At first glance, the popularity of domestic infant adoption in the U.S. can seem shallow; after all, there are so many children in the world who need — and are just as deserving of — help.
So why is it that, when hopeful American parents consider adoption, they turn to domestic infant adoption?
- Is this because the demand for newborns is higher?
- Is it because adoptive parents want to raise a child from infancy?
- Is it because adopting within the U.S. seems “easier” than adopting from a foreign country?
- Is it because the unique challenges of foster care adoption seem too difficult?
These factors are likely part of it, certainly.
Let’s not forget a pregnant woman’s role in the process, either; many women are facing financial struggles and lack of societal support when they discover an unplanned pregnancy. In a way, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy — women place their children for adoption because of the opportunities it provides to them and their children, while parents continue to adopt because pregnant women are looking for families for their children.
Is Infant Adoption “Good” or “Bad”?
We can debate the factors behind private infant adoption all day long, but there’s one more important question to ask:
Is the popularity of domestic infant adoption a good thing — or not?
There are plenty of factors to suggest that it might not be. Adoption, in general, is often far from perfect, to be sure. Depending on the situation, it can result in:
- Closed relationships, preventing an adoptee from knowing their personal history
- Trauma and identity issues for the adopted individual
- A feeling of obligation by a prospective birth mother to place her child with adoptive parents
- Transracial adoption by parents unprepared for the responsibility of this path
Fortunately, people are beginning to see the root cause of infant adoption — society’s failure to help birth families in need within our own communities. If more is done to support a pregnant woman who is considering placing a child for adoption, then the need for adoption will hopefully decrease.
Many people see infant adoption as one way to help a birth family — giving the opportunity for a mother to place her child with someone who is prepared to parent, as well as the chance to give herself temporary support. But while that may help her immediate situation, that does not solve the lasting crises she may be facing. Unfortunately, for many, adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
However, many people also argue the modern process of adoption benefits birth and adoptive parents, too. Increased awareness of the disadvantages of infant adoption have created a more equitable process for all involved (although advocates will argue there is always room for improvement).
For the reasons below and more, adoptive parents in the U.S. are increasingly choosing infant adoption over other paths as the way to grow their family:
1. Financial Support for Pregnant Women
Foster adoptions are the least expensive way to adopt a child. However, what financial services (if any) are provided to the child’s birth family to help improve their situation if an adoption is imminent?
You can ask the same questions about international adoption, the most expensive adoption option. How much of the money paid by adoptive parents helps a child’s birth family — especially in impoverished countries? What is being done there to try to preserve family units?
In domestic infant adoption, the costs that adoptive parents pay cover important services for their future child’s birth parents: counseling (before, during and after the adoption), legal representation, medical care, financial assistance for things like bills, housing, groceries and more — and even scholarships for birth parents to help them pursue educational goals.
A lack of financial stability is a common reason why women consider adoption, but it should never be the sole reason. That’s why domestic infant adoption agencies provide financial assistance and professional services to pregnant women. Social workers at these agencies often help women secure employment, safer housing, access to transportation and more, so that they can be in a better position to support themselves and their families going forward — regardless of whether or not they ultimately choose to place their child.
2. Guaranteed Healthcare for Pregnant Women
Many of the women who are considering adoption do so because they can’t afford the costs of raising a child, let alone the high costs of pregnancy and delivery. When a pregnant woman contacts an adoption agency, the agency ensures that she receives free prenatal care, regardless of whether or not she ultimately chooses to place her child for adoption.
Adoptive parents choose domestic infant adoption because they want to know that their child (and his or her birth mother) were cared for before the child was even born.
There is no way to guarantee that a child’s birth mother was similarly cared for in a foster adoption. Children in foster care are removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect, so those children may not have received regular medical care, either. If the child’s birth family suffered from poverty, access to medical care may not have been an option.
Access to medical care is minimal to nonexistent in many countries outside of the U.S., especially for poorer families. Internationally adopted children and their birth families may not have ever had access to the medical care they needed and deserved.
3. The Option to Maintain Relationships
One of the greatest draws to domestic infant adoption is the ability to share an ongoing relationship after the adoption. Today, 95% of adoptions are open or at least semi-open. The birth parents always decide how much openness they wish to have in their adoption.
The importance of maintaining connections between birth and adoptive families is not to be underestimated. Research consistently shows the lifelong benefits of open adoption, especially for the adoptee.
Because children in foster care are involuntarily removed from their original family units, the court often closes the adoption. The child’s birth parents are not usually given the option to maintain a relationship. In international adoptions, adoptive parents receive little to no information about their child’s birth parents. The birth parents never know what becomes of their child, and reunions later in life are rare due to distance and the lack of information on both sides.
Adoptive parents opt for domestic infant adoptions in order to give their child what is theirs by right: access to information and relationships.
4. Third-Party Reviews of Agencies to Help Ensure Safe, Ethical Adoptions
Domestic infant adoption agencies are held to extraordinarily high licensing standards. Full-service national agencies are reviewed in every state they’re licensed in, as well as on a federal level. This creates layers upon layers of examination by third parties, and the agency must meet the legal and ethical standards within each of those layers.
There are, unfortunately, both ethical and unethical adoption professionals in the world. Taking care to only work with agencies that meet (and excel) the high standards of U.S. adoption agencies helps ensure that an adoption is completed ethically.
The regulations that public agencies (foster care) and overseas adoption agencies must meet are not always as carefully reviewed. They may not be held to the same high standards, leaving adoptive parents wondering how ethical their adoption really was and how their child’s birth parents were treated.
5. Transparent Legal Steps
In domestic infant adoptions, the prospective birth parent(s) and the adoptive parents are individually represented by adoption attorneys. Those attorneys educate each party about what’s happening throughout the process. They ensure that everyone’s understanding and consent is given the time and thoughtfulness it deserves.
Unlike in other types of adoption, the birth and adoptive parents are both involved and actively participate in the legalities of a domestic infant adoption. Every legal choice that is made is then reviewed by a judge.
In a foster care adoption, parental rights often have already been involuntarily terminated. And in an international adoption, you can’t be sure that the birth parents were informed of their legal options, or if the child’s removal from their biological parents was legal.
Adoptions in the U.S. are far from perfect, despite their improvements in the last couple decades. And foster or international adoptions are an equally wonderful way to grow a family. But the increasing popularity of domestic infant adoptions may be due to more than just a hopeful parents’ desire for a newborn.
If you’re considering private domestic infant adoption, talk at length with your professional to confirm their practices are ethical and the process is equitable for both parties — not just for adoptive parents like you.