I have some friends who have adopted. We recently had a conversation about adoption and other options (including abortion) for an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy. I’m all for adoption, but let’s be totally honest, it isn’t always the best option. I’ll explain, so don’t get snorting mad just yet.
None of my friends adopted older kids. They all waited to get babies, preferably younger than 6 months. Their reasoning was of course older kids in foster care who need to be adopted usually come with emotional baggage.
Most adoption agencies have waitlists of prospective parents for caucasian babies. However, other ethnicities usually spend a few years in the foster care system before they are adopted, if they are adopted. If a baby isn’t adopted by the age of 5, their chances of ever being adopted are less than 25%. And ethnicity does matter a great deal when it comes to adoption. African-American children are the least likely to be adopted. Mixed babies who are light skinned are more commonly adopted than Hispanic babies, Asian babies, and Middle Eastern babies. And all of them are more likely to be adopted than African American babies.
It is faster to adopt a child with special needs or who was born addicted, but these babies are often considered much less desirable. In this day and age, even babies born to mothers who smoked cigarettes while pregnant are as undesirable as babies born addicted to crack, cocaine, or meth. The process is made faster for these children, because the government doesn’t have the facilities or the money to take care of the child long term and it does deplete the resources available to take care of children that have better adoption potential.
Only 55% of all infants put up for adoption ever get adopted. The rest grow up in foster care. Growing up in the foster care system can be just as traumatic and damaging as growing up with abusive parents. While most foster homes are decent places, it’s hard to monitor them all, all the time. The system is overloaded and understaffed. A case worker may have as many as fifty cases they have to check on per week. This includes home inspections, school inspections, one on one conversations with foster parents, foster children in the home (often there are multiples) and screening of new potential foster parents. This means bad foster homes do exist, these people are in it for the money and welfare benefits, not because they love kids. Which is a bit ironic. People complain about women who have too many kids and are living on welfare instead of working, but the foster care system in the US allows foster parents to do the exact same thing. If you are unscrupulous and can pass the home inspection and background check, you can make more money raising foster kids than most people can make working 40 hours a week at an office job and even if you’re terrible as a foster parent, they are so desperately needed, that as long as you aren’t doing things that are illegal, you won’t have your fostering abilities revoked.
It is hard to grow up in foster care, knowing that your birth mother didn’t want you and that no one else seems to want you either. It leaves deep psychological scars. About 50% of kids who grow up in foster care, do not graduate high school. 64% never works a job that makes more than minimum wage. And 59% end up in prison with a high recidivism rate. This means, that our current foster care and adoption system is a contributing factor to crime and prison overcrowding.
And twins put up for adoption are often separated at birth. One child may get adopted while the other doesn’t. This creates other problems if someone later finds out they have a twin that did or did not get adopted. Special needs children who grow up in foster care are less likely to be high functional later in life and many never gain independence, even if their disability is mild. In 2015, more than 500,000 babies were put up for adoption in the US alone.
Success rates for private adoption agencies are higher. However, they aren’t 100% (roughly 70%) and most pregnant mothers do not meet the requirements. A pregnant woman can fail the screening of a private adoption agency for a number of reasons. An amniocentesis is required to prove the child does not have a genetic condition that would make them special needs. A child that comes back with Down’s Syndrome or another condition are often rejected. Furthermore, a family history of mental illness, learning disabilities, and certain medical conditions in the family history, can cause a pregnant woman to be rejected by a private agency. Also, not being certain of the father’s medical history can also lead to rejection. This means if your baby was the result of a casual fling, a private adoption agency may not be willing to place the child.
With the rate of adoption not being 100% and the trauma of growing up in foster care is real. I’m of the mindset that we, as a society, need to do more to prevent unwanted pregnancies. I think all forms of birth control should be free and easily available. Not just to those with insurance or on Medicaid or Medicare, but to everyone. This wouldn’t completely eliminate the problems as there would still be women and men who refused to use it. And no birth control is 100% effective. But I think it would seriously cut into it. And as someone that spent several years getting birth control from Planned Parenthood, I understand the problems involved with current access to birth control.
Even with the sliding pay scale available at Planned Parenthood, it was still a couple hundred bucks for me to get Depo Provera every three months. Plus, you have to deal with the judgment of protestors. As someone in my 30s, I didn’t let their harrassment get to me. For some reason, the protestors do not think that someone might walk into Planned Parenthood for a purpose other than an abortion. I think they would be stunned to learn that the majority of women inside the lobby were there for annual exams, STI checks, and birth control. Also, for the record, abortions are incredibly expensive. I spent a lot of time there, waiting for appointments to get my injections, and you can’t take anything in with you. I found myself reading all of their brochures and paperwork as a result. A woman who can’t afford birth control, most likely isn’t going to be able to afford an abortion either.
Essentially, I don’t think there are a lot of options to avoid unwanted pregnancies. And I think free birth control is the best solution. It’s time for people to face reality and admit that adoption is an option, but it, like all current solutions, have more difficulties than society is willing to admit.