Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Adoption - My Point of View

Category: Positive Parenting


        Adoption has been with us since Exodus 2:2  when the Pharaoh's daughter adopted Moses.  It serves a very important function in our society in that many couples cannot have children on their own and are happy to adopt a baby from someone else who is not in a position to keep that baby.  In my opinion, when a birth mother gives up a baby for adoption she is giving the greatest gift a person can give and my hat is off to her.  In the past, society has somewhat looked down on birth mothers and not given them the love, support and psychological and social help that they deserve. It is a very unnatural thing to give up a baby and certainly birth mothers grieve and require healing time to get over the loss.  I believe we, as a wealthy society, should support and encourage adoption as a first option whenever a mother is in a position of not wanting to care for her baby or not being able to care for her baby for whatever reason.  This provides children for the millions of loving couples who want a child to love and raise.  It also provides a good healthy and loving way for that birth mother to give a great gift through her sacrifice. 

     I think society has not only condoned but has actually encouraged through the media and several influential organizations, abortion much more so than it has encouraged adoption.  Studies show that a young birth mother will tend to choose one of three choices:

1. Keeping the baby,

2. Aborting the baby, or

3. Putting the baby up for adoption, according to the counseling and moral support she gets during that critical time in her life.  If she goes to Planned Parenthood, the chances are about 80% that she will choose abortion.  If she goes to an adoption support organization and has a family which is supportive of adoption, the chances are 80% she will choose that.  And finally if she goes to a counselor or her family encourage keeping the baby, there is an 80% chance that she will make that choice.  

So in summary, which choice our birth mothers make is most influenced by the group or individual they go to for help and the type of support they get from their own family and community.  I am proud that in Opelousas we have the New Life Center starting very soon.  This will enable any birth mother who wants to keep her child, to both keep the child and go on with her education. She can feel secure that her child is well attended in a day care facility or the child can also attend school.  Also, if adoption is an option which she chooses, support for that will be given through the Lafayette Catholic Adoption Agency.

     Adoptions in the past were primarily through agencies such as the Volunteers of America, (which is where I came from in 1952),  Edna Gladney Adoption Home in Texas, and several other large and reputable adoption agencies around the country.  These agencies provided the needed counseling for the birth mother and adoptive  parents and, if needed, for the adoptee as well in later years.  The nice thing about agencies is there was a great continuity so that if genetic information or important family information about the birth parents was needed there was an agency that had that information available for later years.  Today, most adoptions are not agency adoptions.  The continuity is not quite as good when you have private adoptions with two independent lawyers involved and no agency to hold the whole process together.  Also, counseling for the adoptive parents as well as the birth mother is not as available in most cases. Probably the single biggest reason private adoptions are on the upswing is because birth mothers would prefer more privacy and they feel an agency will invade their privacy more.  Adoptive children have a much higher rate of emotional disturbance, in the range of five times higher than normal.  This is a statistic which I am embarrassed about being an adoptee myself, but I think that it is important that we realize this and think about why it is so.  My own personal impression is because adoptees, for the most part have a mixed identity.  They feel certain urges throughout their life and don't know exactly where they come from. I think that in most cases adoptive parents are wonderful parents who provide a good loving home and great nurturing for their child. Still, the mixed identity tends to give the adoptee emotional swings at different times in their life.  These times tend to peak at junior high age, college age and young adulthood such as twenties and thirties.  One way of resolving this problem is to have a much more open attitude toward adoption by all of society.  In many modern industrial countries such as Finland and the other Scandinavian and Western European countries, adoption is much more open than it is in the United States.  This openness fosters a less hush-hush attitude and it makes it much easier for adoptive children to talk about their birth parents.  When they are mature and ready to actually seek out their birth parents and fill in the gaps in their mixed identity, their society supports them.  This is a very threatening concept to many people and, having gone through the process myself, I can only say that it helped me emotionally and it made me love my Mom and Dad all the more and realize how lucky I was to be adopted and grow up in  such a wonderful home.  This entire article is my personal opinion and not a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics and I want to make that very clear.  I would like to follow this up with an article next week discussing a few more specific ideas on adoption and listing several addresses and phone numbers which support adoption.  My heart and prayers are with adoptive parents, adoptees, and birth parents.  My daily prayer is that society will grow to understand and accept adoption with a more open attitude and the whole process will be humanized much more in the future.



      In the first article I discussed general feelings about adoption regarding the Adoption Triad.  The Triad means the birth parents, the adoptive parents and the adoptee.  I encouraged greater openness and understanding of each part of the triad. In this article I would like to focus on the needs and feelings of the adoptee, which I think I have pretty good insight into since I am one myself. 

     Most children who are adopted feel very special and very loved.  Some who end up in a troubled home may feel mixed feelings and wonder what things might have been like had they not been adopted.  This is a normal feeling and should not be discouraged or suppressed.  Feelings are inevitable and allowing a child to express feelings in healthy ways is wise.  My parents told me from the time I was two years old how very special I was.  They made the day they picked me up from the Volunteers of America at the age of three months sound like the happiest day in their life.  I grew up feeling that anyone who wasn't adopted was not as extra special as those of us who were.  I think my parents and my two older sisters did a beautiful job, as well as my entire extended family, in nurturing this feeling of specialness and helping to build my self image. I would encourage all adopted parents to practice a similar plan and talk about the adoption openly starting at a young age.  Don't be afraid of questions the child may have and try to answer them as honestly and openly as you can.  If there are questions you feel you can't answer, discuss this with your pediatrician, counselor or a close friend or a religious person in whom you have confidence. 

     As a child reaches certain ages they will go through emotional crises in which they will wonder, deep down, about their identity.  This is absolutely normal and is no different from  anyone else, whether they are adopted or not.  Being adopted, however, seems to accentuate these feelings because they have tendencies and urges which they cannot explain encourage your child to accept their inner feelings.  Provide a nurturing environment for whatever talents or interests they seem to have.  If family background is available and you know the birth parents were strong in sports, math or music, encourage these talents with opportunity.  Even natural born children frequently surprise us with certain unexpected interests and abilities.  The wise parent keeps an open mind and praises his child in many ways.  Ultimately each child must find his unique identity. 

     As adoptees grow up it never hurts to again be reminded that they are special and loved.  If they choose to seek a reunion experience with a birth parent I recommend supporting them.  Love doesn't diminish as it is spread, it just grows deeper.