What is it about the adoption process that attracts so many myths, misconceptions and just plain misinformation?
A lack of facts? An overabundance of fear? A bit of both perhaps. Whatever the case, here are some myths about adopting in Canada that attracted our attention. Got a favourite myth of your own? E-mail it to us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fiction: Adoption means buying a baby.
Fact: Adoption is a legal and social process, not a business transaction. It’s a way to find a permanent, loving home for a child whose parents may not be ready to parent. Although fees are involved, they are generally administrative and legal in nature. And they don’t go to a prospective birth mother, but rather to your adoption professionals who are responsible for ensuring that all the laws, rules and regulations regarding adoption in your province are being met.
Fiction: Once you’ve found a baby, you’ve completed the adoption process.
Fact: Regardless of which search tool you use, finding a baby to adopt is only one part — albeit an important one — of the adoption process. There’s much more to it than that. Depending on which province you live in and which province your baby is born or lives in, you still have to go through another independent legal process before your application can be approved. In any adoption, the child’s best interests are always the paramount concern.
Fiction: The more money you can offer a prospective birth mother, the better your chances are of her choosing you to raise her child.
Fact: In Canada, no money is allowed to change hands between hopeful adoptive parents and birth mothers. In fact, gifts, inducements and incentives of any kind are strictly illegal and could jeopardize your adoption. In the US the laws are a little different, but the same rules apply: a potential birth mother is not allowed to financially benefit from the placement of her child.
Fiction: Once you turn down the chance to adopt a child, you won’t get another one.
Fact: There is no rule stipulating the number of children you are eligible to consider. It all depends on your particular circumstances. Nevertheless, if you don’t have a good feeling about a specific situation, you shouldn’t think twice about walking away from it. Another one will eventually come your way. Just remember that each situation takes time and can be very draining, emotionally and financially.
Fiction: You have to be rich to adopt.
Fact: Being wealthy is not one of the criteria for adopting. In fact, your emotional resources often carry more weight than your financial ones. As long as you have a decent, stable income — enough to cover the basic needs of your family — you shouldn’t have any problem fulfilling the requirements. And besides, not all adoptions are costly. In public adoptions, for instance, there is usually no fee at all.
Fiction: You need to own a house to adopt.
Fact: Owning a house is nice — after all, in time your child will need room to run around — but it’s not necessary. Couples with apartments or rented homes adopt all the time.
Fiction: Single people can’t adopt.
Fact: Although some agencies and potential birth mothers tend to favour traditional two-parent families, single women and men have as much of a right to adopt as anyone else. So do gays, older or divorced couples, and couples with children.
Fiction: Famous people have the inside track to adopting a baby.
Fact: Adoption is not about fame or fortune. It’s about providing a child with a loving, permanent home. Whether you live in Hollywood or Collingwood is irrelevant. At the end of the day, what really counts is whether you can meet a child’s needs.
Fiction: If you were meant to be a parent, it would have happened already.
Fact: Not everything works out the way we’d like it to. Many people, for instance, want to start a family, but for medical reasons are unable to do so. Just because they suffer from infertility, however, doesn’t mean that they can’t — or shouldn’t — become parents. Which is why there’s adoption.
Fiction: An adoption takes forever to complete.
Fact: Some adoptions do take a long time, but they don’t have to. It all depends on what kind of child you’re interested in adopting, how quickly you can find a match and how long it takes to complete all the paperwork. In some instances, it’s possible to have a child placed in your arms in a year or even less. Our services — including the Adoption Profiles and Parent Profile Writing Service — are all designed to speed up the process, saving you time, money, headache and heartache.
Fiction: In order to adopt, you need to be perfect.
Fact: One of the first things you’ll need to do before you can adopt is complete a home study. The goal of a study, in part, is to assess your fitness to become an adoptive parent. And while it’s important to make a good impression, nobody is expecting you to be a saint or a “super parent.” After all, what parent is? You’re entitled to have shortcomings and weaknesses just like anyone else. And as long as they don’t conflict or reflect badly on your ability to parent, nobody will hold them against you.
Fiction: Birth mothers can’t afford computers, which means that posting an online letter to them is a waste of time.
Fact: Birth mothers come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. There is no cookie-cutter profile. Many have their own computer at home. And even if they don’t, they have access to one through friends, family, school, work or their neighborhood library. And with access, of course, comes opportunity.
Fiction: Going online to meet a birth mother is just asking for trouble.
Fact: Dozens of waiting parents have successfully adopted after connecting with a prospective birth mother through the Internet. In fact, many women in this situation prefer using the Net. The Net is simply a communication tool — a forum or electronic bulletin board where people with similar interests can meet and exchange information. As long as you’re careful and aware of some the risks involved, there’s nothing particularly dangerous or evil about it. And it’s certainly no more perilous than placing an ad in the paper.
Fiction: One way to solve infertility is to adopt a child.
Fact: Adoption is not a cure for infertility. It’s a way to build a family and share your love with a child whose parents simply weren’t ready or able to become parents. While a child can perhaps soften the pain, disappointment and frustration stemming from infertility, s/he can’t make it disappear.
Fiction: Most birth mothers are unwed teenagers.
Fact: Fact is, the opposite is true. Studies show that the younger the birth mother, the greater the chance she’ll raise the child herself. This is because for some teenagers, a child is a symbol of status. Older women, on the other hand, understand the kinds of compromises and sacrifices motherhood requires and consequently don’t make the mistake of glamourizing it in quite the same way.
Fiction: Birth mothers have all the rights and you don’t have any.
Fact: Prior to the placement of a child, it’s very likely you’ll feel this way. The good news is that after the placement occurs and the revocation of consent period has expired, the situation will change dramatically. Knowing how volatile the adoption process can be, it’s important to find a birth mother you can trust and depend on. Think of your relationship with her as a kind of dance. Only it won’t always be clear who’s leading whom.
Fiction: Birth mothers change their minds all the time and end up raising their babies themselves.
Fact: Although this does happen, it doesn’t happen that often. Or at least as often as most people think. Problem is, whenever it does happen, you tend to hear about it. Prior to placing her baby for adoption, a prospective birth mother has the right to change her mind at any time and have her baby returned to her. After the placement, there is a period of time where she can revoke her consent and have the baby returned to her. After that period expires, however, her parental rights to her child are terminated and eventually transferred to the adoptive parents, who will be responsible for raising him/her. The key to preventing a potential birth mother from undergoing a change of heart is to screen her carefully and to make sure she receives sufficient counselling so that she clearly understands her actions and her rights and responsibilities. Remember, too, that until she terminates her rights to her child, she’s not a birth mother. She’s a pregnant woman who’s considering adoption.
Fiction: Years after placing their babies for adoption, birth mothers come back to claim them.
Fact: If this happens, it happens in Hollywood movies, not in real life. Anecdotal evidence shows that the opposite is true: While adoptive parents often push for increased contact and openness, most birth mothers just want to go on with their lives and put their adoption experience behind them. The last thing they want to do is interfere with their child’s upbringing.
Fiction: Birth mothers give their children away because they don’t care for them.
Fact: Birth mothers don’t “give” their children away, they place them with a loving family because they want them to have a better future than the one they can provide. Placing a child for adoption is the most heartbreaking decision any mother can make. And no mother makes it lightly. It requires courage, love and selflessness. Birth mothers have always had a bad rap and have become adoption’s version of the evil stepmother in fairy tales. But they’re just normal, every day people. They’re not drug addicts, they’re not prostitutes and they’re not homeless or penniless. They have feelings and values, just like everyone else.
Fiction: Birth mothers eventually get over their decision.
Fact: Birth mothers never “get over” their decision. Nor do they forget it. They will always have a connection to their children, even if someone else is raising them. So don’t think that just because you don’t see or hear from your birth mother she’s out of your life — or your child’s — forever. She’ll always be there, like a distant relative you never hear from but nevertheless know exists.
Fiction: It’s harder to bond with an adopted baby than with one of your own.
Fact: Ask anyone who has ever adopted a newborn and they’ll tell you that the bonding process begins the moment you lay eyes on your child. Sometimes, if a child has spent an extended period of time in an orphanage or a foster home, there may be attachment problems that delay the bonding process. But in time, with the right love, care and attention, many of those problems can be overcome. In other words, don’t underestimate the role that environment plays in the healing and adjustment process.
Fiction: Adopted children must have something wrong with them, otherwise their parents would never have given them away.
Fact: When a child is placed for adoption it usually has more to do with the parents’ circumstances than it does with the child’s. Which is to say that in many placements, especially those directly done from the hospital, a child’s physical or mental fitness isn’t a factor. That said, there are children available through public and private agencies who do have what’s called “special needs” — a developmental, emotional or mental handicap that requires special attention.
Fiction: Adopted children are less successful in life than biological children.
Fact: Success isn’t predicated on whether a child is adopted or not. Just ask Steve Jobs, Gerald Ford or Sarah McLachlan. All are adopted and all have made a huge difference to people’s lives.
Fiction: Adopted children want to be told they’re special.
Fact: As an adopted parent, you’ll be walking a fine line between answering your child’s questions about his/her origins and helping him/her carve out his own identity. Telling your child s/he’s special may seem like a nice way to deal with his adoption, but in fact most adoptive children just want to fit in and would rather be treated like everyone else.
Fiction: There’s a right age and a wrong age to tell your child s/he’s adopted.
Fact: Most adoption professionals agree that the concept of adoption should be introduced to a child gradually, in a positive light, long before s/he understands what it means. This way it will be part of his/her upbringing, as natural as blowing his/her nose. So really there’s no “right” or “wrong” age. Just make sure you tell him/her before someone else does.
Fiction: Adopted children grow up confused or bitter about their origins.
Fact: In open adoption today, a child’s origins are never in doubt. From a very early age, s/he not only knows that the people who are raising him/her are his/her adoptive parents, but in many cases s/he will have a picture or letters from his/her birth parents. All the information is out in the open, should the child be interested in learning more about his/her origins.
Fiction: Adopted children spend the rest of their lives searching for their “real” parents.
Fact: Searching for one’s birth parents was quite common in adoptions of the past, but not any more. In open adoption today, children — though curious as ever — have less of an interest in meeting their parents. That’s because there’s no burning mystery or dark secret to uncover; they feel secure with themselves and their environment. And in those instance where the do want speak to their birth parents, their adoptive parents will simply pick up the phone and dial the number for them.
Fiction: Raising an adopted child is no different than raising a biological one.
Fact: Although in the early stages there are no major differences between raising an adopted child and one “of your own” — after all, changing a diaper is changing a diaper — as your child grows and his identity starts to take shape, questions about his/her origins will arise and become increasingly more important. Some child grow up fantasizing they were adopted; in your child’s case, the fantasy will, in fact, be a reality. Among other things, a child will want to know more about his/her birth parents and why they weren’t able to raise him/her. If your child is of a different race, there will, of course, be other issues to deal with. The good news is that there are support groups that can help you handle just about any imaginable situation you’ll run into.