from biological families and scored better than adults raised in alternative family types including single parent and step-families.[141] Moreover, while adult adoptees showed more variability than their non-adopted peers on a range of psychosocial measures, adult adoptees exhibited more similarities than differences with adults who had not been adopted.[142] There have been many cases of remediation or the reversibility of early trauma. For example, in one of the earliest studies conducted, Professor Goldfarb in England concluded that some children adjust well socially and emotionally despite their negative experiences of institutional deprivation in early childhood.[143] Other researchers also found that prolonged institutionalization does not necessarily lead to emotional problems or character defects in all children. This suggests that there will always be some children who fare well, who are resilient, regardless of their experiences in early childhood.[144] Furthermore, much of the research on psychological outcomes for adoptees draws from clinical populations. This suggests that conclusions such that adoptees are more likely to have behavioral problems such as ODD and ADHD may be biased. Since the proportion of adoptees that seek mental health treatment is small, psychological outcomes for adoptees compared to those for the general population are more similar than some researchers propose.[145]

Effects on adoptees[edit]

Adoption gives many children great opportunities that they may have never otherwise received. Such opportunities include loving homes and environments, parents who are able to provide and care for all their financial needs as well as access to education. While these are all positive factors that will enhance the life of the adopted child, many do not realize that there are negative effects adopted children can experience both mentally and emotionally.

According to studies from Princeton University, adoptees (especially those coming from closed adoptions) may suffer from a wide range of mental effects at all stages of life. One of the largest issues that an adoptee may deal with is the formation of their identity. It is believed that children who are adopted may not feel as though they fit in with their adoptive families knowing that their adoptive parents are not the people who gave birth to them. Especially in adolescence, many adopted children begin to question where certain personality traits, likes or dislike, and physical characteristics come from. What characteristics come from the biological family and which come from the adoptive family? Adoptees struggle with whom they are or whom they could become because they do not know or understand where everything about them comes from. For many, this uncertainty can be unsettling and uncomfortable. They may begin to question everything about themselves.

Adopted children also often find it hard to form comfortable and meaningful relationships. These relationships can be friendly, familial or romantic. Because many adoptees feel that their biological parents left them, they may be afraid to form new relationships in fear that those involved may "leave" them as well. This can lead to holding back and withdrawing from relationships when they feel like they are becoming too attached as well as not forming relationships at all. The fear of being left or forgotten is what often holds adoptees back from creating such relationships. Many adoptees feel that they can never truly relate to or trust anybody because their family experiences can be so vastly different from those of people who have not been adopted. It is because of such fears that so many adoptees find it hard to create relationships in their lives. Another common feeling that many people who are adopted deal with is a feeling of guilt. This guilt is felt towards both their birth families as well as their adoptive families. They may feel guilty towards their birth family because in many ways, they have accepted their adoptive family as their own and would not want their birth family to be upset or jealous. Many adoptees call their adoptive parents "mom" and "dad" and refer to adoptive siblings as such, which adoptees feel may hurt their biological families, should they find out. The sense of guilt towards adoptive parents comes from curiosity about biological families. Adoptees often feel that any curiosity about their origins and their birth families may hurt their adoptive one. They believe that the adoptive family will feel a sense of betrayal for wanting to know about where they came from, especially if the adoption allows for access to such information. Adoptees may also fear that their adoptive family may love them less because of their curiosity.

When adopted children grow into young adults, many worry about their health. For many adopted children, their adoptive families are given little to none of their medical history, especially if the adoption was international. This can be due to lack of information on the part of the biological family, type of adoption or circumstance in which the adoptee was found (for example being left at an orphanage in a foreign country). Simple trips to the doctor or dentist, for something as small as a check up, can bring about great worry because there is so many unknowns to ones health when the person is adopted. Anxiety over lack of medical history may become worse for those who are seeking to get married and start a family. If one of the parents is unaware of medical history, having a child becomes much more difficult. The risks of being unable to conceive, or the child being born with certain health issues are higher because parental medical history is unknown.[146]

Public perception of adoption[edit]

In Western culture, many see that the common image of a family being that of a heterosexual couple with biological children. This idea places alternative family forms outside the norm. As a consequence, research indicates, disparaging views of adoptive families exist, along with doubts concerning the strength of their family bonds.[147][148]

The most recent adoption attitudes survey completed by the Evan Donaldson Institute provides further evidence of this stigma. Nearly one-third of the surveyed population believed adoptees are less-well adjusted, more prone to medical issues, and predisposed to drug and alcohol problems. Additionally, 40–45% thought adoptees were more likely to have behavior problems and trouble at school. In contrast, the same study indicated adoptive parents were viewed favorably, with nearly 90% describing them as "lucky, advantaged, and unselfish."[149]

The majority of people state that their primary source of information about adoption comes from friends and family and the news media. Nevertheless, most people report the media provides them a favorable view of adoption; 72% indicated receiving positive impressions.[150] There is, however, still substantial criticism of the media's adoption coverage. Some adoption blogs, for example, criticized Meet the Robinsons for using outdated orphanage imagery[151][152] as did advocacy non-profit The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.[153]

The stigmas associated with adoption are amplified for children in foster care.[154] Negative perceptions result in the belief that such children are so troubled it would be impossible to adopt them and create "normal" families.[155] A 2004 report from the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care has shown that the number of children waiting in foster care doubled since the 1980s and now remains steady at about a half-million a year."[156]

Reform and reunion trends[edit]

Adoption practices have changed significantly over the course of the 20th century, with each new movement labeled, in some way, as reform.[157] Beginning in the 1970s, efforts to improve adoption became associated with opening records and encouraging family preservation. These ideas arose from suggestions that the secrecy inherent in modern adoption may influence the process of forming an identity,[158][159] create confusion regarding genealogy,[160] and provide little in the way of medical history.

Family preservation: As concerns over illegitimacy began to decline in the early 1970s, social-welfare agencies began to emphasize that, if possible, mothers and children should be kept together.[161] In the U.S., this was clearly illustrated by the shift in policy of the New York Foundling Home, an adoption-institution that is among the country's oldest and one that had pioneered sealed records. It established three new principles including "to prevent placements of children...," reflecting the belief that children would be better served by staying with their biological families, a striking shift in policy that remains in force today.[162]

Open records: Movements to unseal adoption records for adopted citizens proliferated along with increased acceptance of illegitimacy. In the United States, Jean Paton founded Orphan Voyage in 1954, and Florence Fisher founded the Adoptees' Liberty Movement Association (ALMA) in 1971, calling sealed records "an affront to human dignity.".[163] While in 1975, Emma May Vilardi created the first mutual-consent registry, the International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISRR), allowing those separated by adoption to locate one another.[164] and Lee Campbell and other birthmothers established CUB (Concerned United Birthparents). Similar ideas were taking hold globally with grass-roots organizations like Parent Finders in Canada and Jigsaw in Australia. In 1975, England and Wales opened records on moral grounds.[165]

By 1979, representatives of 32 organizations from 33 states, Canada and Mexico gathered in Washington, DC to establish the American Adoption Congress (AAC) passing a unanimous resolution: "Open Records complete with all identifying information for all members of the adoption triad, birthparents, adoptive parents and adoptee at the adoptee's age of majority (18 or 19, depending on state) or earlier if all members of the triad agree."[166] Later years saw the evolution of more militant organizations such as Bastard Nation (founded in 1996), groups that helped overturn sealed records in Alabama, Delaware, New Hampshire, Oregon, Tennessee, and Maine.[167][168] Simultaneously, groups such as Origins USA (founded in 1997) started to actively speak about family preservation and the rights of mothers.[169]

Sister Irene of New York Foundling Hospital with children. Sister Irene is among the pioneers of modern adoption, establishing a system to board out children rather than institutionalize them.
Trajan became emperor of Rome through adoption by the previous emperor Nerva, and was in turn succeeded by his own adopted son Hadrian. Adoption was a customary practice of the Roman empire that enabled peaceful transitions of power
Legal status of adoption by same-sex couples around the world:

  Joint adoption allowed

  Second-parent adoption allowed

  No laws allowing adoption by same-sex couples

Actors at the Anne of Green Gables Museum on Prince Edward Island, Canada. Since its first publication in 1908, the story of the orphaned Anne, and how the Cuthberts took her in, has been widely popular in the English-speaking world and, later, Japan.
Open Records emblem used in Adoptee Rights Protest, New Orleans, 2008, artist: D. Martin

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