Adoption, adopted children do lead generally normative lives,

Adoption, Fostering, and Orphan Care

An issue that has become increasingly ignored over the last
few decades is adoption.  Part of the
reason for people’s ignorance is the misunderstanding of orphan life and the
processes involved with adopting or fostering a child.  Most people push aside these issues because
they will never directly experience it in their lifetime.  As someone who was never properly educated on
adoption, foster care, and orphanages, I previously had the preconceived notion
that kids who were adopted, fostered, or institutionalized generally led
happier lives, as I believed they were naturally more grateful for the things
that they had and were given.  While
conducting my research for this essay, I was astounded to find out that this
was not actually the case.  Countless
studies have proven my original idea to be false, showing me that while some
adopted children do lead generally normative lives, children in the foster
system and in orphanages who do not get adopted have many psychological
issues.  There are many factors that
contribute to these issues, but the biggest has to be that these children are
neglected and deprived of the mental development that comes with being part of
a family.  These deep-rooted issues can
be very difficult to fix, and this often leads to severe mental issues in the
adult life of these childreni.  The adoption and foster care processes are
also unnecessarily difficult and tedious. 
There are certain criteria that is looked at when determining if one
fits the qualifications for a parent fit to adopt or foster a child.  With the overcrowding in institutions as of
late, the adoption and even foster processes should be more swift and efficient
in order to start putting these children into good homes so that they may begin
to adapt to life in a family sooner rather than later, when the risk of
permanent psychological issues increases.

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There are actually many underlying differences in adoption
and foster care.  With adoption, the
child’s legal guardian either passed away and there is no remaining family, or
the parent or remaining guardian has waived their “ownership” or guardianship
of said child, allowing them to be put into the group of children categorized
as orphans.  This child has no single
guardian, but is usually referred to as a “child of the state,” which indicates
that they are owned by the government, or some section of itii.  These children, unless immediately relocated
to a new home and family, are placed in orphanages with often thousands of
other children of varying ages and situations. 
These children must go through interviews with potential parents and may
or may not be chosen for adoption at any given point or age.  The more time a child is exposed to life in
these institutions, the more chance they have at acquiring psychological
issues, and the less chance they have of getting adopted1.  However, with foster care, children are still
legally bound to their parents and/or guardians, but are not able to be in
their direct care for one reason or another. 
For example, if a child’s only guardian ended up in prison and would not
sign over their parental rights, the child would most likely end up in the
foster system.  This would place them in
a home where their temporary guardian would be the adult hosting them.  One of the worst aspects of the foster system
is the abuse that can happen in these households and the psychological scars
that can create.  It is also not healthy
for a child to be constantly moved from home to home, never staying in one
place for too long, which is too often the case in the foster system.  Both adoption and fostering provide their
fair share of potential for mental issues to arise, but children are better off
being in a home with some type of family than an institution such as an
orphanage.

There is such a huge stigma surrounding orphanages, portraying
them as a safe place for kids with no guardians to grow and learn with peers in
the same situation.  These institutions
have dwindled out a little over the last twenty years, but the reason is not
what one would typically think.  Many
people believe that the number of orphans has significantly decreased over this
period of time.  This is somewhat true,
but there is somehow still an increase in children being put in these
institutions.  Most of these incoming
children are, however, not orphans. 
Recent studies have shown that anywhere from 80% – 95% of children in
orphanages actually have immediate family members, often parents, who are alive
and are refusing to care for themiii.  These neglectful guardians send their
children to these facilities so that they may lead better lives, not realizing
that they are putting the child’s sanity at risk.  The issue with these families is often
poverty.  There have been many cases
where a family can only afford to feed some but not all of their children, and
they send the rest (usually the oldest) to an institution to be cared for. 

What few consider is how much these orphanages cost on
average to operate efficiently and care for these children.  According to Georgette Mulheir, chief
executive of Lumos, an organization that prioritizes the deconstruction of the
institutionalism of children, “One study suggests that a family support service
costs 10 percent of an institutional placement, whilst good quality foster care
costs usually about 30 percent.”  If
countries, or even states, would delegate the budget that currently goes to
institutions and instead give it to families in poverty that believe they
cannot provide for their children and who would have given a child up to an
orphanage if they did not receive the funding, the country or state would save
a significant amount of money. Even if a state or country would spend a little
more and make foster care more prominent in the community, it would benefit by
getting children out of orphanages and off of the streets.  There is also certain psychology that pushes
for family care over institutions as well.

Children who are subjected to the institutionalization that
orphanages cause are typically more sensitive to mental issues.  This is because they do not receive the
attention or affection that they would get if they were part of a family.  Soon after they realize that they will not
have that individual attention, they begin to grow cold and hardi.  The
children develop a routine that fits in with the ecosystem and people around
them.  This detachment prevents them from
being able to develop cognitively, linguistically, physically, and sociallyii. 
Family life and upbringing is an essential component of childhood
development that is too often overlooked. 
Even infants develop and adjust to their surroundings, and the first few
months after birth are the most crucial for the brain and personality of the
child.  If a baby is born and immediately
issued to an orphanage, they never experience the individual attention that a
parent would provide.  The first few
times that they cry and are not quickly attended to leaves a lasting impression
on the child, and eventually, they will not cryiii.  Mulheir notes that when she visited
orphanages, all of the children, even the infants, lacked energy and
playfulness and would often lay in bed or stare into space for extended periods
of time.  She observed how the children
did not really act like children at all, and speculated that this was because
they were not receiving enough care or attention.  The children also had no sense of family and
a lacking sense of teamwork from being trapped with the same people and staff
for most of the time.  Her worry was that
these children’s mental absence would cause them trouble once they were adopted
into a family or went out on their own into the real world.

What Mulheir saw in these children was the beginning stages
of psychological issues presenting themselves in the form of mental unawareness
and general disinterest.  These are
habits that are instilled in the children by the neglect that they receive
unintentionally from a busy staff and crowded home.  It was concluded, after observing some of the
affected children after they were adopted and moved into their new homes, that
these habits can often be broken and these children can, from then on, lead
unaffected livesiii.  Once they are brought into a family that will
show them the love and devotion that they were lacking, they begin to shed that
emotionless shell and return to what we consider typical childhood behavior.  Though this may be the case for most, some
kids have reached the point of no return. 
They suffer from what is considered an attachment disorder, which
usually comes about in children who are neglected or abused in their early
years of development.  These children can
go as far as showing psychopathic tendencies from a young age due to this
disorder.  There have been many cases
where children are launched aggressively into family life after years of
torturous neglect or abuse; this usually overwhelms the already unstable child,
causing them to lean toward their comfortable tendencies and take an extended
period of time to snap out of it. Many people argue that funding for
institutions should be eradicated so that the money could be delegated to
family care and these children could be placed into secure, loving homes more
quickly so that their psychological damage has a greater chance of disappearing
over time.

Foster care is such a specific and unique concept that we do
not have an abundance of research on it. 
From testimonials, we have come to find out that foster care can often
be abusive, that foster parents neglect the child they are caring for and often
use the child’s delegated government money to make personal purchases, and that
foster care can also be a group home where children reside (usually with
children in a similar age range) under one “host” or supreme parent
leader.  In the cases where foster care
has been abusive, it is subjective because abuse can occur in any home, whether
the child be biological, adopted, or fostered. 
Unless the abuse is specific to the fostered child for reasons related
to them, then you can suppose that abuse happens commonly through many types of
families.  There are often cases where a
foster parent will misuse the funding they are paid to take care of the
child.  In these cases, the
responsibility falls unto the parent as well as the government, who is supposed
to monitor the purchases made with that money each month.  The child is still in a home and off of the
streets.  There are plenty of people not
cut out to be any type of parent—biological, adopted, or foster—and yet they
are still allowed to participate.  Group
homes can be both very beneficial and harmful to a developing child in the
foster system.  Group homes are a great
way to narrow down the attention you can give each child which comes much
easier than in an orphanage.  Kids in
group homes learn a type of family,
but it is still a larger household than normal and the kids will often have to
share items, clothes, and sometimes even rooms. 
However, group homes are often places where rebellion is more
prominent.  Teens to young adults abuse
the close proximities that they live in and occasionally use the house as a
site for moving drugs, harboring strangers, and generally breaking house
rules.  It is often the case that group
home residents are not allowed outside communication, which means no phones,
computers, etc.  But the children get
enough socialization with each other that is should not affect their development
if they are missing these forms of technology.  Group homes are a (not-so) happy medium
between a foster family and an orphanage.

Adoption of a child from an orphanage is very similar to
pets and the pound in some ways. Children are on display while adults have
their fair pick of the lot.  The kids put
on their best face and clothes in order to appeal to what they think a parent
would want in a potential child.  Only
when an adult comes to them outside the realm of adoption do you see the
children’s true colors.  They are void of
most excitement and taught exactly how to behave in order for them to get
looked at and possibly get adopted.  When
potential parents ask to sit down and talk with a child, the child usually
loosely follows a script that was premeditated for them.  Very seldom do orphanages give an accurate
portrayal of the child and what life with them might be like.  Major reform is needed in these institutions
so that they feel more homey, alive, and excitable for children.  It would most likely increase their chances
of getting adopted if they were allowed to flourish more inside of these
orphanages.  When potential adopters stop
by, they would get a close to accurate read on each child and what they would
bring to the table in their family.  They
could choose a child based on compatibility rather than appearance or false
personality.

What adoption and fostering do for children is provide them
with a home, a family, and a safe space to grow and develop healthily and
happily.  Giving orphans a home takes
them out of the clutches of institutions where they could develop severe mental
problems and ensures that they are not left on the street, where they may
resort to illegal means to make money to survive. In fact, Mulheir and Winkler
both pointed out that the risk of prostitution, gang involvement, and even
depression rates increases the age of an orphaned child who was never
adopted.  More girls are getting involved
in sexual trafficking for money, more young teens are joining gangs and
distributing drugs so that they can support themselves and each other, and more
young people who were never adopted are committing suicide.  The rising statistics alone should push for
the advertisement and persuasion to consider adoption.  There are many people who are interested and
just do not know enough information about it; they often know only the worst
parts, such as paperwork and waiting time involved.  A man named Lemn Sissay shared his story in a
lecture.  In the 1960s, single pregnant
women were often coerced into signing off their rights to their unborn child
and putting them up for adoption.  In
Lemn’s case, his mother put him into the foster system while she continued her
studies, but never intended to sign over her rights.  Lemn came to live with a family with the name
of Greenwood.  They were under the
impression that the child was there to stay forever, and they renamed him
Norman.  He lived there for some time,
well taken care of, and heard much about his mother who would not sign over her
guardianship of him.  The Greenwoods
began to despise his mother, and, in turn, began to despise their Norman
(Lemn).  Finally, they kicked the young
boy out of their household when they had enough waiting on the adoption to be
finalized.  Lemn went in and out of
different homes, neighborhoods, and lifestyles over the next few years.  He began to rebel and act out, as some
orphans and foster children do.  He
admits that he was not better until he went back home to his mother and has
been with her since.  Lemn’s story is
just one of many that shows the flipside of both adoption and fostering.  You cannot always choose the type of
household that you wish to be a part of, sometimes it is thrown at you when you
least expect it and you just have to find a way to accept it.  There was nothing, in Lemn’s case, that he
could have done that would have directly influenced the Greenwood’s decision to
have him leave, and, therefore, he could not have changed his fateii.  The
1960s were a terrible time for single mothers who only wanted the best for
their children.  Many of these kids
turned out very differently from how their parents would have wanted them.

Something that has been started by Tara Winkler is a new
type of “orphanage.”  Her orphanage, in
Cambodia, puts a priority on the focus of family care to each child and helps abandoned
children get back to their families to stay. 
They provide funding for these families and assist and support them as
long as they will continue to raise their children all together, not
prioritizing one over the other.  This
type of reform is what we need to spread and take root in other countries as
well.

One of the biggest issues with adoption is the amount of
time that it takes an adult to be certified to adopt. The amount of paperwork
is hefty and some people frankly just do not qualify in the eyes of the
authority in charge.  There have been
many news articles published in The Times
over the last two decades that claim that many different countries are
pushing and striving for an easier adoption process.  While this may be in action, no system has
surpassed the others in lieu of efficiency. 
For children such as Eun-Sook Lee, an Amerasian child living in Korea,
the process was only sped up due to a bribe by photographer Rick Smolan2.  Before the bribe, the entire adoption process
was estimated to have taken a year. 
Although Eun-Sook, who now goes by the American name Natasha, was
already orphaned and was set to move in with her future parents within the
week, she would not have legally been in their care for another twelve monthsiv.  This would mean that her only other living
relative, her uncle in Korea, would have been her legal guardian until the
paperwork was finalized and approved, even though he had already signed over
his rights to her.  He would have had to
approve of all of her medical actions even though he was thousands of miles
away, and he legally could have made the ultimate decisions for some of the
more drastic situations in her life. 
Even though the application process for her adopted parents was
shortened, the ordeal still took about four months.  If all children in orphanages had to wait
that long to get adopted, they would probably give up on the idea entirely and
retreat back to their reclusive, lethargic ways. Worldwide, we should work on
the length of the adoption process and try to make it more successful
overall.  The easier it is to adopt a
child, the more people will want to adopt. 
For most people, the process alone is a turn-off and will make them
reconsider altogether. 

Another issue with the process is that LGTBQ couples tend to
encounter a lot more difficulties when applying to adopt than your standard,
heteronormative couple.  They often deal
with increased discrimination during the application process, and this puts
extreme amounts of stress on these couplesv.  The couples have to put up with the
possibility of being turned down for adoption simply due to their
sexuality.  The worst part of this
situation is that some states and countries actually have outlawed the adoption
of children by LGBTQ couples.  This is mainly
due to homophobia, and the “fear” of some sort of corruption unto the potential
child.  The prohibition of adoption to
any one type of couple should not be able to happen as it goes against the key
points of the constitution that advocates for equality. The case-by-case
judgements that are also called against these couples often are also not
fair.  Countless heterosexual couples
bypass this part of the adoption process simply because they were preapproved
or they were overlooked due to the fact that they were straight.  Cases like this are often judged agency by
agency, and typically rely on what type of adoption the couple has applied for
(foreign, local, no disability, disability). 
These agencies are almost always far too harsh and judgmental of these
couples because they do not classify as a “normal” potential familyv. 
Since most families in media, advertisements, and even real life often
consist of heteronormative parents and biological children, it is difficult to
imagine a homosexual couple with nonbiological children.  As humans, we typically tend to stray away
from anything that makes us even slightly uncomfortable.  The judges and representatives from these
agencies should be able to decide from only a file and description of each
parent before finding a need to meet them or even know their names.  The files should be anonymous and should not
link a couple to any respective genders. 
The sexuality bias is a huge proponent for inequality and must be fixed
as soon as possible so that more LGTBQ couples have a fair chance to adopt
children and start a family of their own.

Even single parents tend to run into the same issue.  Just because they do not fit the bill for the
judge’s view on a typical family does not mean that they are not qualified all
the same.  It should not even be a
question whether single people are qualified to be adoptive parents because
single people conceive their own children all of the time.  If one person was incapable of raising a
child, there would be laws implemented against those who have child without a
significant other.  Many people even
choose to be artificially inseminated even though they are not in a
relationship.  The want and drive to be a
parent supersedes all need for another person in the relationship.  Single parents have been able to raise their
children since the beginning of time, and should not be turned away from their
rights.

Something else to consider is whether adoptive parents
should be allowed to take parental leave from work in order to spend more time
with their child and get them comfortable at home and integrated into the
family.  Adoptive parents are almost more deserving of parental leave, no
matter the age of the child, so that they have an adequate amount of time to
get acquainted and used to each other. 
Parents who have chosen to adopt an infant should be allowed to have
extra time, as the first few months of the child’s transition into the family
is most crucial for their development. 
What people and employers fail to understand is that biology does not
make a family and that any child deserves a warm welcome when coming into a new
home. 

Whether a person has a preconceived notion about adoption
and its affects, they should be able to perceive that adoption is highly
favored over being an orphan.  A child
needs the love, care, and attention that a family provides in order to develop
correctly.  Without this nurturing in
their life, they will grow to be listless, apathetic adults with very deeply
engrained mental issues that have little chance for improvement.  A healthy child, mentally and physically, is
one that grows up with a family and a generally happy home life and
childhood.  These early stages of
development play a huge part in who the child will turn out to be.  With adoption, you can choose a child of any
age, race, gender, and any stage of development.  While most people lean towards adopting an
infant, all are surprised to note how many have chosen to bring an older child
into their family instead.  Adoption is a
concept that is typically separate from birth and family, but it should not
be.  People who have chosen to adopt a
child should receive full cooperation from work in being available for their
new family member whenever possible. 
Hopefully in the very near future we, as humans, will all have an equal
chance to adopt.  Single parents and
LGTBQ parents are no exception to the concept that adoption should be easier to
obtain for those who want it badly enough and for the right reasons.

Works Cited

Mulheir,
Georgette. The tragedy of orphanages. https://www.ted.com/talks/georgette_mulheir_the_tragedy_of_orphanages

 

Ross, L et. al. Lesbian
and Queer Mothers Navigating the Adoption System: The Impacts on Mental Health.
http://ezproxy.ucs.louisiana.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true=ip,cookie,uid,url=ccm=105563808=eds-live

 

Sissay, Lemn. A child of the state. https://www.ted.com/talks/lemn_sissay_a_child_of_the_state

 

Smolan, Rick. The
story of a girl. https://www.ted.com/talks/rick_smolan_tells_the_story_of_a_girl

 

Winkler, Tara.
Why we need to end the era of orphanages. https://www.ted.com/talks/tara_winkler_why_we_need_to_end_the_era_of_orphanages

1
As
children age, they have a lower chance of getting adopted

2 Eun-Sook Lee is an Amerasian child
who became an orphan at 11 when her grandmother died.  A photographer on project in Korea set up two
of his friends to adopt her and bring her to America.

i
Winkler

ii
Sissay

iii
Mulheir

iv
Smolan

v
Ross et. al

x

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