October 23rd, 2009
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Happy FamilyI’m not sure where I first read the adage, “Adoption isn’t about finding children for parents. It’s about finding parents for children.” It was one concept in adoption that immediately made sense to me. To place the emphasis on the children involved – of course!

But some people don’t get it. They say that it’s simply politically correct, or that agencies just use it as an excuse when you don’t get chosen, even though you’ve already given them money and been waiting a long time.

Adoption isn’t about a prospective parent’s need to be a parent. It’s about fulfilling the needs of individual children. A child must be placed with the family that will best suit his or her needs. In private adoption, that may mean that a child is placed with a family that meets the expectant parents’ ideas of what’s best.

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There are people who argue that fertile couples who choose to adopt should be put on a waiting list below the infertile. Or they argue that certain types of couples and individuals should only be allowed to adopt older or special needs kids. They may also argue that couples who have been waiting longer should get “first dibs”. They can argue all they want, but they’re wrong.

Restricting who gets to adopt, or divvying up adoption based on fertility, marital status, etc. is not in the best interest of the children. Expectant parents and social workers must consider the needs of individual children. I’m not better able to take care of a special needs child just because I could (theoretically) have a biological child. In fact, my husband and I have neither the patience nor the support system to properly care for certain needs. Children need parents who want them, not parents who were told “If you want to adopt, you have to take this one.”

Imagine that there are two couples. One is in their mid-30s, well off, and they live in a great neighborhood in a suburb in NH and go to a Lutheran church. They don’t have any kids because of fertility issues. One is a couple in their late 20s. They do all right, solidly middle class. They don’t subscribe to any religion, but they do attend Christian services sometimes. They live in Boston. They don’t have any known fertility issues, they just have their own reasons for not getting pregnant. Both couples are white. Both couples are open to different races. The first couple has been with their agency longer than the second. 

An expectant mom comes to the agency. She’s white and the baby’s father is black. Emom is Christian – Lutheran, actually. She grew up in Manchester, NH, but now lives in Vermont. She looks at both couples. Which one should she choose?

Some people would say that the emom should choose the first couple because they’ve been waiting longer and they have identified fertility issues. But in adoption, it doesn’t matter who’s been waiting the longest. It doesn’t matter who’s had failed placements, who could have had kids if… Expectant parents have the right to choose the best family for their children. So, when the emom chooses the second couple, because she grew up in NH and knows how white the state is (and she really loves that they named their cat Chewbacca), it’s about choosing the better family for her child. The one that she thinks will be better, at least. 

In foster care, or when social workers have the ability to choose, they need to look at more than just who paid the highest fees, who’s been waiting the longest, etc. They need to ask “Are these parents equipped to take care of this particular child?” 

This is what it means when we hear “Adoption isn’t about finding children for parents.” I hope I’ve done a decent job describing it.

Oh, and I fully intend to revisit the “fertile couples shouldn’t adopt” argument in the near future.

Photo Credit.

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