November is National Adoption Month, an occasion usually devoted to celebrating adoptive parents and asking more families to step up and care for children whose own parents are unable or unwilling to do so. But this year it might be more appropriate to use the occasion to ask why state and federal agencies are standing in the way of more children being adopted.
About half of Americans hold a favorable view of adoption, compared with about one in ten who view it unfavorably. (The remainder either don’t know or don’t have an opinion.) But in recent years, the media and policymakers have tried mightily to chip away at those numbers. Especially in the wake of the Dobbs decision, the Left wants to make sure that no one thinks adoption is preferable to abortion.
The drumbeat appears to be having an effect. According to data released from the Children’s Bureau of the federal Administration for Children and Families a few weeks ago, 391,000 kids resided in foster care on September 30 of Fiscal Year 2021, of whom 114,000 were waiting to be adopted. But the actual number who were adopted—54,200—reflects a 6 percent drop from the previous year and an 18 percent decline from FY2019.
Last week’s dialogue between Nicole Chung of The Atlantic and her fellow adoptee Tony Hynes is emblematic of the anti-adoption messaging. “Many adoptees I know today feel conflicted at best about this month,” Chung explains, “in part because the narratives leveraged to celebrate and promote adoption have not always left space for discussing its complexity.” Hynes, who is black and was raised by a white lesbian couple, responds that we are feeding into a notion that “families of color are somehow ‘less fit’ to raise their children.” Chung adds, “Yeah, sometimes it’s hard for me not to hear the assertion that ‘more kids should be adopted’ as ‘more kids should experience the trauma of being separated from their families of origin.’”
The problem of speaking in these broad terms about “narratives” is that no one is denying that adoptions are complex. Of the hundreds of adoptive parents and professionals I have met in the past several years, I cannot think of one who does not see the process as inevitably beginning from a source of loss or tragedy.
Some families certainly are less fit to raise their children, but this judgment has nothing to do with the color of their skin. Children adopted out of foster care have been removed from their homes because of chronic or severe abuse and neglect. Kids who are taken into foster care for the first time are mostly under the age of three. They disproportionately suffer from physical or mental disabilities as well. Putting scare quotes around the words “less fit” doesn’t make their parents any more fit.
But it is not just those in academia or the media who are pushing these ideas; policymakers are, too. The reason that more kids aren’t getting adopted is not that fewer kids are coming into foster care (though that number, too, has dropped in a way that should worry anyone who knows that home situations aren’t getting any safer). It’s that we are leaving kids in foster care longer and failing to terminate parental rights, even when the law requires it….
The above comes from a Nov. 14 posting in City Journal.