Michael Belfonte is working to shed light on old myths about adoption and educate prospective adoptive families about what adoption really means. To speak to Michael about any questions you have or to begin the adoption process, you can contact him here.
Here are few common adoption myths, and the truth about modern adoption:
“I’m single/We’re not married/We’re gay — so I/we can’t adopt.”
Most adoption professionals welcome prospective adoptive parents of all types, and in general, very few adoption agencies will be concerned about your marital status.
If you’re adopting with a partner or spouse, the only thing that really matters to your chosen adoption professional is your commitment to the relationship and your ability to be a good role model for healthy and loving relationships for your adopted child.
“It’s faster and/or cheaper to adopt internationally than domestically.”
International adoptions require extensive traveling, which requires extensive funds and time. It is also important to verify the legitimacy of the international adoption organization you’re adopting from; in recent years, some overseas organizations have closed down suddenly without notice or refunds to prospective adoptive parents.
While many international adoption agencies work to fight these risks, adopting from overseas is not necessarily faster or cheaper than private domestic adoption in the U.S.
“I can’t afford adoption.”
It’s true — the adoption process can be financially draining. But each cost is important to the adoption process, and every dime matters.
For families who are struggling to finance their adoption, there are resources available to help. In addition to adoption loans and grants, there are also often employer-provided adoption benefits for employees. The adoption tax credit can ease the financial aftermath of adoption, and some state-run agencies will offer adoptive parents subsidies and stipends to help with foster care adoption expenses.
Many adoptive parents get creative in the financing of their adoption, turning to fundraisers and events to help front the cost.
“My criminal record will prevent me from adopting.”
Your home study will include criminal background checks as well as checks for child abuse or neglect. While some violent or sexual crimes could prevent you from becoming an adoptive parent, most minor offenses won’t disqualify you.
A judge will usually review your criminal record to ensure that none of your prior offenses could pose a threat to the safety of a child in your home, but again, most criminal offenses aren’t relevant to your ability to parent.
“I need to adopt a child who’s the same race as me or people will ask questions.”
Transracial adoptions do pose unique challenges, but fortunately, adoption is becoming more widely understood and accepted. Yes, people might make assumptions or ask ignorant questions occasionally. But this is an opportunity to educate them about adoption and about racial sensitivity.
Adoptive families that include multiple racial backgrounds have found fantastic ways of honoring the different racial and cultural heritages within their family and have worked to provide each other with positive role models of every race and background in their daily lives.
This may mean stepping out of your comfort zone, and it may mean being prepared to answer questions about adoption. But what matters is the ultimate goal of bringing a child into your family through adoption — not what their racial or cultural makeup is like.
“I have to adopt within the area.”
Many people considering adoption assume that most adoption agencies are state-run or local. But national adoption agencies like American Adoptions offer lower wait times, more personalized care and a wider range of services to both birth and adoptive families.
Adopting from a national pool of pregnant women considering adoption will shorten your wait time and ensure that you’re paired with a prospective birth mother who wants the same kind of adoption as you.
“Most adoptions are closed.”
Babies aren’t adopted anonymously these days. Now that the stigma of adoption is wearing away, birth families want to be involved with the adoption to some degree. In fact, 90 percent of birth mothers want some kind of open adoption with the adoptive family.
Gone are the days when adoptive parents never knew anything about their child’s birth mother, and gone are the days when a birth mother would never know what became of the child she placed for adoption. Most adoptions today are semi-open or open.
Semi-open adoptions allow for communication like letters and photos to be exchanged through the adoption agency. An open adoption allows for as much communication as both parties feel comfortable with. This could even include arranged visits. But, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be co-parenting with the birth family. It simply means that you’ll both have some kind of connection to each other’s lives.
“It takes years to adopt.”
While certain parts of the adoption process can feel slow (the home study, for example, can take at least a month) the adoption process from start to finish is usually complete within a year.
“Most people don’t know they’re adopted.”
Because most adoptions are open, not only do adoptees know that they’re adopted, they’re also satisfied with the amount of contact they have with their birth parents.
For an adoptee to suddenly find out that they’re adopted can be traumatizing and instills a feeling of distrust toward their adoptive family. Adoptees consider their adoption story to be a normal part of their life and an important part of how they came to be part of the family.
“I should wait to tell them about their adoption when they’re older.”
It’s highly recommended that adoptive parents begin talking with their child about adoption from the first day that they bring them home. This way, an adoptee simply will always know that they were adopted, and there will never be any sense of secrecy or shame.
Don’t worry about whether they’ll “understand” or not. Your child will continue to experience new emotions regarding their adoption throughout adolescence and even to adulthood. This is normal. What matters is that they begin hearing their story from day one, and they know it’s a safe and normal topic for them to discuss.
You can begin with children’s books about adoption, telling them the story of their adoption, using adoption-positive language and keeping a photo of their birth family and explaining who they are.
“Most pregnant women who want to place their child for adoption are teenagers.”
Expectant mothers are of all backgrounds, ages, races and religions, as well as marital and socioeconomic status. While prospective birth mothers can be teenagers, most women who choose adoption for their unborn babies are actually about 25–35 years old and are currently raising older children. They’re often concerned that they can’t afford to take care of another child, they want the child to grow up in a two-parent home, or maybe they’re just not ready for this child at this particular point in their lives.
The one thing that all pregnant women considering adoption have in common: They’re choosing adoption because they feel that it’s the best thing that they can do for their baby.
“The birth family will want the baby back.”
Once the birth parents have signed their adoption consent forms after the state-mandated waiting period (12 hours after the birth in Kansas, 48 hours in Missouri), they’ve terminated their parental rights. After that, it would be very difficult for them to regain those rights in court because the judge would have to decide that reinstating their parental rights is what’s best for the child.
Once the final adoption decree has been issued in court (typically about six months after your adopted child has been in your home) you’re officially awarded parental rights. Even if the birth parents do have regrets about their adoption decision, they won’t be able to regain parental rights after this point.
However, most birth families understand that adoption is the best decision for their situation. They’ll feel grief and experience moments of doubt and worry about how their child is from day to day. But that doesn’t mean that they “want the baby back,” and it certainly doesn’t mean they’re going to try to barge into your life to “reclaim their baby.”
“If I have an open adoption, my adopted child will be confused as to who her real parents are.”
There’s no evidence to support that an adopted child would ever be confused about who their parents are. They know that their parents are the ones who tuck them in at night, who take care of them when they’re sick and who are the sources of love and comfort.
An adopted child’s relationship with their birth family in an open adoption is a unique one. But it feels more like that of a family friend or an aunt who comes to visit occasionally than a parent-child relationship.
The term “real parents” is as harmful as it is misleading. An adopted child has birth parents and they have parents. It’s not confusing to them. When they’re old enough, they can tell you so themselves.
“I might not love an adopted child as much as a biological child.”
Just as a child knows who their parents are, a parent knows who their child is. The love between adopted children and their parents is no different than that of a biological child.
Because you weren’t pregnant with your adopted child, it is normal if it takes a little longer for you start to really feel like their parents. Some people feel it instantly. Some people take a little longer. But there will be a moment when it suddenly all feels real and it’ll be as if you could never imagine your life without this child.
“Women place their babies for adoption because they get paid for it.”
Pregnant women considering adoption may receive assistance with basic living expenses such as rent, groceries, maternity clothes and utilities based on their individual level of need, which is assessed and approved by a judge. Some women will need more financial help than others (for example, a single mother with several other children will have greater financial need than a married woman with no other children).
However, it’s illegal to pay a pregnant woman directly for adoption. The financial assistance exists to help them through their pregnancy and to ease some of the burdens that come with being pregnant and not able to work as much.
Choosing adoption is one of the most difficult decisions a woman will ever have to make — and she does so because she feels it’s in the best interest of her baby.
“The only children available for adoption are sick or have special needs.”
It’s relatively rare to adopt a newborn who has any health conditions. Most babies are born healthy and happy.
If a child were to have any kind of special needs, you’d be made aware of that before the adoption proceeds. A child with any special needs be placed with an adoptive family that’s prepared for that situation.
“There are no babies available for adoption in the U.S.”
There are thousands of pregnant women looking for adoptive families across the U.S., and there are even more adoptable babies, toddlers and children waiting for homes. You don’t have to turn to international adoption if you have your heart set on adopting a baby from birth.
Michael and his associates at American Adoptions can help connect you with a potential birth mother looking to place her child for adoption into a loving home like yours, and he can ensure that your adoption process is a smooth one. Contact Michael now to begin the adoption process.