Robin Boylorn on Adoption in the US
November is National Adoption Month, an initiative sponsored within the United States Department of Health and Human Services that is intended to raise awareness about the need for adoptive families in foster care.
People choose to adopt for a variety of reasons that range from a desire to have a child to a desire to save a child. And sometimes adoption is sought because of infertility. Same sex couples, or single adults who are heterosexual, may turn to adoption in lieu of a sperm donor or surrogate.
We often hear about the reasons people adopt, but we rarely hear about the challenges of adoption. I want to reflect on how some of these challenges in the U.S. have material impacts on the lives of children who need permanent homes, and would-be parents who want to expand their families.
Children who are adopted from the foster system may have special needs as a result of their abuse, neglect or abandonment. These issues are not cured through adoption, and adoptive parents must be committed to not only the physical care, but the emotional and psychological care of these children. The state characterizes children with special needs as those who are five years old or older and have various degrees of mental, physical, or emotional problems. And when there is a sibling group of two or more that need to be placed together with the same family, that is also considered a special need.
I also want to reflect on the financial requirements for adoption and discriminatory practices against members of the LGBT community.
Adoptions are not one size fit all. There are different kinds and some are more accessible and affordable than others. Foster care adoptions cost very little, while private ones can cost upward of $40,000.
Since working-class or moderately middle-class families are more likely to participate in the foster system, and upper class families are more likely to pursue the private adoption of newborns and infants, it is important to also consider challenges that are not related to income.
While same-sex couples are legally allowed to adopt in every state except Mississippi and Utah, there are invisible barriers, such as religious-based discriminations with private adoption agencies, that can exclude them from adoption access. This means that regardless of income, or investment in the well-being of a child who may have special needs, same sex couples can be disqualified from adoption.
So while Alabama is celebrating a record number of adoptions of children in foster care for the second year in a row, it is silent on LGBT fostering, and is one of 10 states that allows state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services to children and families, including same-sex couples, if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs.
The adoption conversation must not only celebrate the victories, but expose the problems.
I’m Robin Boylorn. Until next time, keep it crunk!
Written by Robin Boylorn
Edited by Brittany Young