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Adoption is the legal act of permanently placing a child with a parent or parents other than the birth mother or father. An adoption order has the effect of severing the parental responsibilities and rights of the birth parents and transferring those responsibilities and rights onto the adoptive parents. After the finalization of an adoption, there is no legal difference between adopted children and those born to the parents. There are several kinds of adoption, which can be defined both by effect (e.g., whether the adoption is open or closed) and by location and the origin of the child (i.e., domestic or international adoption).

Types of Adoption (by effect)

In most jurisdictions, adoption begins with the decision of the birth parents to place their unborn baby or newborn child with another family. Birth parents may be able to choose what family they would like their child to belong to. Depending on jurisdiction and local law, they may already know of a family that want to adopt, or they may find people who want to adopt by going to a lawyer, social services, or by finding a private or state agency that facilitates adoptions. Privately arranged adoptions are illegal in some jurisdictions. The birth parents may have the option of choosing whether they want an open, semi-open, or closed adoption. They may be given Parent Profiles to look at and choose from, or the the agency may choose a family for them.

Open adoption

Main article: Open adoption

Open adoption is where the adopted person has access to their file and/or original records. This may be a right available at certain ages - e.g., at age 18, a person adopted in the United Kingdom becomes automatically entitled to their birth certificate and may access their adoption records.

Another definition of open adoption is where birth parents decide that they would like to meet the adoptive parents before they choose to place their baby with them. If the birth parents are comfortable with the family, the relationship may continue to grow. Even when the adoption is finalized, the relationship can be very personal, and can include visits, phone calls, and exchanging letters, pictures or e-mails. The adopted child can meet his/her birthfamily and communication is as open as the parties involved decide upon.[1] In some jurisdictions, open adoptions are not legally enforceable agreements. As of December 2005, for example, 22 U.S. states have legal provisions for enforceable open adoption contact agreements, while 28 do not.[2]

Semi-open adoption

In a semi-open adoption, the birth parents may meet the adoptive parents one or several times and then have no more physical contact. Letters and pictures may be exchanged directly or via a third party, such as an adoption agency, throughout the years.[3] The relationship may remain semi-open or may evolve into open or closed.

Closed adoption

Main article: Closed adoption

In some closed adoptions, non-identifying information is shared between the parties involved, such as medical history, up to the point of placement. After the adoption is legalized, no further information is shared between the adoptive and birth parents.[4]

In other closed adoptions no information is shared between the parties involved. This may occur because of the law in the jurisdiction concerned, or court order, such as when a child is removed from the home by the state because of abuse or neglect. It may also occur because the parties involved do not want any contact.

Types of adoption (by location and origin)

Domestic Adoption

A domestic adoption is the placement of a child for adoption within the country in which he or she was born and normally resides. A special case is an interstate adoption - where an adoption occurs across state lines in the U.S. or Russia, for example, or within different Canadian provinces. In such cases, additional regulations may apply[5].

Foster care adoption

See also: Foster care

Foster care adoption is a type of domestic adoption where the child is initially placed into a foster care system and is subsequently placed for adoption. Children may be placed into foster care for a variety of reasons, including removeal from the home of the birth family by a governmental agency because of maltreatment of the child by the birth family. Maltreatment can take the form of neglect or abuse. In most adoptions regarding foster children, the foster parents decide to adopt and become the legal parents. In some jurisdictions, adoptive parents are licensed as and technically considered foster parents while the adoption is being finalized. Altogether, of the 127,407 adoptions in the U.S. in 2001,[6] about 51,000 occurred through the foster care system.[7]

The National Adoption Center found that 52% of adoptable children (meaning those children in U.S. foster care freed for adoption) had symptoms of attachment disorder. A study by Dante Cicchetti found that 80% of abused and maltreated infants exhibited attachment disorder symptoms (disorganized subtype).[8]Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many

Children with histories of maltreatment, such as physical and psychological neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse, are at risk of developing severe psychiatric problems.[9][10] These children are likely to develop Reactive attachment disorder (RAD).[11][12] These children may be described as experiencing trauma-attachment problems. The trauma experienced is the result of abuse or neglect, inflicted by a primary caregiver, which disrupts the normal development of secure attachment. Such children are at risk of developing a disorganized attachment.[11][13][14] Disorganized attachment is associated with a number of developmental problems, including dissociative symptoms,[15] as well as depressive, anxiety, and acting-out symptoms.[16][17]

Effective treatment for children who have experienced early chronic maltreatment generally must be multi-modal and family-based. See main articles at Complex post-traumatic stress disorder, Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, and Theraplay.

Intra-Family Adoption

Not all adoptions are from outside of the family. An intra-family adoption occurs when a child is adopted by an existing close family member and/or his or her partner. A common example is a "step-parent adoption", where the new partner of a parent may legally adopt a child from the parent's previous relationship. Intra-family adoption can also occur through surrender, as a result of parental death, or when the birthparent cannot care for the child and a family member agrees to take over.

International Adoption

Main article: International adoption

International adoption is the placing of a child for adoption outside that child’s country of birth. The laws of different countries vary in their willingness to allow international adoptions. Some countries, such as China and Vietnam, have relatively well-established rules and procedures for foreign adopters to follow, while others, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for example, expressly forbid it. Some countries, notably many African nations, have extended residency requirements that in effect rule out most international adoptions. And some countries such as Romania have closed to international adoption altogether.

Recognising some of the difficulties and challenges associated with international adoption, and in an effort to protect those involved from the corruption and exploitation which sometimes accompanies it, the Hague Conference on Private International Law developed the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, which came into force on 1 May, 1995. To date it has been ratified in 70 countries.

Reasons for adoption

Birth family

Adoptions occur for many reasons.[18] Birth parents may place their child for adoption because they are unable to adequately care for the child. In the US and UK, the most common reason children are placed for adoption is because of removal from the home due to maltreatment by their birth parents. Children fall into three groups according to the reason for their adoption: relinquished infants (14%), those whose parents had requested adoption in complex circumstances (24%), and those children required by social services and the courts to be adopted (62%).

Other reasons are that birth parents are not in the position to raise a child, doing so would interfere with their future plans and goals, gender preference, or societal stigma towards single parenthood. In other countries, such as China, social policies lead to the abandonment of large numbers of children who are then placed in orphanages, some of whom are then adopted.

Some birth parents involuntarily lose their parental rights. This may occur when children are abused, neglected or abandoned. Eventually, if the parents cannot resolve the problems that caused or contributed to the harm caused to their children (such as alcohol or drug abuse), a court may terminate their parental rights and the children may then be adopted.

In some cases, parents' rights have been terminated when their ethnic or cultural group has been deemed unfit by the controlling government. Historically, the so-called Stolen Generation of Aboriginal people in Australia were affected by such policies, as were Native Americans in the United States and First Nations of Canada. Moreover, unwed mothers in many countries still are (and in many more countries used to be) pressured or forced by families, religious bodies or governments to relinquish their children for adoption; illegitimacy was or is a major social stigma, to the mother or child (and sometimes to the father too). These practices of the past have become emotionally-charged social and political issues in recent years.

Adoptive Parents

The reasons why people want to adopt children vary, as well. The inability to biologically reproduce is a common reason, often due to infertility. Some single people and same-sex couples often adopt because of the lack of a partner of the opposite sex or a lack of desire to use a surrogate or sperm donor. In many Western countries, step-parent adoption is the most common form of adoption as people choose to cement a new family following divorce or death of one parent.

Main article: Adoptive parents

Applying to adopt

National Adoption Week is used in the United Kingdom to encourage new adopters to come forward

Methods of becoming an adoptive parent also vary from one country to another, and sometimes within a country, depending on region. Many jurisdictions have varying eligibility criteria, and may specify such things as minimum and maximum age limits, whether a single person or only a couple can apply, or whether it is possible or not for a same sex couple to apply.

In some countries, applications must be made to a state agency or agencies responsible for adoption. There may also be private, licensed adoption agencies, who may operate either on a commercial or on a non-profit basis. Agencies may operate only domestically, or may offer international adoptions, or may facilitate both. Some jurisdictions allow lawyers to arrange private adoptions, and some allow private facilitators to operate.

On applying to adopt, the potential adoptive parent(s) will generally be assessed for suitability. This can take the form of a home study, interviews, and financial, medical and criminal record checks. In some jurisdictions, such studies must be carried out by an independent or state authority, while in others, they can be carried out by the adoption agency itself. A pre-adoption course may also be required.

Infants are more commonly sought than toddlers or older children, and many adoptive parents seek to adopt children of the same race. As a result, governments, as well as agencies, actively seek families who are interested in adopting older children and children with "special needs." In this context, "special needs" can mean a variety of things including children with specific chronic medical problems, mental health issues, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities. Often, the adoption fees for adopting a special needs child are either waived or significantly reduced.

Adoption by same-sex couples

Main article: Adoption by same-sex couples

Certain jurisdictions prohibit homosexual individuals and couples from adopting children[19], or have a policy of considering applications made by heterosexual adopters before those of homosexual adopters.

The issue of adoption by nonheterosexual people is tied in with the debate on homosexuality. Preference to heterosexual couples may be given in the belief that heterosexuals who adopt often have fertility problems and therefore must be given preference on medical grounds. Opponents say this system is untenable in a free society and can leave needy children with limited access to a family structure.

Adoption by individuals in same-sex civil unions or marriages are allowed in Australia (regions: Western Australia, Tasmania, ACT), the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Spain and in the USA (regions: California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, District of Columbia, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin).

Only stepchild adoptions within same-sex couples, i.e. where one of the partners in the relationship has children of his or her own, are allowed in Denmark, Iceland, Norway, France and Germany.

Ireland (which does not recognize same-sex unions) does not allow joint applications to adopt from same-sex couples, but does permit applications from one of the partners.

Cost of adoption

For the adoptive parents, adoption costs and assistance vary between countries. In many countries, it is illegal to charge for an adoption, while in others, adoptions must be facilitated on a non-profit basis. On the other hand many adoption programs will give financial assistance to adopters, especially with their expenses. Some jurisdictions offer tax credits to offset the cost of adoption. In the United States there is a $10,000 tax credit for adoption and adoptions through the child welfare system typically do not cost the adopting family anything beyond minor legal or other types of documented fees. The same is true in Canada.

Regulations specify to whom payments may or may not be made, e.g., in some jurisdictions, no money may be paid to a birth mother above her medical expenses. There may also be significant expenses, such as legal fees and fees associated with searching for possible adoptees.

International adoptions tend to be more expensive and often incur additional costs, as the adoptive parents may be required to travel to the source country. Translation fees may also apply to legal documents.

Adoption numbers

The number of children available for adoption inside Western nations has dropped considerably in recent years, in part because of lower fertility rates, legalization of abortions, and the increased acceptance of single parenthood. In the USA, the number of children awaiting adoption has dropped from 132,000 to 118,000 during the period 2000 to 2004 [20]

This is a list of adoptions recorded (alphabetical, by country) in recent years.

Country Adoptions Notes
Australia 443 (2003-2004) [21] Includes known relative adoptions
Iceland between 20-35 year [22]
Ireland 263 (2003) [23] 92 non-family adoptions; 171 family adoptions (e.g. step-parent). 459 international adoptions were also recorded.
Italy 3,158 (2006) [24]
Norway 791 (2004) [25] 124 of these were national adoptions, including step-child adoptions. The rest were international adoptions, mainly from China (269), South Korea (93) and Colombia (86).
Sweden approx 1,000 [26] 10-20 of these were national adoptions of infants. The rest were international adoptions.
United Kingdom 3,800 (England) (2005) [27] Children adopted from care only
United States approx 127,000 (2001) [28]
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Issues surrounding adoption


Some adopted people and birth parents who were separated by adoption have a desire to reunite. Brodzinsky & Brodzinsky report that only about twenty percent of adoptees engage in an active search to find their birth parents.[29] In countries which practice confidential adoption, this desire has led to efforts to open sealed records. In the United States, for example, there are organizations such as the International Soundex Reunion Registry [30], an Adoption reunion registry that allows people who register to be matched with their missing parent or child, and Bastard Nation, which seeks to change state laws in order to establish the right of adoptees to access their sealed birth records. For German-Born Adoptees, [31] German Birth Register, the central birth register for Germany is the most efficient means of locating their German Birthfamilies.

In the United Kingdom, adoption law has been amended to allow for open adoptions, the right to access one's records, and a state-run adoption reunion registry has been established, while in Ireland, a National Adoption Contact Preference Register was launched by the state Adoption Board in 2005.[32] This Register, set up in consultation with organizations representing adopted people, natural parents and adoptive parents, is unusual in that it was widely advertised on both radio and print media, and an explanatory leaflet, with contact details for the Adoption Board and the voluntary support organizations, was delivered to every household in the country. This register allows adopted people over the age of 18 and natural parents to state their preference for contact, what form that contact may take (e.g., post, e-mail, telephone or meeting), and/or their willingness to share medical or background information even if they do not wish actual contact.

Reunions can bring a variety of issues for the adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents. The degree of wanting to reunite and the reasons why a union is desired depends on individuals involved. This can often lead to disappointment for all three parties. Since adoption isn't part of regular society's function on views of family [How to reference and link to summary or text] anxieties about identity can surface at this point for all three parties that were not an issue before.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

The most common reasons an adoptee wants to meet their birth parents are cited as wanting to find out more about themselves and to recover medical records. However, despite these two being cited there are often other reasons that they do not cite. This can be for emotional or personal reasons.

There are also reasons that an adoptee may reject the idea of finding their birth parents or even reject birth parent or birth family's advances to reunite. Many of these stem from emotional reasons or fears of recategorization of personal identity. Many adoptees have a hard time dealing with the issues of identity and loss and would rather not deal with it. [How to reference and link to summary or text]

Not all reunions go well. There are some cases where the adoptee has a hard time reconciling their three identities and reject one side for another. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as emotional load, disillusionment towards one culture or the other, or discovery of political reasons. There are some organizations that often try to help adjust to this and go beyond the reunion. Such organizations as GOA'L for Korean adoptees often act to try to minimize the shock.

Adoptive parents may go through the fear that their child will abandon the family once they find their birth parents or even may become distant. This can even manifest by not telling the child that they are adopted, refusing to help with the search, hindering the search, and even may extend to after the search where they refuse to acknowledge the birth parents. Not all adoptive parents are like this. Some have mixed feelings or even think its their duty to help their child with the search. Some adoptive parents also want to meet the birth parents to personally thank them. [How to reference and link to summary or text]

Birth parents often also go through the same kind of fear of rejection. Often seeing their child is a reliving of the events that lead up to the adoption, regret, and even fear that the child that they were forced or had to give up will reject them. There are often fears that the adoptee will be angry, will not forgive them. Some birth parents do not want to deal with the emotional burden and reliving of events and will reject the adoptee on these bases. Some birth parents also face cultural taboos in reuniting. For example in Korea a birth mother may face the stigma of having a "foreign" child. The degree of contact that a birth parent may want with their child can vary from situation to situation, which can be influenced by the manner in which the child was surrendered.

Because there is often a lack of communication between these three groups and the combination of these needs can vary, reunion can cause strain in relations between the three groups. This is not always the case. But because reunion brings a variety of issues to the table, and the three groups have a tendency not to communicate, or be able to this can often cause rifts that become more apparent at this time. [How to reference and link to summary or text] In other ways it can also unite the identity of the adoptee as well.

Family heritage

Preserving an adopted child's heritage has become an issue in adoption. Recent work on openness in adoption has attempted to address this issue. These efforts are relatively recent, and full openness, while on the upswing, is still not the norm in adoption.

International adoptees face additional challenges. Some adoptive families in international adoptions commit to integrating the child's birth nation cultures, traditions, stories, languages and relationships. Some countries require that adoptive parents keep the birth names of their adoptive children.

German-Born children are allowed full access to their birth and adoption records. German Birth Register[33]. In many cases, biological family genealogical research is possible.

For adopted people in adoptions where information about the family of origin is withheld, secrecy may disrupt the process of forming an identity. Family concerns regarding genealogy can be a source of confusion [34]. Another common concern is the lack of a medical history, which can affect the adopted person and also his/her subsequent children. In most U.S. domestic adoptions, medical information is not withheld from the child.

Adoption may also pose questions for adoptive parents. There are various schools of thought about openness, maintaining connections to the child's birth family, answering a child's questions and helping a child deal with biological parents who may not maintain regular contact. A study, published in the American Sociological Review, found that couples who adopt invest more time in their children. The researchers said that their findings call into question the long-standing argument that children are best off with their biological parents.[35]

Adoption in schools

Adoption rights organizations often focus on the adoptees rights in school and advocate for change in the system to accommodate the adoptee in the classroom.[36] Familiar lessons like "draw your family tree" or "trace your eye color back through your parents and grandparents to see where your genes come from" are viewed as hurtful to children who were adopted and do not know this biological information. New lesson plans can be substituted easily, that focus on "family orchards" or steer away from personal medical histories. Discussions about these sensitive topics, advocates argue, are the same as those that were conducted around issues of disability, race, and gender, and foster respect for differences in the same way as these earlier national conversations.

Adoption in the media

Adoption experts complain that too much of the media coverage of adoption goes to one extreme or the other. There is favoritism in portraying the reunion rather than looking at the adoptees life.

In movies and TV the representation of adoption is often viewed as unfair. There was, for example, criticism of Meet the Robinsons for being adoptive parent-centric and portraying prospective adoptive parents unfairly. [How to reference and link to summary or text] On the reverse many countries that are the source of adoptions internationally put emphasis on the biological parents where the adoptee is spending their entire life (or the length of the movie / TV show) searching for their biological parents. In both cases the feelings and thoughts of the adoptee are downgraded and one participant group is favored, ignoring the two other participants in the adoption process.

This also is in news reports covering adoption as either stories of failed adoptions, troubled children, adoption scandals, and even "baby buying" or saccharine stories of “perfect” children and families. Only a very few news programs have treated the subject in a serious way and in its full breadth.

Ignorance about adoption leads to representation of children in foster care as being so troubled that it would be impossible to adopt them and create “normal” families.[37] The result is that many children who would thrive in a loving family instead wait years in foster care, and even “age out” of the system at 18 without a family. A 2004 report from the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care has shown that the number of children waiting in foster care doubled since the 1980s and now remains steady at about a half-million a year." [38]

Adoption in the wake of disasters

After disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and wars there is often an outpouring of offers from adults who want to give homes to the children left in need. While adoption is often the best way to provide stable, loving families for children in need. However, it is also suggested[39] that adoption in the immediate aftermath of trauma or upheaval may not be the best option. Moving children too quickly into new adoptive homes among strangers may be a mistake because with time, it may turn out that the parents have survived but were unable to find the children, or there may be a relative or neighbor who can offer shelter and homes. Providing safety and emotional support may be better in those situations than immediate relocation to a new adoptive family.[40] There is also an increased risk, immediately following a disaster, that displaced and/or orphaned children may be more vulnerable to exploitation and child trafficking.[41]

Adoption reform

Two important influences on the reform of voluntary infant adoption have been Nancy Verrier and Florence Fisher. [42]. Verrier describes the "primal wound" as the "devastation which the infant feels because of separation from its natural mother. It is the deep and consequential feeling of abandonment which the baby adoptee feels after the adoption and which continues for the rest of his life. [43]" However, this theory has been criticized by other supporters of adoption reform for being extremely sexist, somewhat naïve, as well as cruel towards those who would give a child up for adoption.[44]

Proponents of adoption reform argue for increased open adoption rather than closed adoption, with the latter only being used where absolutely necessary. They also argue for open records, the provision of supports for adopted people and natural parents, and facilitation for search and reunion.


Main article: Disruption (adoption)

Disruption is the term most commonly used for ending an adoption. While technically an adoption is disrupted only when it is abandoned by the adopting parent or parents before it is legally completed (an adoption that is reversed after that point is instead referred to in the law as having been dissolved), in practice the term is used for all adoptions that are ended (more recently, among families disrupting, the euphemism "re-homing" has become current). It is usually initiated by the parents via a court petition, much like a divorce, to which it is analogous.

While rarely discussed in public, even within the adoption community, the practice has become far more widespread in recent years, especially among those parents who have adopted from Eastern European countries, particularly Russia and Romania, where some children have suffered far more from their institutionalization than their parents were led to believe.

The language of adoption

The language used in adoption is changing and evolving. It became a controversial issue in the 1980s, when adoption workers invented a new way to describe adoption, called "Positive Adoption Language"[45]. However, the traditional language of adoption, "Honest Adoption Language,"[46] is still most widely used. The controversy arises over the use of terms which, while designed to be more appealing or less offensive to some persons affected by adoption, may simultaneously cause offense or insult to others. This controversy illlustrates the problematic nature of adoption, as well as the fact that coining new words and phrases to describe ancient social practices does not alter the feelings and experiences of those affected by them. See also: euphemism and political correctness.

Positive Adoptive Language (PAL) The reasons for its use: In many cultures, adoptive families face adoptism. Adoptism is made evident in English speaking cultures by the prominent use of negative or inaccurate language describing adoption. To combat adoptism, many adoptive families encourage positive adoption language. The reasons against its use: Many natural parents see "positive adoption language" as terminology which glosses over painful facts they face as they go into the indefinite post-adoption period of their lives. They feel PAL has become a way to present adoption in the friendliest light possible, in order to obtain even more infants for adoption; ie, a marketing tool. These people refer to PAL as "Adoption Friendly Language" or AFL.

Honest Adoption Language (HAL) The reasons for its use: In most cultures, particularly Judaeo-Christian ones, the adoption of a child has not changed the identities of its mother and father; they continued to be referred to as such. Those who adopted a child were thereafter termed its "guardians," or "foster" or "adoptive" parents. Most people use "Honest Adoption Language" (HAL) because it is the original and most widely-used terminology. Many of those directly affected by adoption loss believe these terms more accurately reflect important but hidden and/or ignored realities of adoption. The reasons against its use: The term "Honest" implies that all other language used in adoption is dishonest.

Terms used in Positive Adoption Language:


PAL term:

Reasons stated for preference:

your own child

birth child; biological child

Saying a birth child is your own child or one of your own children implies that an adopted child is not.

child is adopted

child was adopted

Some adoptees believe that their adoption is not their identity, but is an event that happened to them. ("Adopted" becomes a participle rather than an adjective.) Others contend that "is adopted" makes adoption sound like an ongoing disability, rather than a past event.

give up for adoption

place for adoption or make an adoption plan

"Give up" implies a lack of value. The preferred terms are more emotionally neutral.

real mother/father/parent

birth, biological or genetic

The use of the term "real" implies that the adoptive family is artificial, and is not as descriptive.

natural parent

birth parent or first parent

The use of the term "natural" implies that the adoptive family is unnatural, and so is not a descriptive or accurate term.

your adopted child

your child

The use of the adjective 'adopted' signals that the relationship is qualitatively different from that of parents to birth children.

surrender for adoption

placed or placed for adoption

The use of the adjective 'surrendered' implies "giving up." For many parents placing a child for adoption is an informed completely voluntary choice. For others, there is no choice as the parent's rights were terminated because the parent was deemed to be unfit.

Terms used in Honest Adoption Language:

Common Term:

HAL Term:

Reasons stated for preference:

birth mother

original, or natural mother or parent OR mother OR parent.

The term "birth mother" (and similarly for "birth father") limits a woman's role in her child's life to the birth, casting her in the role of incubator or breeder. With reunion now a common event, women are finding themselves involved in the lives of their children in many ways, on a spectrum that runs from casual contact through friendship all the way to reintegrating their children into their original families. A powerful view, especially held by those in Ireland who cared for their children before being forced to relinquish them to adoption, is that the term 'birth' mother implies they only served as a brood mare when in fact they often raised and cared for their children for up to two years.[47] The "b" word can been seen as a dehumanizing term and may imply that the relationship between mother and child is severed permanently, which is no longer a given, especially since the advent of open adoption.

give up for adoption

surrender for adoption

"Give up" implies a lack of value, whereas the truth is that most women wish to raise their own child. HAL acknowledges that past adoption practice facilitated the taking of children for adoption, often against their mother's expressed wishes. Many women who have gone through the process and who lost children to adoption believe that social work techniques used to prepare single mothers to sign Termination Of Parental Rights papers closely resembles a psychological war against natural motherhood; hence the term "surrender."[48] "Surrender" is also the legal term for the mother's signing a Termination of Parental Rights. "Make a plan" and "Place" are more emotionally neutral, but fundamentally dishonest terms which marginalize or deny the wrenching emotional effect of separation on the mother/child dyad and imply the mother has made a fully-informed decision.

real mother/father/parent


Possible modifiers for the parental role include: real, legal, adoptive, first, original, natural. No modifiers are needed for the individual who gives birth; this person has been referred to as "mother" since time immemorial.

adopted child

adopted person or person who was adopted

The use of the adjective 'adopted' signals that the relationship is qualitatively different from that of parents to birth children. The use of the word "child" is accurate up until the end of childhood. After that the continued use of "child" is infantilizing.

Cultural variations in adoption

Adoption need not always entail assuming the title of "mother" and/or "father" to an orphaned child. Traditionally in Arab cultures if a child is adopted he or she does not become a “son” or “daughter,” but rather a ward of the adopting caretaker(s). The child’s family name is not changed to that of the adopting parent(s) and his or her “guardians” are publicly known as such. Legally, this is close to other nations' systems for foster care. Other common rules governing adoption in Islamic culture address inheritance, marriage regulations, and the fact that adoptive parents are considered trustees of another individual's child rather than the child's new parents.[49] In addition, Islamic countries such as Iraq and Malaysia have prohibitions against a Muslim child being adopted by non-Muslim individuals.[50][51]

In Korean culture, adoption almost always occurs when another family member (sibling or cousin) gives a male child to the first-born male heir of the family. Adoptions outside the family are rare. This is also why most orphaned Korean children have been exported to countries such as the United States rather than kept in Korea. This is also true to varying degrees in other Asian societies.

On the other hand, in many African cultures, children are regularly exchanged among families for the purpose of adoption. By placing a child in another family's home, the birth family seeks to create enduring ties with the family that is now rearing the child. The placing family may receive another child from that family, or from another. Like the reciprocal transfer of brides from one family to another, these adoptive placements are meant to create enduring connections and social solidarity among families and lineages.

There is no uniform adoption law in India. The 1956 Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956 allows only Hindus to adopt. Muslims, Christians, Jews and Parsees can only become guardians under the Guardians and Wards Act of 1890. Guardianship expires once the child attains the age of 18 years [52].

Some religions do not accept adoption as a valid form of induction into the religion. For example in Judaism the child has to either have a Bot or Bar Mitzvah or go through the induction process once they are adopted. Once this is done then the state of Israel will recognize that individual as a Jew. [How to reference and link to summary or text]

Adoption researchers

See also


  1. Bethany Christian Services
  2. Postadoption Contact Agreements Between Birth and Adoptive Families. Available: Accessed: 3rd June 2007.
  3. Pregnancy Association
  4. Bethany Christian Services
  5. Domestic inter-state adoption compacts Available:
  6. US Child Welfare Information Gateway: How Many Children Were Adopted in 2000 and 2001?
  7. US Child Welfare Information Gateway: Trends in Foster Care and Adoption
  8. Carlson, V., Cicchetti, D., Barnett, D., & Braunwald, K. (1995). Finding order in disorganization: Lessons from research on maltreated infants’ attachments to their caregivers. In D. Cicchetti & V. Carlson (Eds), Child Maltreatment: Theory and research on the causes and consequences of child abuse and neglect (pp. 135-157). NY: Cambridge University Press.
  9. Gauthier, L., Stollak, G., Messe, L., & Arnoff, J. (1996). Recall of childhood neglect and physical abuse as differential predictors of current psychological functioning. Child Abuse and Neglect 20, 549-559
  10. Malinosky-Rummell, R. & Hansen, D.J. (1993) Long term consequences of childhood physical abuse. Psychological Bulletin 114, 68-69
  11. 11.0 11.1 Lyons-Ruth K. & Jacobvitz, D. (1999) Attachment disorganization: unresolved loss, relational violence and lapses in behavioral and attentional strategies. In J. Cassidy & P. Shaver (Eds.) Handbook of Attachment. (pp. 520-554). NY: Guilford Press Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Lyons-Ruth" defined multiple times with different content
  12. Greenberg, M. (1999). Attachment and Psychopathology in Childhood. In J. Cassidy & P. Shaver (Eds.). Handbook of Attachment (pp.469-496). NY: Guilford Press
  13. Solomon, J. & George, C. (Eds.) (1999). Attachment Disorganization. NY: Guilford Press
  14. Main, M. & Hesse, E. (1990) Parents’ Unresolved Traumatic Experiences are related to infant disorganized attachment status. In M.T. Greenberg, D. Ciccehetti, & E.M. Cummings (Eds), Attachment in the Preschool Years: Theory, Research, and Intervention (pp161-184). Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  15. Carlson, E.A. (1988). A prospective longitudinal study of disorganized/disoriented attachment. Child Development 69, 1107-1128
  16. Lyons-Ruth, K. (1996). Attachment relationships among children with aggressive behavior problems: The role of disorganized early attachment patterns. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 64, 64-73
  17. Lyons-Ruth, K., Alpern, L., & Repacholi, B. (1993). Disorganized infant attachment classification and maternal psychosocial problems as predictors of hostile-aggressive behavior in the preschool classroom. Child Development 64, 572-585
  18. Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
  19. Same-sex Couples Face Unique Adoption Hurdles
  20. U.S. Trends in Foster Care and Adoption
  21. Adoptions Australia 2003-04
  23. The Adoption Board 2003
  24.,,2000691,00.html Families in Rush to Adopt a Foreign Child
  25. Increase in Adoptions
  26.,686,0,0,1,0 The Adoption Portal
  27. British Association for Adoption & Fostering
  29. (On Adoption, 1990)
  34. Why Adoptive Parents Support Open Records for Adult Adoptees
  36. Adoption: An American Revolution
  37. The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
  38. The Pew Commission of Children in Foster Care
  39. Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
  40. The Adoption Board
  41. The Adoption Board

Further reading

Key texts


  • Dept. of Health (UK)(2000) Draft National Standards on Adoption. Department of Health [1]
  • Howe, D (1998) Patterns of Adoption Oxford: Blackwell Science
  • Ivaldi G(2000) Surveying Adoption London: BAAF ( British Agency for Adoption and Fostering)
  • Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth & K. Lee Lerner (eds) (2006). Family in society: essential primary sources., Thomson Gale. ISBN 1414403305.Primary source readings, also available Library of Congress. Jefferson or Adams Bldg General or Area Studies Reading Rms.
  • Lowe, N; Murch, M; Borkowski, M; Weaver, A; Beckford, V. & Thomas, C. (1999) Supporting Adoption London: BAAF
  • Parker, R (Ed) (1999) Adoption Now: Messages from Research Chichester: Wiley
  • Prime Minister's Review (UK) Adoption (2000) London: DOH
  • Triseliotis J, Shireman and Hundelby M (1997) Adoption: theory, Policy and Practice. London: Cassell


Additional material



External links by country






United Kingdom

United States

Main article: Adoption in the United States

External links by topic



Adoption research and history

Adoption and post-adoption support/tracing

Adoption Social Reform

Adoption Information

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