Adoption as a Band-Aid

purple bandaid

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It’s probably no surprise to you that some people hate adoption.

There are entire activist groups and many, many websites warning women about the “adoption industry” and the people in it.

We appreciate a lot of what these folks have to say. There is a large for-profit adoption industry, and it is extremely troubling how some facilitators and attorneys take advantage of women when they are at their most vulnerable. Before the 1980s, thousands upon thousands of women were coerced into choosing adoption; that number is far lower today, but it is not at zero.

We differ from anti-adoption groups in that we don’t think adoption is always bad for women; in fact, we have seen firsthand how it can lead to positive and healthy outcomes for women, their children, and those children’s adoptive families. We see these outcomes when women feel that they are at a point in their lives or in a situation where, for whatever reason, parenting does not seem like the best option. Parenting is a different experience for everyone, and not everybody wants to be a parent or wants to parent multiple children. Some women choose adoption because they do not feel emotionally ready to care for a child, because they have dreams and goals they plan to accomplish on their own, or because parenting was not part of the plan for this time in their life. There are as many reasons to choose adoption as there are birth mothers.

But anti-adoption groups are right that many women choose adoption largely because they feel that they can’t parent, and it is here that the larger issue, on which we all agree, arises: there are too many factors that make women feel that they can’t parent. Nearly all of the women with whom we work feel financially incapable of supporting a child (or another child), and that is unsurprising given that poverty rates in our country are staggering and that those rates are especially high for single mothers and women of color. They are unsurprising when we consider the sexism, racism, and violence against women that pervade our country’s history. When a woman becomes pregnant, it often seems that the odds are stacked against her. And that isn’t fair.

A great deal of very important activism is happening to fight back against the factors that make parenting so difficult, but it takes time. One commenter on an anti-adoption forum said recently, “Most infants in America that are adoptable are born to healthy women whose only disadvantages are being young and/or being unmarried. Rather than helping such young women (they are typically young) make an ‘adoption plan,’ as if that were somehow an ordinary or ‘respectable’ response to an untimely pregnancy, why not support that young woman so she can keep and raise her child?” The problem is that even though you and I may agree that women deserve support, our country isn’t there yet. There is very little financial support available for women who feel comfortable asking for it, not to mention the lack of support that exists for women facing other difficulties such as sexual or physical violence, drug addiction, and mental health challenges. And what do we do in the meantime, as we work towards becoming a place where an unplanned pregnancy doesn’t have to be so incredibly difficult?

In many cases, adoption is a “Band-Aid” over a much larger problem, a problem that concerns women’s social, economic, and physical rights, a problem that makes parenting far more difficult than it should be. But people are going to need Band-Aids until that larger problem is solved. We believe that when pregnant women are facing circumstances that make them unsure if parenting is the best choice, they have the right to consider other options and do whatever makes the most sense for them. We agree that it’s unfair that those difficult circumstances exist, and we hope that one day the odds won’t be stacked against so many women. But in the meantime, we have to trust women to do what is right for them given their unique lives and experiences.

Do you agree that the necessity of adoption speaks to a much larger problem? Tell us about the factors that contributed to your decision in the comments below.

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