Twenty First Century Adoption Practices

During the late 1990s, laws erasing the secrecy and anonymity of the last century of adoption practice have been enacted in a number of states. Adopted adults are gaining access to their original birth certificates through legislative acts and voter referendums, despite the fact that there is still resistance to opening adoption records in most states. However, even in states where the records remain sealed, there has been an increase in reunions between birth parents and adoptees relinquished in infancy or childhood.

The Internet has revolutionized the adoption field. Searches for identifying information have become easier than in previous decades due to the nation's fascination with genealogy and the growth of databases on the Internet. Potential adopters and pregnant women considering relinquishment are also using the Internet to make contact. Families with special-needs children can turn to a variety of websites, help lines, chat rooms, and referral sources. There are also special websites on international adoption that lay out the unique problems one can encounter in the various countries where children are available.

The lucrative business of adoption in the marketplace continues to grow as attorneys, private agencies, and intermediaries use the Internet for networking in both domestic and international placements. International adoption is increasing as the number of adoptable healthy newborn Caucasian infants born in the United States decreases. Most women, married or single, choose to raise, rather than relinquish, their babies. Potential adoptive couples fear that even those women who initially choose to relinquish their babies will change their minds, or that the birth father will challenge the legality of the adoption. The publicity around and pain caused by contested adoptions has resulted in the introduction of new codes and procedures in many states to act as safeguards.

At the same time, open arrangements between birth and adoptive families in the United States are becoming the accepted practice with both infants and older children. The degree of openness varies and may be modified over the years, but all parties generally have identifying knowledge of each other. Agencies and other adoption practitioners can no longer offer guarantees of confidentiality or anonymity. In fact, many agencies offer post-adoption services in which they act as intermediaries in reunions, conduct support groups, and do counseling with all members of the triad.

By the beginning of the twenty-first century, private and public adoption agencies served different communities. The private agency or practitioner deals primarily with Caucasian infants born in the United States and with international adoptions of infants and toddlers. Public agencies, connected to the welfare system, place special-needs children. These children are usually older, part of a sibling group, non-Caucasian, racially mixed, or with medical or developmental problems. The federal government has enacted special programs, with financial incentives to local public agencies, to increase the numbers of children moving from foster home placement into permanent or adoptive homes. In both public and private agencies, there is greater acceptance of adoptions by single persons and gay and lesbian couples.

Those couples or individuals who prefer international adoption discover that the availability of children and the cost involved shifts from country to country, depending on political, economic, and legal issues. Regulations in the United States as well as in the country of the child's origin and in international umbrella agencies all contribute to the complicated procedures facing those applying to adopt. Nevertheless, a growing number of children are adopted through these routes. Those who choose international adoption to avoid the risk of legal challenges or interference from the birth parents overlook the psychological need of adopted children to know their heritage. Many young adults adopted from Asia, Europe, and South America have returned to seek their biological families in an attempt to resolve their ethnic, racial, and cultural identity.

Another revolutionary development in the adoption field is its connection with alternative reproductive techniques. Adult children who have learned they were conceived by donor insemination have organized a world wide movement, still small in number, to gain the right to have identifying information about their fathers. They refer to themselves as "in utero adoptees." Their initiative has brought about a growing acceptance of the right to access of identifying information in both egg and sperm donations. The American Adoption Congress recognizes donor offspring as adoptees, and advocates opening their records, as well as promoting future openness in all alternative family building methods. Embryo adoptions are being seriously considered as an alternative, due to the surplus of fertilized embryos no longer needed by couples. Rather than defrost and destroy them, a few agencies are encouraging donation of these embryos to infertile couples.

Researchers have not yet determined what the psychological effects will be on children born to parents to whom they are not genetically related when they learn of their high tech origins. One thing is certain: that they will ask the same question that legions of adoptees since Oedipus have struggled with: "Who Am I?"

ANNETTE BARAN BETTY JEAN LIFTON (1 995) REVISED BY AUTHORS

SEE ALSO: Abortion; Children: History ofChildhood; Embryo and Fetus: Religious Perspectives; Infanticide; International Health; Natural Law; Sexism

Anxiety and Depression 101

Anxiety and Depression 101

Everything you ever wanted to know about. We have been discussing depression and anxiety and how different information that is out on the market only seems to target one particular cure for these two common conditions that seem to walk hand in hand.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment