There are many misconceptions about adoption that troubles both prospective birth parents and adoptive families. Adoptive parents may wonder if they will be able to love an adopted child as much as a biological child, and sometimes birth parents worry that their adopted child will have ill feelings toward them, to name a few.
Outside of some adoption professionals, adoption activists and the adoptive families and birth parents themselves, little has been done to change these perceptions.
However, the U.S. Department of Health and Services has posted the latest adoption statistics taken from the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents (NSAP). This is the first empirical study with quantifiable evidence that can be used to combat common misconceptions that prospective birth parents and adoptive families have about adoption. These adoption statistics prove many of the more widespread misconceptions to be false.
General Adoption Misconceptions vs. Adoption Statistics
Misconception: “Will the adopted child be loved as much as a biological child?”
This is a very natural feeling that both the adoptive family and birth parents share before entering into an adoption. Any fears of the adoptive family not loving a child simply because it doesn’t have their genes are immediately eliminated as soon as the adoptive parents first lay eyes on their baby. This is true in nearly every single adoption.
Look no further than how the adoptive parents interact with the adopted child: Nearly 3 out of every 4 adopted children ages 0-5 are read to or sang to every day, compared with only half of non-adopted children who receive the same attention from their biological parents.
Furthermore, well over half of all adopted children eat dinner with their families at least six days per week.
It’s no surprise that the adoption statistics show how much adoptive parents cherish the time they have with their children. They appreciate every day the opportunity to be a mom and a dad, and it shows.
They are the first ones at their son’s soccer practice, and they are in the front row of their daughter’s play. Their lives quite literally revolve around their children.
At first glance, the statistic about the majority of adopted children being read to every day may not seem like much, but looking further into the stat gives a glimpse into what adoptive parents are all about. Couples who struggle with infertility gain an astounding appreciation for the gift of parenthood. Adoption presents the couple with another chance to reclaim their dreams of raising a child, and it shows in the little things, such as reading to him or her before bed.
Another national adoption statistic says that 9 out of every 10 adoptive couples said the relationship they share with their adopted child is “very close,” and nearly half said that their relationship is even “better than expected.” Also, more than 9 out of every 10 people said they would “definitely” make the same decision to adopt again.
These statistics are remarkable considering all of the special needs babies that are adopted and the other complexities that may occur through adoption. These statistics proves that no matter how difficult the adoption process can be emotionally, the end result is what matters and that the family unequivocally loves the child.
Birth Mother Misconceptions vs. Adoption Statistics
Misconception: “My child will hate me because I placed her for adoption.”
This feeling was produced by people and media that are inexperienced in adoption. An extended family member or a friend who may not agree with the pregnant woman’s desire to place her child for adoption may say that the child will hate her if she goes through with it. Similarly, some television shows and movies have unjustly portrayed adoptees in this way as well.
The adoption statistic shows that over 90 percent of adopted children ages 5 and older have positive feelings about their adoption. Most adopted children are raised in happy homes by loving adoptive parents, so why would an adopted child hate his birth parents, the ones who provided him with a great life and his mom and dad?
For more, read about how Scott and Jennifer feel about their birth parents.
Misconception: “Once I place my baby for adoption, I will never see her again.”
At one time, this misconception was not a misconception at all – it was reality. It was thought that the adoption process was easier for each member of the adoption triad if the birth mother went on with her life not knowing anything about her child. However, much has changed in the past several decades regarding the amount of openness in adoption.
Today, most adoption professionals agree that at least a semi-open adoption – the post-placement sending of pictures and letters through agency mediation ¬– is good for all parties because it creates healthy relationships between each. Keeping at least some contact with the adoptive family gives the birth mother the peace of mind that she made the right decision by placing the child in a two-parent, loving home. It reminds her that she can feel good about her decision, instead of bottling up her emotions and trying to forget about it.
In fact, 100 percent of all birth mothers have the right to choose the amount of openness in the adoptive relationship, and she will select the family that is open to her request. This has resulted in 67 percent of private adoptions having pre-adoption agreements of at least a semi-open adoption. The 33 percent that don’t have pre-adoption agreements are at the request of the birth mother.
An open adoption can be a truly beautiful thing. Read about Jenny and Amanda’s story, which details the value of an open adoption, here.
Misconception: “My child won’t know that she was adopted.”
In the past, adoption was very “hush hush.” The birth mother wouldn’t tell anyone she was pregnant and in some situations she would even take a several-month-long vacation to have the baby and place him or her for adoption. This feeling toward adoption was also seen by adoptive parents who wouldn’t tell their child that he or she was adopted, just because it was such a delicate topic back then.
As previously noted, the adoption world has changed: Today, 99 percent of adopted children ages 5 and older know that they were adopted.
This is proof that any sort of stigma that adoption may have once had has since lifted, and nearly all adopted children have a story of where they came from and who they are.
More general adoption statistics on the birth mother:
- Birth mothers have higher educational aspirations, are more likely to finish school, and less likely to live in poverty and receive public assistance than mothers who keep their children.
- Birth mothers delay marriage longer, are more likely to eventually marry, and are less likely to divorce.
- Birth mothers are more likely to be employed 12 months after the birth and less likely to repeat out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
- Birth mothers are no more likely to suffer negative psychological consequences, such as depression, than are mothers who rear children as single parents.
Source: McLaughlin SD, Manninen DL, Winges LD, Do Adolescents Who Relinquish Their Children Fare Better or Worse Than Those Who Raise Them? Family Planning Perspectives, 20:1 (Jan. - Feb. 1998), pp. 25-32
Adoptive Family Misconceptions vs. Adoption Statistics
Misconception: “Adopted children are not as healthy as non-adopted children.”
This false misconception stems from the many inaccurate stereotypes about birth mothers, when in fact they are almost always no different from the adoptive mother, just in a different circumstance. Some feel that birth mothers won’t take care of themselves and the baby while she is pregnant if she is placing the baby for adoption. This is, quite simply, untrue.
85 percent of adopted children are rated to have “excellent” or “very good” health. The national average for non-adopted children is 82 percent, according to The National Center for Health Statistics.
Misconception: “Adoption agencies withhold relevant information about the adoption, birthmother and child.”
As early as the 1960s, state adoption facilities thought it was better to withhold medical records because they wanted to respect the child and not release it until the child was 18 years old. They thought that by not disclosing his or her medical records, the child would have a better chance of being adopted. This practice obviously ended up doing more harm than good.
After many lawsuits and a general shift in perception, today state governments, private agencies, and many state laws and regulations mandate that all known medical information is disclosed to the adoptive family. This information is extremely important to have so the adoptive family knows any health concerns about the adopted child, and so the adopted child knows how to take care of him or herself.
Other General Adoption Statistics
- 2007 breakdown of adopted children in the United States: Private domestic, 677,000 (38 percent); foster care, 661,000 (37 percent); international, 440,000 (25 percent).
- 62 percent of children adopted privately are placed with the adoptive family when they are newborns or less than one year old.
- 21 percent of private adoptions are transracial.
- 88 percent of adoptive parents describe themselves as a “happy” couple, while 83 percent of non-adoptive parents describe themselves as a “happy” couple.
Education Adoption Statistics
- At American Adoptions, over 95 percent of adoptive families have a high school education and over 90 percent have a bachelor’s degree. Nationally, adoptive parents have at least a high school education in 79 percent of private domestic adoptions.
- Adopted children ages 6-11 are just as likely to read leisurely as non-adopted children.
- Children adopted privately are more likely to be engaged in school than are children adopted internationally and through foster care.
- 85 percent of privately adopted children ages 6-17 engage in extracurricular activities.
Home/Neighborhood Adoption Statistics
- 100 percent of adopted children through American Adoptions are placed in two-parent homes.
- Almost half of privately adopted children are the only child living in the home.
- Adopted children are more likely to live in neighborhoods that are safe, that have amenities and are in good physical condition than are non-adopted children.
For related reading, please visit:
Growing Up Adopted: Study Highlights Health, Happiness of Adopted Children
Impact of Adoption on Adopted Persons
All information (except for "More general adoption statistics on the birth mother") is taken from the U.S. Department of Health’s 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents (NSAP): ( http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/09/NSAP/chartbook/chartbook.cfm?id=1)