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Lesson 1 of 7

Brief Introduction to Adoption and Fostering

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Written Lesson

Basic Summary

Tens of thousands of children are brought into new, loving homes in the U.S. each year through domestic infant adoption, adoption from other countries, and adoption from the foster care system. While all those options can be wonderful ways to build a family, there are important distinctions between them, such as the processes involved; the age and characteristics of the children; and, as you can see in the chart below, the costs and timelines for each.

In this course, we’ll focus mainly on domestic infant adoption, with high-level considerations for intercountry adoption (which takes place far less often) in the final lesson. Foster care, including adopting from the system, is addressed in a separate, dedicated course to bring you up to speed.

In many cases, adoptive parents face questions about if, when and how to communicate with their children about the first part of their lives, from birth to the time they came into their new families. As you can see from the data below, adopted children who learned of their origin story at an earlier age tend to record a higher quality of life score as adults. We’ll cover the issues, degrees and benefits of “openness” in a later lesson.

Because (unfortunately) there are still negative stereotypes and stigmas relating to adoption – and because many adoptive and foster families are transracial or multicultural – adopted children and their parents sometimes have to deal with slights, taunts, biases and other “microaggressions.”

As a result, parents need tools to help their children appreciate who they are and where they come from, as well as to deal with prejudice and build positive self-esteem. As you’ll see in another lesson, when the whole family engages in “social culturalization” and teaches that they’ll encounter bias (sometimes called “preparation for bias training”), the children and everyone else in their families benefit immensely.

Whatever their sexual orientation, adoption can be a successful path toward building a family for both individuals and couples. The hurdles to intercountry adoption can be very high for would-be parents who are single or LGBTQ, however, and they are generally low (or nonexistent) when it comes to fostering or adopting from the child welfare system. Research and experience show that children can and do thrive in all sorts of adoptive families.

Single women who build their families through adoption tend to believe they encounter similar challenges to those faced by women who are co-parenting or married, despite having a likely lower household income and less “built-in” help.

Children in LGBTQ-led adoptive families report exceptionally high levels of feeling welcomed and supported by their parents. The data show that these children have to deal with more microaggressions (many of a “moderate” nature), but they also possess greater resilience and ability to cope.