Adoption as a First Choice

By Faith Allen at Adoption.com
Photo ©2009 Joyhannah Frisbie

A young orphan takes a stroll with his 'Auntie,' Joyhannah Frisbie, at Amani Baby Cottage in Jinja, Uganda, East Africa. 
He was recently adopted and now lives with his new family in the United States.



On my Adoption.com post, How Often do Adoptive Parents Get Pregnant?, a reader posted the following comment:

As someone who is CHOOSING to adopt (we already have a young bio son and no fertility issues), it drives me crazy when people say things like, “Watch, when you bring your kids home from Ethiopia, you’ll end up having another one of your own!” The assumptions people make are astounding. It’s sad that so many people see adoption as some sort of desperate second choice. – mominma

Mominma brings up an important point that many people miss: Not every hopeful adoptive couple tries to conceive a baby first.

I have a good friend who has adopted several times and never tried to conceive a baby. She and her husband decided from the very beginning that they wanted to grow their family through adoption, so they never knew whether or not they were fertile. Their fertility was irrelevant to them and their growing family. While this woman can empathize with adoptive mothers who grieve their infertility, she cannot personally relate because her fertility never mattered much to her.

I have another friend who also chose adoption as a first option. She and her husband elected to adopt a sibling group out of foster care. Not every adoptive couple has room in their life, or the physical space, to accommodate an adopted sibling group. As such, without couples like these, few birth siblings would have the opportunity to stay together in forever homes.

Not every couple has the desire to take care of a baby. Babies are hard work and take a great deal of parenting effort, especially in the first years of life. After potty-training my son, I can certainly appreciate a child who comes potty-trained!

Some couples also believe that there are already enough babies desperately in need of tender loving parents, and feel no need to 'make more'. Instead, they would rather provide a good home to a child who is already in need of one.

Still other couples come together later in life and do not desire to start a biological family in their forties or fifties. They would rather parent older children and participate in their activities while not having to worry about paying for college and retirement at the same time.

Some couples have hereditary issues that they do not want to pass along to biological children. For example, people with hemophilia may want to end the disease for good rather than risking its spread to another generation. Those with a family history of mental or physical illness may not wish to risk birthing a child who could inherit the disorder.

While some people view adoption as “second best,” this is simply not the case. A local social worker reminds her clients that because something is occasionally second choice for some, this does not make it second best. Adoption is simply a different way of growing your family and does not need to be compared or contrasted with other ways of growing families.

And for some people, adoption truly is a first choice.

35 comments:

  1. Please take a look at this blog post, and even more of my blog if you like. I hope I can shed some light for you about adoption.

    http://scriptforajesterstear1969.blogspot.com/2010/01/question-posed.html

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  2. I am not Pro-Adoption by any means whatsoever. However, I will say that it is nice to hear that there are some couples out there whose adopted child was not a last resort as it so often seems. As someone who has struggled with reproductive issues personally, I used to get an infertility newletter. I remember flipping through the pages one day and seeing a "goodbye and thank you" letter from a subscriber who was letting the rest of the subscribing community know that she was cancelling her subscription because the newsletter was no longer needed: she had "closed the chapter of infertility in her life by adoption."

    I thought this was extremely sad. Adoption is not the cure for infertility. It is a parenting outlet for those who wish to parent--the infertility, the pain, the struggle--all of that, is still there. Not resolving the emotional issues from infertility before adopting or becoming so desperate due to infertility that you cling to adoption to make it all "go away" or somehow "better" (as one blogger I recently saw was doing, complaining that not enough teenagers are abandoning their babies) is unwise. It is as if the adopted child has a created roll for them to step into filled with baggage--to be something other than simply who they already are.

    I can tell you that this "role" is compounded with feeling compelled to be "loyal" and make up for children that your parents couldn't have and endure the "biology doesn't make you a mother" comments your entire life (when deep down inside, you love the First Mother you've never met and wonder why people are so defensive when biology comes up). This "role" is also compounded by having your birth name--your real, legal, God-given name, changed upon adoption, your REAL birth certificate with truthful birth information on it sealed, and a new one issued. It's worse when you're an adult and want to see the documentation about your life pre-adoption and a judge says "denied."

    I am an Adult Adoptee, I love my adoptive parents but it's never a good feeling to know that you were a "second choice" because biological birth wasn't possible.

    But on the other hand, no matter what your motivation to adopt is, you are placing a demand upon an industry that does not always produce children to be adopted in an ethical manner. At times, adoption "solves" the very problem that it itself created. I encourage everyone to demand truth and openness in adoption and to look into ethical adoptions before adopting.

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  3. I have no fertility problems. I have children of my own and my ultimate goal in life is to adopt a child and give them a great home and loving family.

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  4. Shondolyn GibsonMarch 07, 2010 10:47 PM

    I want to adopt in the future. Folks should not assume and stereotype.
    It bugs me.

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  5. I was adopted due to my parents having infertility issues. I have come across so many woman that fall pregnant naturally or via IVF after adopting, definitely something in that. My mum has birthed two children after my adoption. But I do agree people shouldn't jump to conclusions just because the word adoption is mentioned.

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  6. My husband and I have been blessed with two bio boys we were able to conceive with no problem yet we have every intention of adopting our next child. I hate when people jump to conclusions or speak without thinking.

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  7. ITA! I want to adopt and keep having kids! But right now having kids is cheaper!!!

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  8. considering the sheer number of abandoned children in the US alone I think that if a couple has fertility issues then the moral choice is to adopt first instead of spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on fertility treatments.

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  9. Adoption is so expensive, but I would totally do it.

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  10. Beautiful - the children of the world need this love and opportunity :) XOX to all the adopting families out there giving second chances to those in need.

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  11. To the first poster:

    This is a good point and i hope we as a culture are providing support for all mothers who may need it regardless of age.

    However, I know several women who have given babies up for adoption who were neither young nor poor. It just wasn't what they wanted.

    There are a million reasons to put a child up for adoption, hopefully we are providing the compassion and support for those mothers that do want to keep their children.

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  12. My mother was adopted after her family was separated and my grandmother died, and her siblings where sent to a boys home, I think that its a wonderful thing that some couples are willing to adopt whole sibling families - this would have meant the world to my mum who was separated from her twin brother. Not all adoption is due to mothers giving up their babies.

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  13. I know a few women from my high school who gave their children up for adoption. They are amazing women and they miss their children but luckily they have open adoptions and get to see the child. It isn't the best situation, but I like the idea of contact, and the yearly photo updates.

    My friend says it was the hardest thing she has ever done and she loves her daughter but knows she made the best decision for her child.

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  14. What about women who really do WANT to give their children up? Who were not pressured or coerced in any way. Who do not want a child, do not intend to raise a child, who have other priorities in life. (career, education, etc). There is likely not grieving for every woman who adopts out her child.

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  15. As a birthmother and an adoption advocate 1) the phrase "give up their children" is negative and fraught with assumptions and stigma - the preferred language is to "make an adoption plan" and b) there is a fairly vocal movement out there made up of women who've been severely hurt by the system and lingering societal stigmas, who choose spread negative messages about adoption (not that their stories aren't true and their pain isn't real, but it's just one perspective). The truth is for every "adoption gone wrong" horror story you hear about in the news, there are hundreds of stories you DON'T hear about that go just fine - they don't make interesting news, so the reporting is skewed. Just something to keep in mind.

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  16. May I add that the baby needs to grieve the loss as well?

    In my therapy work with adoptees, there are so many variations and possibilities. Whatever the situation is, the baby KNOWS the story in their subconscious (body) and early prenatal brain.

    From a pre and perinatal perspective, adoptions would be better for everyone if our society was able to comprehend that the baby feels and experiences whatever is happening ... throughout gestation, labor, birth, and beyond.

    A baby is gestated, informed by the placenta and mother's body what the world is like, how to build itself to live in THAT world. The baby's brain is "programmed", built during this experiences ... and then put in another environment.

    It is so beyond belief to me that in the year 2010 the majority of people will say it doesn't matter what happens to a baby, doesn't matter what others do or say to the newborn (especially medical people, for some bizzaro reason the logic is that if a medical person does it and it's in the hospital, or an adoption case worker, the baby won't be impacted, won't remember.) it's absolutely illogical and unnecessary then to give good, gentle, respectful care and love to a newborn. It doesn't matter. They won't remember the love if they don't remember the pain and fear.

    Babies being taken from the womb that gestated them need to be able to grieve or rejoice and everything in between IN ORDER to be able to SECURELY attach and bond with adoptive parents.

    Children coming from other environments or countries have a story, their brains are imprinted with their previous learning. They need a process to make the transition. I just can't believe that prenatal and birth psychology is poo-pooed by the adoption world. www.birthpsychology.com and http://www.quantumparenting.com/. She is an adoptee and specializes in working with creating peaceful parenting. What Babies Wants shows an adult adoptee working with a group to heal the loss of her mother (death) at birth.

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  17. It's a very complex issue, that is certain. My husband and I do not struggle with fertility; we are blessed with two little girls. But we both desire to open our home and adopt a child someday.

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  18. Most people who adopt from the orphanages I've worked at are saving babies and older children that no one wants - those who have no parents, no family.

    It is slightly ridiculous to turn this into a "capitalist" thing where evil Americans are just trying to make money.

    How about some loving people are just trying to save babies/children and provide for them?

    Adoption can be a very, very good thing (and happens to be my 'First Choice' as well).

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  19. Adoption is a wonderful avenue to create a family. Sadly, for those struggling with infertility, as we did, the wait list to adopt an infant can be years. There simply are not enough infants for all the couples wanting to adopt them in the US. And, lovely as it is to adopt an older child, many couples like us, want their first child to be an infant so they can walk the entire developmental journey with their child as a biological parent and child would. I hope adoption awareness will increase in the US and encourage more mothers who feel they are not yet ready to parent to place their newborns for adoption. There are over a million parents waiting in the US to give them loving homes.

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  20. My husband and I have been blessed with 3 amazing kids in 3 years. Since I was a little girl, thinking about what my family would be like when I grew up, I always knew I wanted 3 of "my own" and then to adopt 2. So far, we have gone according to plan. My oldest son, who is 4.5, actually said "not all babies come from their mommies belly, right? I think we should get a baby that needs our help. That would be nice." No clue what put that in his head, I guess from my discussions with a friend who recently adopted. My husband and I talked about fostering, and he would like to foster baby babies....how odd it would be to have a baby not nursing!!

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  21. Great Article!!! My husband is an adoptee and his parents had two bio children before he was born they felt their family wasn't complete and made the decision to adopt without even attempting to get pregnant on their own. It wasn't a decision made from infertility they just decided they would prefer to adopt. It has worked out great my husband is thought of and referred too as a son/brother/uncle no issues of anyone ever saying he's not family because he doesn't share the same DNA.

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  22. I'm adopted and so is my sister, My parents DID have fertility issues, but were so open to adoption. They ended up getting pregnant 1 month after I was adopted (so cliche!) but then did foster care 10 years later and adopted another child. I have always been a huge advocate of adoption and always thought I would adopt all of my children. We have been blessed with 2 surprise babies of our own, but I hope 1 day we can do foster care or bring the blessing of adoption to another baby.

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  23. We have 3 bio children. From the day we met & fell in love we've talked about adopting a sibling unit. We feel our family needs 3 more monkeys. Only problem with adopting...classes are not for people who work 2nd shift or are on mandatory 7 days. He's been on 7 days for over 4 years & they won't set up classes for families like us. On social worker actually told me perhaps we should have thought about getting a job that wasn't 2nd shift if we really wanted to adopt. She was REALLY helpful & supportive. Won't someone set up classes for those with alternative schedules?!

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  24. my friend has 4 adopted kids, she has no fertility issues just feels there are too many babies in the world that need parents that she couldn't justify making them herself. she is an awesome momma...

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  25. It seems people forget about the trauma all babies and children feel when relinquished, feel, experience and continue to suffer all their lives however 'happy' and successful their adoption.There are no happy stories in truth, some adoptees are good at playing the game, living the adoption story for the benefit of others.I know, I lived it for 65 years.
    By the way coming potty trained sounds very like house trained which is desirable in a puppy.

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  26. Von- Thank you for sharing your voice. I was floored the first time I encountered concepts put forth by people involved in adoption reform. I had no idea what sort of issues and emotions lurked on the other side of the pretty pictures typically presented. I am now much more aware and sensitive to situations where children are considered commodities. Last week I read a shocking second hand comment written by the sister of a woman wanting to adopt. It seems a single mom changed her mind and the adoption fell through. The jilted prospective parent said angrily, "The government makes it too easy for these people to keep their babies."

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  27. I was one to give my baby the option of a better life than I could provide for her when she was born. I was very young and lived in an abusive situation at home myself. If I would have kept this infant as my own, she would have endured many horrors that I would not wish upon another human. I've grown a great deal since that time (and do have contact with her today). But I have not had regretful feelings whatsoever about my decision to give her to a solid, loving, wonderful family.

    At the time I did pump (breastmilk) for her and the family was very into natural health so the adoptive mother induced lactation as well to bond and provide milk for her new daughter. Looking back (and knowing what I know now) my only concern is on behalf of her - and other babies. I am not sure that it is fair or good for a baby to be taken from her mother IF her mother is capable of caring for her (and alive). For this reason I am not in favor of surrogacy. But I guess I chose the 'lesser evil' and gave her a good life with another mother instead of a possibly really bad life with me.

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  28. Several people here are making it sound like adoptions always occur with infants in the U.S.

    I realize there are poor means of babies/children being 'bought' from their birth mothers for $$ to be sold into orphanages and adopted out... but how often is this really the case?

    I've worked overseas as often as I can volunteer and I've never witnessed any 'foul play' in the orphanages I've been a part of. Maybe I am blind... but they are all children and babies who were literally orphaned by parents dying of AIDS (usually) or war and they NEED a new forever home.

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  29. As to the idea that adopted babies need to grieve for the seperation from the womb that carried them. 25% of women in this country don't even put their baby to their breast once. Infant day cares accept these children as young as 4 weeks, I've even heard of stories where the grandparents take the baby home from the hospital. My Dad was adopted and never missed not knowing whomever gave him away. Truthfully, he wasn't ever that close to his Mother. The woman he misses the most is the live in housekeeper/nurse who fed him and cared for him. If women are going to legally (for non-medical reasons) bottle feed and lock kids in cribs for 7 hours or more at night w/ the baby monitor turned off and have them in child care 80 hours or more per week.... I'd much rather see those kids in loving adoptive arms and I bet they are happier and better adjusted too.

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  30. We have no fertility issues at this point in our lives, we have small children that we are enjoying...But even before they joined our family, we knew that one day we would adopt- not as second string or lesser than our own: but because we love children and feel that all children deserve a home and a strong family. Hopefully some day we can be there for them.

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  31. Our first choice was to adopt - period. No infertility issues. We just didn't want to put another person on the planet when there are those who are already here that need care.

    It has been the best decision of our lives.

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  32. I knew at a very young age that I would adopt. My husband and I deliberately chose to forgo fertility treatments because we thought it would be powerful for our child to know that for us, adopting her was Plan A. My original plan was to have biological children after we adopted, sometime down the road. After bringing her home, I knew that if we chose to expand our family it would again be through adoption.. I anticipate there will certainly be difficulties in her life that result from her being adopted. But we are doing everything in our power to help her to become a strong, secure and attached person and give her the most stable home life we can. I respect that all adoption plans are different, but in our case, our daughter's removal from her first family was in her best interest given the situation. She's had a rough beginning, but I'm going to do everything I can to address the effects of this. I was born to be this child's mother, and she is the light of my life

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  33. Great article. I have one child, but the only way that I would consider having another is through adoption. I do not want another baby, another pregnancy, and I want to give back to a child that otherwise wouldn't be adopted, simply because they aren't a cute, cuddly newborn. Some people just can't understand that adoption is not something people do as a last resort, and that it's actually a viable way of parenting.

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  34. Adoption is our first choice.

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  35. Hi, I know this is an older article and maybe no one will see this, but my husband and I chose to build our family through adoption of special needs children. We never tried to have our own, but as far as we know, we do not have any fertility problems. After our second adoption was completed, my husband had a vasectomy so that our children would always know that they were our "two and only" and our very first choice. We adopted from China, which, interestingly, is one of the only countries that does NOT require medical affidavits of infertility before permitting adoption. Adoption is also extremely expensive. We were fortunate to have the resources to do it, and to live in a country where we could adopt special needs children without being subject to "pre-existing condition" rules with health insurance, but not all prospective adoptive parents are so fortunate. These might be some things to keep in mind when wondering why some couples decide against adoption as a first choice.

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