Imagine waking up one day and the world you know it is gone. Now imagine that you wake up in a new home, with new parents, new siblings, and a new smell, new foods, and a new school. This is the reality of children all across America every day. In the United States alone, there are more than 428,000 children in foster care. (www.adoptionnetwork.com) Over half of these children are ages six and older, with males out numbering females. In oklahoma alone, in 2019, approximately 415 children were adopted out of foster care with approximately 9,639 children living in foster care in Oklahoma today. (Melissa Tiffie, Child Welfare Specialist II, Adoption Transition Unit, Oklahoma Department of Human Services) Out of these children, there are more than half that are over the age of 10, with more than half being caucasian. Most of these children in the foster care system will live in fear of what is to come, without their families, for more than three to five years with some longer than that.
Now imagine being 15, 16, or even 21, and finding out that the boyfriend that you thought would always be there for you is gone and you wake up and find out that you are pregnant. There are many more scenarios that you can imagine, but now you find yourself alone, scared, and feel like the only answer is abortion. Surprisingly, there are more that 140,000 abortions performed each year with less than 4% of young women choosing to place their child for adoption. (www.adoptionnetwork.com/adoption-statistics) Let’s face it, in America, in some families and in some cultures, it is scarier to have a stranger raise your child than it is to undergo a medical procedure, no matter the after effects.
There are several ways that one can adopt in the United States. I will attempt to cover each one of these. Americans can choose to adopt through foster care, they will complete a home study, take the appropriate required classes, and attend adoption events, or have their resource worker sign them up for children that meet their preferred criteria. There are of course so many other steps that will take place, however by the time a family makes their first contact with foster care to inquire about adoption, these families have thought about it, prayed about it, and finally made this decision typically for 2-3 years. The children that are adopted through foster care, are legally free meaning that all parental rights have been terminated and they are living in family type settings, inpatient facilities, or group homes/shelters. (Melissa Tiffie, CWS II ATU, OKDHS) Also in the foster care system, there is foster to adopt, which means that the families that are fostering these children have made the decision to adopt the children that are in their care. In America, there is infant adoption, whereas the mom chooses to place her child for adoption and after completing the required counseling before the child can be adopted and waiting the required hours after birth dictated differently by each state as to when the mom can legally sign her rights away to the infant. The adoptive family then has to wait six months and be monitored in what is called the interlocutory decree before they are able to stand before a judge and finalize the adoption.
There is a large debate that is closed adoption vs open adoption. Do we want the biological family to know about “our” child? Can they come back and change their mind? Do we want to share pictures and information with the biological families? In the state of Oklahoma, there is no legal standing on open vs closed adoption. One could agree to anything with the biological families, however once the adoption is final, there is absolutely nothing that can be done to ensure that the agreement made is upheld. A step-parent is able to adopt their stepchild if the absent parent has passed away, or their parental rights have been terminated in court. There is adoption of a relative, but again, all parental rights have to have legally been terminated by a judge. Last but not least, international adoption. In America, there are more than 8,000 children adopted internationally each year. (www.adopt.org/types-adoptions)
I personally was adopted along with my biological sister. My sister was three and I was 4. Our biological family was unable to take care of us, and through an adoption agency, they were able to locate and choose our forever mom and dad who then adopted us privately. We have lived with our parents now for over ten years and have been given amazing opportunities and lives, that otherwise would not have been afforded to us. I am thankful that our family chose to place us for adoption and unlike other children, I am able to live with my sister. Last summer we were able to meet with one family member and she has maintained contact with my mom so that should we have questions concerning our biological family, she is able to answer them. Adoption is very near to my heart and my life. Without adoption, I would not have my younger brother or know what my future would be. My mom, works for DHS and is an Adoption Transition Specialist, where she helps children that are legally free in foster care find permanency in their lives and hopefully find their forever families.