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Adoption myths & facts

Nearly 60 percent of Americans have had personal experience with adoption – meaning they, a family member or close friend was adopted, adopted a child or placed a child for adoption. And yet, there are many misconceptions about adoption that troubles both prospective birth parents and adoptive families.

Discover some of the most common myths and realities about adoption.

Myth:
There are very few babies being placed for adoption.

Fact:
About 20,000 U.S.-born infants are placed for adoption each year—many more than the annual total of international adoptions.1

Myth:
Birth parents can take back a child after their rights have been terminated.

Fact:
Once an adoption is finalized in court, the adoptive parents are recognized as the child's legal family. Although adoption laws vary from state to state, biological parents have no way to gain back custody of their child once their parental rights are terminated. (The only exception is if the birth parents are able to prove fraud or coercion.) Despite the publicity surrounding a few high-profile cases, post-adoption revocations are extremely rare.

Gay couple with babyMyth:
A single parent can't provide a healthy environment for a child.

Fact:
As you may know from your own personal experience, a single parent can provide a loving, stable home. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 27 percent of U.S. children (20.2 million) lived with only one parent in 2009.2

Myth:
Same-sex parents are not capable of providing a healthy environment for a child.

Fact:
Two million children in the United States are being raised by gay and lesbian families and 30 years of social science research shows they are just as happy, healthy and well-adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents. 3, 4

Myth:
Adopting a child of another race or ethnicity is bound to cause problems for the child.

Fact:
International adoptions began in the 1950s with American families adopting war orphans and children fathered by U.S. soldiers and sailors returning from the Korean and Vietnam wars. More than fifty years of research on these transracial/transcultural adoptions, as well as research on African American children adopted by Caucasian parents, disproves this myth. Transracially adopted children usually adjust well, with strong racial identity, self-esteem, and attachment to their family.

Myth:
Open adoption is confusing to children.

Fact:
Children in open adoptions are not confused by contact with their birth parents. Even at an early age, children can understand the roles and responsibilities of their adoptive families and birth parents: birth parents give them life and adoptive parents care for and nurture them.

Myth:
Parents can't love a child adopted as much as they would love a child born to them.

Fact:
Love and attachment are not the result of nor guaranteed by biology. The intensity of bonding and depth of emotion are the same, regardless of how the child joined the family.

Myth: 
Birth mothers are typically troubled teens.

Fact: 
After steadily rising for five decades, the share of children born to unmarried women has crossed a threshold: more than half of births in the United States are to single mothers under the age of 30. 5 Birth mothers choose adoption thoughtfully, because they want a better life for their child.  Many take an active role in making an adoption plan.5

Myth:
A woman, who chooses adoption, will regret her decision for the rest of her life.

Fact:
For the birth parent facing an unplanned pregnancy, making an adoption plan can be a very positive outcome.  Expectant mothers make an adoption plan because they believe it in the best interest of their child.  With support and counseling, they are able to grieve and proceed with the healing process in a positive manner.  When the adoption experience is handled properly, most birth mothers feel good about their decision years later.

Myth:
Adoption is a selfish, easy solution – for an unplanned pregnancy – made by women who don't care about their baby.

Fact:
Birth parents choosing adoption are making a loving, courageous parenting decision.  This option allows them to give a child life and fulfill their parenting responsibilities. In order to do this, they must put their own needs aside in order to focus on what is best of the child.  Placing a baby for adoption is a sign of maturity, responsibility, and selflessness.  Adoption is by no means taking the easy way out.  It is a difficult decision, and birth parents, need to be supported in this decision by those around them.

Myth:
Open adoption is a form of co-parenting.

Fact:
In open adoption, the line between family members is clearly defined. The adoptive parents and birth parents do not have shared custody. Adoptive parents are responsible for all of decisions relating to their child's welfare. Birth parents may be involved in the children's lives, but they do not have legal rights over the child.

Myth:
Adopted children grow up hating their birth mothers.

Fact:
Most adoptees have good lives and do not resent the decision their birth mother made. Open adoption allows children to have an ongoing relationship with their birth parent(s). As a result, they are able to ask the birth mother (or their adoptive parents) questions surrounding their adoption, making them less likely to have doubts or feel resentment.

Myth:
Adopted children are more likely to be troubled than birth children.

Fact:
Research shows that adoptees are often as well adjusted as their non-adopted peers. There is virtually no difference in psychological functioning between them.6

Myth:
Adoptive parents often break their openness agreements with their child's birth parents.

Fact:
It's true that not every adoption agreement goes as smoothly as planned. However, adoptive parents who have been properly counseled understand the benefits of maintaining an ongoing relationship with their child's birth parents, and are more likely to adhere to the arrangement. 

Footnotes:

1 "8 Myths and Realities about Adoption," Adoptive Families Magazine, 2005.

2 Rose M. Kreider and Renee Ellis, "Living Arrangements of Children: 2009", U.S. Census Bureau, June 2011  

3 Susan Donaldson James, "2 Million Kids Raised By Gay Couples Are At Risk, Study Says." ABC News, November 2, 2011.

4 Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council, Center for American Progress, National Association of Social Workers, Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, and COLLAGE, "All Children Matter" October 25, 2011.

5 Jason DeParle and Sabrina Tavernise, "For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage." The New York Times, February 14, 2012.

6 "8 Myths and Realities about Adoption," Adoptive Families Magazine, 2005.

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Adoption Center for Family Building is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We provide valuable resources, financial assistance, and professional counseling to women facing an unplanned pregnancy. Please support our mission.