Infant Adoption

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infant adoption

The adoption of newborns or babies or toddlers under the age of two years.

Most people who wish to adopt an infant are seeking a healthy newborn or a child who is at most only several months in age. It is not clear how many people are actively taking steps to adopt, but for a variety of reasons, including ABORTION, birth control and the rise in single parenthood, it is clear there are insufficient numbers of adoptable infants to meet demand.

It has been hypothesized by some that if the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade were overturned and abortion again made illegal, the number of infants available for adoption would increase to what it was before Roe: It remains to be seen what would happen should abortion be banned or limited.

Infant adoption is a relatively new phenomenon in the United States, and prior to the late 1920s, few newborn infants were adopted. Children who were adopted were primarily older children who were homeless or had lost one or both parents or whose parents were financially or emotionally unable to care for them.

When infant formula became widely available in the late 1920s, this development made it possible for pregnant women to place their babies with adoptive couples shortly after the baby's birth. Prior to the perfection of infant formula, newborn babies were breast-fed and could not survive without mother's milk. (Wet nurses were sometimes used for infants who were boarded out, but many babies died.)

Infants who need adoptive families are placed through AGENCIES, ATTORNEYS or through other intermediaries, such as physicians or even friends of the birthmother, with the counsel of a state, county, or private social worker.

Ironically, it is often easier to adopt a newborn infant than it is to adopt a child of one, two or even three years of age. The reason for this is that an adoption decision regarding a newborn infant is usually made by the birthmother, and most birthmothers make this decision during their pregnancies or shortly thereafter. Few make a voluntary decision in favor of adoption when the child is two or three years old because they then have a relationship with the child.

As a result, small children and infants who are in state custody are usually there because of ABUSE, ABANDONMENT or NEGLECT. They are placed in FOSTER CARE, often for at least a year, with the state agency seeking to solve the problem in the biological family that required the removal of the child.

If the problem cannot be solved, for example, if an abandoned infant's biological relatives do not wish to adopt him or if an abused infant's parents cannot be rehabilitated, the state will ultimately go to court to terminate parental rights.

Often the child will be at least six or seven years old by the time the state terminates the rights of the parents. The reason for this is that abuse or neglect is frequently not discovered by the agency until the child is in kindergarten or some public setting.

As a result, few healthy toddlers are ready to be adopted. (Minority and mixed race toddlers are sometimes waiting for adoptive families.) (See TRANSRACIAL ADOPTION.)

There are, however, some number of older infants and toddlers available through international adoption agencies and orphanages in other countries. As a result, families who are insistent on adopting toddlers may opt to adopt internationally.

Primarily because of the long wait to adopt infants at many adoption agencies, thousands of U.S. and other citizens who wish to adopt babies have turned to INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION. These babies are generally at least four months old because of the time lag between the birth of the child and the matching with a particular couple, who must then travel to the infant's country to follow foreign and American immigration requirements.

But in some cases, infants may be only a few days old, especially if the adoption has been facilitated by an attorney in the child's homeland.

Health of Newborn Infants

Most U.S.-born adopted babies are healthy, although a substantial number of those placed for adoption are of low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds), and many are premature. The birthmother may have received little or no prenatal care and may or may not have had adequate nutrition during her pregnancy.

Many U.S. birthmothers also smoke, which can account in part for their low-birth-weight babies.

Find more information on infant adoption

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