Why you should care
Because no kid should be without a family.
In 2013, about 175,000 American women wanted a child so badly that they paid thousands of dollars to inject themselves full of hormones, spent weeks being bloated and moody and, often, experienced insecurities about their womanhood. Alas, most of this follicular stimulation didn’t result in viable eggs — but it did contribute mightily to the $2 billion fertility industry.
Now consider: If each of those women had, with their partners, decided to adopt a foster kid instead, they’d entirely wipe out the backlog of American children waiting for permanent families. Or they could adopt a child nearer birth, either from their home countries or from abroad. There are some 18 million homeless orphans out there, by UNICEF’s count. Looking at all these figures, it’s hard not to argue that rather than torture themselves with fertility treatments, women should just adopt. And so, for that matter, should people who don’t face fertility problems. Adoption should not be an altruistic exception or a last resort. Instead, it should be an expectation — “just another way to build a family,” as Megan Lestino, of the National Council for Adoption, puts it.
Yes, our genes are selfish, and decisions around family are very personal. Yet we judge people all the time for selfish personal decisions, from lying to adultery to gluttony. So why not judge them for putting the supposed biological imperative above a child’s most basic need to have a caretaker? Indeed, in a country of our wealth, there shouldn’t be even one snot-nosed brat without a permanent home.
It’s true the bureaucratic hurdles around adoption can seem endless. Some adoptees come from troubled pasts and can be emotionally exhausting. While adoption can be expensive, it’s not always: The cost of adopting a foster child is negligible, and most adoptive parents aren’t exactly Daddy Warbucks, anyway. Three-fourths of them make less than $87,000 a year, according to the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents.
But none of those inconveniences compare to what the little ones go through. Kids who age out of child welfare — more than 20,000 did in 2012 — are far more likely to be convicted of a crime, use drugs, become teenage parents and end up homeless. Another 58,000 sat in institutions or group homes. As it stands, the number of U.S. adoptions of foreign-born children has plummeted from almost 23,000 in 2004 to little more than 6,000 in 2014, a 30-year low, according to the State Department. Though this is largely due to increased regulations, it’s also the case that the number of homegrown foster adoptions has remained relatively constant, around 50,000 a year.
At least we’ve moved past the time when “kids were chosen because they fit well with the family,” says Lestino. She’s referring to a time not so long ago when parents hand-picked mini-mes who complemented their Christmas cards and then didn’t even tell them they were adopted because it was a shameful secret. At least in the 21st century adoption is hardly blinked at. With same-sex marriage now a legal right and women waiting until well past their prime child-bearing window to have kids, adoption should be more than just another way and become the way. And those who are on their third or fourth biological child should have to answer why.
Do you think adoption should be the preferred option? Let us know.