In our modern-day society, it is considered the right of every child to grow up in a protected family environment surrounded by loving parents and in some cases other siblings. However, this is not always the case and there are numerous incidents where a child may need “new parents”. The causes for this may be the death of their biological parents or even deserting by their parents either as a result of economic hardships or drug addictions. In such cases, the children may be placed for adoption by other people who are mostly made up of couples who cannot have children of their own owing to infertility or other deeply personal reasons. Adoption therefore fundamentally entails the taking up of children by people who are not biologically related to them and raising them as their own.
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Since in most cases an adopted child is taken from a poor and unloving background into a relatively better off and loving environment, there is the widely held perception that adoption is a positive thing. Many people consider adoption to be a benevolent act that is advantageous to all members of society as children are given a chance to grow in a stable family setting. However, the reality is that adoption is an issue that contains inherent demerits as well. Various arguments have been presented supporting the adoption cause while others view it as being a disadvantageous activity. This paper shall offer a detailed discussion of the pros and cons of adoption to reach a knowledgeable conclusion as to whether the practice should be encouraged.
What is adoption?
Babb defines adoption as “a legal process that transfers all the parental rights and responsibilities for s child from the child’s birth parents to the adoptive parents.” (3). Adoption in the United States can trace its history as far back as the 1600s. However, during this era, children were almost exclusively placed with their relatives or as apprentices in other families. An important fact in this period is that the adopted children were not considered equal to biological children as could be exhibited by their not being allowed to inherit any of the family’s property. The Official adoption of children by non-related parties was not practiced in the United States until the 1920s due to the lack of faith by social workers in the ability of the prospective adopters to love and care for their non-birth children.
As of today, there exist three main categories of adoption which include; public, private domestic, and private international (Carp 22). Domestic adoption is the adoption of a child who is born in the same country as the adoptive parents. International adoption, also known as inter-country adoption is the adoption of foreign-born children. Public adoption involves the taking of children from parents who are seen as unfit e.g. as a result of drug addiction or being abusive. Regardless of which category of adoption is being used, the common ground in all cases is that the best interest of the child remains paramount and any other consideration is secondary to this. It is for this reason that stringent laws and policies are put in place in most countries before the adoption process is completed.
Arguments for Adoption
Adoption results in the gaining of a child by people who desire a child but cannot have their own or by people who want an extra child. However, there exist fears that even after the adoption process the adopters may be obligated to allow access to the biological parents therefore reducing the adopting parent’s role to that of mere caretakers. This fear springs from the realities of the earlier day of adoption whereby the adoptive parents had no security against birth parents demanding the return of their children (Carp 6).
However, the rules have changed over time and as Smith and Logan assert, adoption may severe any legal relationship that the child may have had with his/her birth family and if there was no contact agreed on that necessitated that the birth family is allowed to contact the child, the birth parents have no right to involve themselves in the life of the child (46). This is to say that an adopted child is in some instances as much one’s child as if he/she were their birth child. Once an adoption procedure has run its course, the adopting parents are granted full rights of the child and they need not fear that the child’s biological parents or relatives may interfere. This is the case in closed adoption which implies that the biological parents do not know or contact the adopting parent or the child. As such, the adoptive parents can exercise full parental responsibility and have the power to make the decisions concerning the child’s future without ever being bothered by the birth parents.
Because an adopted child is not one’s blood, there exist fears by most potential adopters that the adopted child could in later stages of his/her life reject the family that has brought him up and seek out his biological parents. This possibility deters many would-be adopters since they see adoption as being too huge a risk and the fear of betrayal in the future acts as a deterrent. While it is true that up to 50% of adopted children make inquiries about their birth parents, Bean demonstrates that many studies indicate that the reunion of adoptees with birth parents rarely results in a meaningful relationship or even a typical parent-child association since the adopted children already consider themselves to have parents in the adopters (43). As such, the fear of the existing relationship between the adoptee and adoptive parents being disrupted in the future by the reappearance of the birth parents appears to be largely unfounded.
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Arguably one of the most opposed forms of adoption has been trans-racial and inter-country adoption. Morrison confirms that since the early 1980s there have been numerous publications in opposition of white parents adopting minority children. A particularly scathing attack on the practice is made by the National Association of Black Social Workers which argues that inter-racial adoptions lead to a far-reaching compromise to the child’s racial and cultural identity (Morrison 164). It should be noted that the arguments against trans-racial adoption are hardly based on mistreatment of the adopted children by their adopters or even discrimination against them. Instead, the arguments are sparked by the fact that more white parents adopt black children than black families do adopt white children (Morrison 165). This argument is at best a fallible one since statistics indicate that significantly more white parents are looking for children to adopt than black parents. In addition to this, the Western Australian Department of Community Development (DCD) argues that what the avid opponents of inter-country and trans-racial adoptions fail to consider is that in some cases, solutions for the care and protection of children have been exhausted and as such, inter-country/inter-racial adoptions offer the best chance for a permanent family for the child (3).
One of the main attractions of adoption is that one gets to choose the age group, race, and even gender of their child. This is an especially appealing aspect to parents who may already have a preconceived notion of their “dream baby”. Adoption also gives the parents a chance to forego some of the traditional states such as child-rearing since an adoptive parent can choose a child who is above the age of five years, therefore, excusing themselves from the hustles of bringing up a child from birth. For working parents who wish to have a baby, this might be very appealing.
Most people consider adoption to be an overly expensive endeavor and a strain on their finances. The American-Adoptions organization concedes that the adoption process may be family expensive mostly as a result of the legal and agency-related expenses (American adoptions). However, there exist federal laws that stipulate the kind of assistance that once can be given as they seek to adopt a child. Beauvais-Godwin and Godwin note that since 1987, the federal adoption assistance law requires states to reimburse parents for nonrecurring adoption expenses therefore greatly offsetting the costs of adoption (346). In addition to this, adoptive families are eligible to receive tax credits of upwards of $10,000 per year. Studies also reveal that adoption is only expensive when one goes through private adoption agencies or adopts from another country. Adoption of a child through the social service system involves only minimal legal fees which are required to finalize the adoption process and some other miscellaneous expenses (Beauvais-Godwin & Godwin 347)
Arguments against Adoption
For all the positive attributes associated with adoption, there is still the phenomenon of stigmatization of adoption. Researchers have attributed this stigma to media reports of adoption as well as the social issues that surround adoption such as teenage pregnancies and abuse and neglect by the birth parents. Bean advances that some of this stigmatization may have been brought about by the element of secrecy that the law veiled around adoption procedures (43). While the secrecy was aimed at protecting single parents and their offspring from the stigma of unmarried parenthood and illegitimacy, the public perceived these well-meaning gestures as evasiveness and possible shame. While it may be argued that society’s perception towards births out of wedlock has changed and there is no shame attached to illegitimate children, there still exist other avenues for stigmatization.
Wrobel and Neil point out that mothers who choose to place their child for adoption may be stigmatized as selfish for their perceived unwillingness to take the responsibility of working hard to raise their child (321). In addition to these, the authors note that the birth parents whose children are adopted by the public care are affected by shame and social stigma since they are judged as having failed as parents and hence the reason why the state takes their children from their care. There have also been suggestions that stigma about adoption can affect the adoptive family and the adopted person therefore marking out the adoptive family as an inferior form of family (Wrobel and Neil 322).
While adoption at heart is a noble and worthwhile undertaking, some people have set out to try and profiteer from this activity. International adoption agencies have especially been the focus of attention as a result of illegal practices. Askeland records that in one particular baby buying scandal in Romania, the birth-mothers received payments in connection with surrendering their babies for adoption (66). This resulted in the closing down of international adoption for a period since it was evident that these forms of adoption were driven by monetary benefits and not the best interest of the children. This is a view which is corroborated by the Ney York Times report which indicates that some orphanages in Haiti are only fronts for traffickers who buy children from their birth parents and later resell them to couples in the USA and other countries (McKinley and Hamll).
Once the adoption process is complete, the adoptive parents and the adopted children will continue to feel the lifelong impacts of the process. Wrobel and Neil illustrate that the adopted children have to deal with challenges such as asking themselves questions such as “why was I adopted?” when they are going through the adolescence stage (322). This leads to a significant amount of psychological distress for the adopted children and it is not detrimental to their mental well-being. The adoptive parents, on the other hand, may go through life felling like third rate parents especially if they resorted to adoption after having biological children was impossible for them as a result of infertility. This added to the stigmatization that adoptive families feel may be led to a disruption in the normal family life. The adoption process does not only support the adoptive parents and the adopted children but the effects spill over to the birth parents and their relatives. There are long-term feelings of anxiety, loss, shame, and even guilt that are experienced especially by the birth mother over her decision to give her child away for adoption. A great deal of support may therefore be needed to offset these emotional effects of adoption.
As they currently stand, adoption laws are tedious and they present hurdles that aspiring adopters must go through before they can adopt a child. Baker and Duncan assert that adoption as a legal structure is becoming obsolete and it should be amended to make provisions for modern-day realities (2). For example, the adoption laws should preference married couples and in today’s modern society, the institute of marriage is not a prerequisite for having children. The adoption procedure also involves the performance of in-depth investigations of the fitness of the adoption application. These hurdles make adoption unattractive to many and many opponents of the legal hurdles state that these stringent laws put in place for adoptive parents are not required of natural parents
Adoption is a complex matter and as has been demonstrated through this paper, it has its merits and demerits. It is evident that most of the demerits of adoption spring from society’s perception of the practice, the psychological pressures brought about by adoption, and the legal aspects. Some of these challenges e.g. the psychological strains can be reduced or even completely overcome by eliciting the help of a professional counselor who can help all the parties involved to adjust favorably to the situation.
While it is a widely accepted view that all possible means should be taken to ensure that baby buying and trafficking practices are put to an end, the measures put in place to avoid this end up hurting children who are genuinely in need of a home. This is because the stringent laws put in place by most developed countries apply consistently therefore leading to lengthy adoption processes that put off most potential adopters. This leads to denying the child of a loving family whereas the prospective parents are denied the right to raise a family.
A report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services highlights that youths who are emancipated from foster care without a permanent family are at a high risk of ending up as failures to society. The report further stated that up to 39% of search youths were unemployed after 18 months of leaving foster care. The employed ones earned a low wage averaging $4.60 per hour. These findings point to the huge benefits that a permanent family offers to a child. As has been discussed in this paper, not all children have the opportunity to enjoy a permanent family setting. Adoption is therefore the only means through which this beneficial environment can be restored to the children therefore granting them a chance to grow up into productive members of the society.
This paper set out to discuss the pros and cons of adoption to reach a knowledgeable conclusion as to whether the practice should be encouraged. The various arguments presented for and against adoption have been forwarded and a critical analysis of the same performed. From the discussions presented in this paper, it is evident that adoption is not a simple matter and there are complex features to undertaking an adoption. While adoption is not without its inherent risks and ills, one needs only to look at the balanced lives that are afforded to the adopted children to realize that adoption is an essential part of our modern society. As such, it can be authoritatively that the practice of adoption should be encouraged as its benefits are many and far-reaching to society.
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