Sunday, October 20, 2013

Adoption Myths (part 1 of 2)

We are approaching our fourth year of pursing adoption. During this time I have heard a number of myths about adoption in America repeated over and over. Like most myths, they are believed because people repeat them over and over, not because they are true.
'Day 11: can't even imagine' photo (c) 2011, Cathy Stanley-Erickson - license:
I have found that some of these myths are based on the type of adoption that a couple is pursuing. For the sake of clarity, let me describe the three types of adoption available couples in the US:

International Adoption- International adoptions have become more popular through the influence of famous adoptive parents like Madonna and Angelina Jolie.  International adoptions are facilitated through an agency in the US who works with various overseas orphanages. Adoptive parents have to travel overseas (sometimes several times) to meet the children and finalize court proceedings before the children are allowed to be brought to their adoptive home.

Private Domestic Adoption- Private domestic adoptions usually happen through an adoption agency.  A mother with an unwanted pregnancy will approach the agency to help find an adoptive family for their child.  Usually a pregnant mother is presented with several prospective adoptive families from which to choose.

A less common type of private adoption is when a family adopts a child without the help of an agency (just child/family lawyers). There is usually some kind of connection between the birth and adoptive families.

Foster Care Adoption- This is the type of adoption that we are currently pursuing. Foster care adoption involves adopting a child through the US foster care system. Sometimes adoptive parents foster for a period of time before adopting, providing the child(ren) a home while they are pursuing reunification with birth parents. If reunification doesn't work out, these families will adopt the child in need. Other families choose to adopt a child for whom reunification has been terminated (these children are usually older, at least 5 or 6 years of age, but often older). There are 200,000 children available for adoption today through the foster care system, and 500,000 total foster kids in the United States.

With these different types of adoptions established, here are some of the myths that I have heard:

1. Adoption costs tens of thousands of dollars.
This is true of private adoptions (whether domestic or international) but not foster care adoptions.  Private adoptions are expensive because the litany of legal fees.  International adoptions add the cost of multiple flights to the county a couple will be adopting from among other things.  Domestic adoptions add the cost of the birth mother's hospital bills among other things.

However, this is emphatically not true of foster care adoptions.  To the contrary, adoptions through the foster care system are free on the legal end of things. Furthermore, children adopted through the foster care system have access to a number of benefits until they turn 18 (such as free medical care) as well as a monthly stipend for "high risk" children who are adopted (most foster children fall into this category, even seemingly typical kids).

2. Adoptive moms can't breast feed their babies.
Breast feeding is an important part of parenting, as it promotes bonding between mother and baby, and sets babies up for the best lifetime health.

Many people believe that adoptive mothers can't breast feed their babies, mistakenly thinking that pregnancy hormones are the only way to induce lactation.  In fact, there are a few protocols that adoptive mothers can follow to induce lactation (describing them is beyond the scope of this blog, but for more information I recommend a visit to a lactation consultant or reading Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding.

Through the foster care system, the policy on this varies state to state.  In California, foster mothers can give breast milk to foster babies with permission from the baby's social worker.  We were given permission to give breast milk to our second baby, as she came to us when Esther was 11 months old and I was still lactating. She was eventually reunited with her mother, but we are happy that she was able to get the best milk for the first eight months of her life.

Have you heard any of these adoption myths?

Continue on to part two here...

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