Adoption stirs up many images in people’s minds, such as the old-fashioned orphanage where children were placed and prospective adoptive parents came to visit and “choose” their child. That scene was most recently depicted in the movie “Stuart Little”. That is not the case here in the US, as orphanages have been replaced by foster homes or even group homes. Internationally, orphanages are still utilized for the government to care for orphan children. My personal adoption story involves two Russian orphanages where my two youngest children were placed until I adopted them.
I see much of the joy of adoption, but adoption also involves great loss. Children who have been in foster care and remember their birth parent or parents grieve after the life they could have had with their family of origin, regardless of the situation or circumstances by which they found themselves in foster care. The family of origin grieves, as familial relationships are severed by either an involuntary termination of parental rights or a surrender of rights. Grandparents find themselves no longer grandparents and are often horrified to realize that their grandchild will be raised by others, most likely strangers, and that the relationship they had with their grandchild or grandchildren is forever lost.
Rather than the old-fashioned orphanage style of adoption, most couples who come to me for finalization of an independent adoption have already matched with a biological mother who is either pregnant or has already given birth. I encourage prospective adoptive parent(s) to use their connections to cast a wide net in seeking an infant to adopt. Others choose to work through an adoption agency, where they will provide their family profile, often through a book or digital photographs, and a birth mother will have the opportunity to know a little bit about the adoptive family and make a choice as to where to place their infant for adoption. This empowers women who sometimes feel as if they have little choice in their immediate destiny to have a choice in who raises their child. Regardless, I encourage open adoptions which can be as “open” as folks decide – pictures of the child and updates – with some families choosing to “adopt” the biological mother of the child and mentor that woman in her life journey. That is the best solution that can be reached in order for a child and family of origin to feel connected to both their birth family as well as their adoptive family. However, some adoptive families would not feel comfortable in that type of scenario and choose to have little to no contact with the birth family of their child.
Regardless of what type of adoption – adoption agency or through foster care, independent adoption, relative adoption, stepparent adoption, international or even adult adoption – families are formed and life connections are made. In the world in which we live today, feeling connected to a family is invaluable for emotional support, as well as the obvious financial, educational and other supports given to a child through adoption. Being part of a loving, giving and inclusive family is the greatest gift for any child or adult. That’s why we celebrate National Adoption Month!
— Judy Sartain is a AAAA adoption attorney practicing in Georgia. Learn more about Judy and her practice through her website, www.stearns-law.com.