There are 114,000 children in the U.S. waiting to be adopted from foster care, yet we are stepping over the children in our own localities to find infants abroad. Myths about children in foster care and highly publicized celebrity adoptions divert our attention from children in the U.S.
Too many Americans believe the fiction about adopting from foster care—it costs too much, the biological parents will return to claim their children, the children are juvenile delinquents or unadoptable, and the foster care system challenges don’t merit the effort. Here are the facts:
Unlike the tens of thousands of dollars parents pay to adopt infants internationally or domestically, the cost of adopting kids from foster care remains minimal. Expenses are covered by the agency holding custody, and increasingly there are financial supports for families, including subsidies, tax credits, workplace benefits, and scholarships.
Children waiting for adoption from the U.S. foster care system have been legally, permanently separated from their families of birth, who cannot challenge the final termination.
America’s waiting children are older, may be a part of a sibling group, and may have emotional or physical challenges. They reside with foster parents or relatives and in homes, group settings, or at times, in institutional care.
These kids have arrived in this system through no fault of their own but rather as a result of abuse or neglect. Because we have not stepped forward to embrace them, many move from placement to placement. Every waiting child is adoptable. How dare we say the system, a system created and underfinanced by us, is not worth the challenges?
Each year, more than 20,000 children in America’s foster care system turn age 18 and are released without the safety net of family. We then wonder why so many end up underemployed, undereducated, or homeless.
There are 114,000 wonderful reasons to consider foster care adoption in the U.S. We must solve this crisis by assuming responsibility for the children in our own backyards.
I take issue with the assumption that Americans who can’t, or don’t want to, give birth to children should adopt hard-to-place U.S. kids instead of “fueling an international market for healthy infants.”
There is no international market for healthy infants. Yes, I do believe that, while it’s not an epidemic, in some cases, babies are stolen or bought from poor birth mothers in the U.S. and abroad, resulting in profit. In response, there has been increasing attention to the implementation of best practice in adoption, i.e., Hague regulations for inter-country adoption and improved state laws for domestic adoption, limiting expenditures to pre-natal care for the birth mother.
Furthermore, the mean age of children adopted from orphanages abroad is not in the infant group, and as an adoption medicine specialist, I would say the health of these children ranges greatly. Most kids adopted from abroad are toddlers who likely have special needs.
Many families, my own included, have adopted older children who have lost their families to tuberculosis, malaria, or AIDS. Many children have low birth weights or are premature, exposed to alcohol, and born without prenatal care. They are admitted to orphanages where they are further malnourished, unstimulated, and emotionally and physically abused by the lack of intimacy and social connections in orphanages.
These deficiencies lead to developmental delays and attachment issues. Kids in orphanages abroad are very resilient and can catch up over time within a loving family, but they often require early intervention and special education. That said, the majority of them are ultimately healed here in the U.S., through the hard work of parents who are devoted, educated, and committed to advocacy.
Why would anyone think that children without parents or families are more needy in one part of the world than in any another part of the world? There are 150 million children without parental care living in the world. They all qualify equally as needy.
Directives should be about how we need to solve this problem. No child in this world should be without a family.Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek.com Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.
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