Adoption - Yours by Choice
from the book How to Have a Baby:
by Dr. Aniruddha Malpani, MD and Dr. Anjali Malpani, MD.
table of contents
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You don't have to be superhuman, superkind, superloving or perfect to be able
to adopt a child - you just have to be ready. Being ready only happens when
you've had time to get used to the idea - and if you are infertile, it is never
too early to consider adoption. You can begin gathering information from
adoption agencies even though you may not be fully committed. It is always a
wise strategy to investigate alternatives in case pregnancy does not occur -
after all, statistically, the overall chance of pregnancy for an infertile
couple undergoing treatment is only about 50 to 70 percent after one or more
years of trying.
Also, because many agencies do not accept people over a certain age as
adoptive candidates, especially for infants, it is important to collect
information so that you don't discover later that you are too old to fulfill a
particular agency's requirements.
To couples just beginning to consider adoption the central concern is: can we
love an adopted child as our own? Other doubts include:
- What kind of children are available for adoption? Aren't they all misfits
- Won't adopted children grow up maladjusted?
- What will our families say and do? Will they love a child we adopt?
- Won't the child go off to find its birth parents once it grows up anyway?
- Why do we have to go through so much agony to build a family? Infertility
was one struggle and now adoption with its waiting list is a whole new one.
- What will society say? Will our child be accepted by friends and
As you find yourself more ready to accept adoption as an alternative, these
questions often lose their importance. Some of them disappear when you finish
grieving for your biological child - the child that never was - and resolve this
grief by allowing healing. Through grief, you learn to focus less on the process
of obtaining children and more on the children themselves. A couple must,
together and separately, come to terms with their loss - to learn to say
good-bye, before they are ready to consider adoption. The other doubts disappear
after you talk with adoption agencies; adoptive parents and their families; read
books about adoption; and learn how adoption is accomplished. The question then
is no longer "Can we do this?" but becomes " How do we do this?"
You will learn that in many ways families with adopted children are the same
as any other families. You'll express love, have disputes and make compromises
in your daily lives. Your child will be your child, no matter how you came to
Adoptive parenting may be your second choice but it's just as good as
biological parenting. It is different - don't try to compare them, one isn't
better than the other. However, you will have to deal with several issues that
occur only in adoptive families. Prepare yourself to discuss adoption with your
child - and to truthfully deal with the myths and misconceptions that many
people have about adoption. You may also find that you and your child will often
be faced with questions and ignorant comments which assume that adoption is a
second-best alternative for all involved.
Adoption cannot solve the problems associated with infertility - it is not a
cure for the physical aspects of infertility and neither does it cure the
emotional pain. But adoption will provide you with the challenges and rewards of
loving and being loved by a child.
Most adoptions are closed adoption in which the biological parents and
adoptive parents do not come in contact with one another. The adoptive parents
have only fragmentary, if any, information on the birth parents. Furthermore,
adoption agencies make every effort to keep the adoption records closed and
unavailable to everyone, including the adoptive parents, the birth parents and
the adopted child. Most agencies believe that the clear separation of the
adoptive parents from the birth parents is necessary for the adoptive family to
What is involved in the adoption process? Many people naively believe that
adoption simply consists of walking into an agency and walking away with a baby.
Of course, it's much more complex than this. It involves considerable paperwork;
asking questions; solving problems; researching; spending money ; and going
through emotional ups and downs. It takes time and work but remember that those
who want to adopt will always succeed. These procedures have been designed for
your benefit so don't be lured into taking "shortcuts" - these can
hurt you in the long run. After all, adoption is not just a means of finding
babies for infertile couples, but a way of finding the right family for a
Each adoption agency has different requirements so you may find that even
though you are turned down at one agency, another will readily accept your
Most agencies suggest that:
- The age between the adoptive parents and the child be less than 40 years.
- The couple should have been married for at least five years to attest to
the stability of the relationship.
- The couple should have a regular source of income.
- Neither of the partners should have a major illness which may reduce your
The professional who will be guiding you through this process is a medical
social worker, who is fully qualified and trained. Find an agency where you are
comfortable with the social worker assigned to you.
You should learn about the requirements for adoption; and the average waiting
time for placement. You'll need to decide upon many factors including the
child's age and sex - and there may be certain limitations on your choice. Costs
vary widely, and you should enquire how much it will be.
Once an agency accepts your application, detailed interviews, both separately
and jointly, are conducted. Agencies may ask you to supply references from
relatives, employers and friends. Furthermore, an adoption worker will come to
your home and evaluate your suitability as parents - the home study. At some
point after the home study period, a child is identified who is or who might be
available for adoption. You'll then have to decide whether or not to accept the
child - it's finally your choice. If you choose to adopt, there is a supervisory
period once the child arrives in your home, and this may range from a few weeks
to several years. After a specified period, your child is legally adopted by an
When Adoption is not the answer
Infertile couples are often under tremendous pressure to adopt - friends may
tire of your problem and question why you don't adopt if you want a baby so
badly; and others who have already adopted may enthusiastically recommend the
option to you. But you should never try to force yourself to be comfortable with
adoption if the idea is disturbing - this is not a time for selflessness. There
are no set guidelines to determine who should or should not adopt. Remember,
adoption does not mean trying to find a baby now to take care of you in your old
age; neither is it a method to try to use to keep your marriage together. Signs
suggesting indecision could include denial of your disappointment about
infertility; persistent fantasies about what life might have been with
biological children; and the desire to keep the adoption a secret. Prospective
parents may also have fears that an adoptive child may not measure up to family
standards. If you have any doubts, it may be a good idea to temporarily postpone
your adoption plans and discuss your anxieties before proceeding further.
Myths about Adoption
Myth: If an adoptive family really loves the child and does a good job
of parenting, then an adopted child will not be curious about his or her birth
Fact: Children are often curious about those who play major roles in
their lives. Most, if not all, adoptive children will want to know about their
Myth: Adopted children are better off not knowing they are adopted.
Fact: Adoptees almost always find out that they are adopted. They then
discover that their family has been dishonest with them. Adopted children may
build better self-esteem when they have a clearer picture of personal birth
Myth: Once the process of adoption is over, it is the same as having a
Fact: There are real differences in birth and adoptive families. The
adoptive child will have different questions about adoption at each stage of
Myth: Adoptive parents make better parents because they want a child
Fact: The degree of desire for a child does not necessarily make for
Myth: An adoptive child belongs to his new family forever and owes
them something more than ordinary offspring.
Fact: An adoptee child offers neither more nor less to his parents
than a birth child.
Myth: Once a couple has decided to adopt, it is more likely they will
become pregnant on their own.
Fact: It is neither more nor less likely that a couple who has adopted
will achieve pregnancy.
Myth: Once adoption has taken place, the pain of infertility will
Fact: The pain of infertility often lingers after the family has been
established by adoption. Although happy with their adoptive families, couples
may still want to pursue having a biological child. Adoption is not a cure for
infertility, but it can be a cure for childlessness.
Myth: Prospective parents should adopt only after all possibilities of
having a biological child have been exhausted.
Fact: Because of rapid developments in infertility management, there
is no longer a clear stopping point for possible infertility therapies. It is
helpful for prospective parents to look into alternative means for starting a
family early in their infertility work-up - remember, taking infertility
treatment and considering adoption are not mutually exclusive choices ! Just
because you are taking treatment does not mean that you are not "committed
to adoption"; and just because you are considering adoption does not mean
that you are decreasing the chances of the infertility treatment as a result of
your "negative attitude". Often, couples pursuing infertility
treatment may actually begin to see how an adopted child could be a good choice
Myth: It is extremely difficult to adopt.
Fact: Although the adoption process can be tedious, adoption is
possible for most couples.
Myth: Since India has an overpopulation problem, with so many unwanted
children, adoption is a "better" choice for the infertile couple than
Fact: You cannot force someone to adopt a child, and adoption is not
the best solution for all infertile couples. They need to be able to make their
own choice. While adoption is a reasonable solution for some infertile couples,
this is a choice which they have to make for themselves.
A good book to read to find out more information about Adoption is Nilima
Mehta's Ours By Choice, which is available from the Family Service Center,
Eucharistic Congress Bldg III, 5 Convent Street, Bombay 400 039. The full text
of this book is available at:
by Dr. Aniruddha Malpani, MD and Dr. Anjali Malpani, MD.
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