I’ve been reading a book about one girl’s experiences in foster care to better inform myself about a system I have no experience with. Adoption ? Though not adopted myself nor have I given up a child to adoption, I have LOTS of experience – both parents were adoptees and both sisters gave up a child to adoption. I also spend significant time each day within a private Facebook group that includes original parents, adoptees and former foster youth, and adoptive (or hopeful) parents. I learn a lot there that broadens my perspectives.
Some of the major differences I am understanding – foster care does not alter the child’s identity (doesn’t change their name or birth certificate). Foster care is less permanent or certain. The goal in a lot of foster care is eventual reunification of the family unit. The quality of foster care varies but a bad placement can be gotten out of. Not all foster parents treat the foster child well nor do they really care about what is happening to the child. Some actually do it for the money (NOT saying most or all do it for that reason).
Adoption is a PERMANENT solution to what is a temporary problem when talking about an unwed mother or a poverty situation. Adoption does provide a more certain home environment than foster care does but the double edge sword is that if it is an awful placement, most of the time the child is simply trapped there (I’ve read enough nightmare stories to believe this). That said, there are also “second chance” adoptions where the adoptive parents want to be rid of a troublesome child. This is very sad for the child as it sends a debilitating message about the worth of that child.
Most of the time, adoptive parents change the child’s name and to some extent their cultural identity if it is a transracial adoption. Some adoptive parents hide the date and/or location of the child’s birth to place an obstacle in the way of the parent/child unit reuniting. Genetic family bonds are broken or permanently lost. Even when such direct family is recovered later in life, so much life experience and inter-relationship is lost that it is nearly impossible to rebuild. I understand this as I have been able to learn what my own parents could not – who my original grandparents were. Along with learning that, I have acquired new family relationships with genetically related aunts and cousins.
I acknowledge that not all children are going to be parented by the people who gave birth to them. This is a reality. I would also argue that as a society we do NOT do enough to keep families intact and could do much better. I would further add that MONEY plays a HUGE role in perpetuating the separation of mothers from their children. That money could be better spent with less traumatic outcomes on the natural family and its supports.