This article was written by Kristen N. Hubbard
FMLA is a failure. That much has been established. That failure encompasses the entire policy. This means the absurd lack of protection regarding taking leave for newborns and sick loved ones, also applies to adoption. Adoption itself is a broken system; discriminatory, sometimes taking years and often very expensive. Working Americans will fight an uphill battle if they want to adopt.
Adoption: Too Expensive For Most Working Americans
Perhaps the biggest hurdle for working Americans looking to adopt is the price. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, an adoption through a private agency can cost anywhere from 20,000 to 45,000 dollars. Independent adoptions, which require attorneys, can run anywhere from 15,000 to 40,000 dollars. Intercountry adoptions, which often involve a combination of services, can cost anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 dollars.
Average American households are not likely to pull in that kind of cash. Senior economist Elise Gould estimates that households only saw a .2% annual growth for 2019, in spite of an apparent increase of 6.8% in the average American household income. That number failed to take into account the losses incurred during The Great Recession. That number also failed to account for the non-response bias which hindered the efforts of the BLS to gather sufficient data. And of course, the impact of COVID-19, amongst other things.
Adoption Assistance For Working Americans Is Lacking
There are adoption grants, loans and tax credits aspiring parents can apply for, but there are downsides. Adoption grants do not have to be paid back. However, most grants come from non-profit sources, so the process is often lengthy. And due to a lack of funding, even deserving people get turned down for grants. Adoption loans have to be paid back with interest. This translates to a loss of income exceeding what was initially spent. Adoption tax credit is nonrefundable and as of 2020, only covers a maximum of $14,300 per child. Some businesses offer adoption assistance to their employees, but under FMLA it’s not mandatory.
Working Americans Adopting From Foster Care
Adopting from foster care is the most inexpensive option, because eligible families are provided with adoption subsidies to help them care for their child. Unfortunately, these subsidies are often inadequate. According to Children’s Rights, for the average state, an increase of 36 dollars in foster adoption subsidies led to an increase in adoptions. Conversely, a decrease in the amount led to a decrease in foster adoptions. Working Americans use subsidies to help care for their children. When aspiring parents receive inadequate subsidies, more children in foster care don’t get adopted.
Cost is not even the biggest issue regarding foster adoption. Aspiring parents need training in how to handle mental health issues in children. A study conducted for the NIH, involving clinical psychiatrist Shannon Dorsey found that almost 90% of foster youth have trauma exposure. Trauma for an adopted foster child can manifest in a number of ways, such as chronic illness, substance abuse, low self-esteem, aggression and PTSD. According to Shannon Dorsey, these problems often go unaddressed by foster parents, allowing them to worsen over time. This makes it even more likely that the next set of parents who come along will have to find a way to deal with their new child’s mental state. No matter how well intentioned, not every parent is ready to handle these issues.
Aspiring Parents must also be ready for the situation to prove impermanent. When attempting to adopt from foster care, there is a good chance that the child will be reunited with their original family. Reunification is the ultimate goal of foster care. Should the child’s original family meet the criteria of their reunification plan, even if the aspiring parents fostered that child with the intent to adopt them, they could lose them.
Time is Money & Most Working Americans Don’t Have Either
Working Americans who wish to become parents through adoption must also contend with FMLA guidelines. Under FMLA, those who adopt can receive up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave. The average American is barely making ends meet as it is. Working Americans spend tens of thousands of dollars to adopt a child. It stands to reason that the average American will return to work much sooner than twelve weeks, in order to not fall behind on bills.
Post Adoption Depression
Considering all the stress they endure, it’s easy to see why adoptive parents may fall victim to what is called post-adoption depression. A study was conducted for the Western Journal of Nursing Research by associate professor at the Purdue University School of Nursing in Indiana, Dr. Karen J. Foli. Dr. Foli found unmet expectations were a major contributor to post adoption depression syndrome, or PADS. These unmet expectations ranged from failure to immediately bond with one’s child to a lack of support from friends and family to discovering that one’s child has special needs.
Regardless of the reason why it manifests, post adoption depression could result. According to Dr. Foli’s study, symptoms include but are not limited to difficulty sleeping, weight gain, shame and guilt. In an interview she gave for the Chicago Tribune, Dr. Foli explains that adoptive parents often believe they will be perfect in their new role. When adoptive parents fail to live up to that expectation, they are reluctant to ask for help. Adoptive parents failing to reach out and get help also harms the adopted child. A parent suffering from post adoption depression is incapable of giving a child their full love and support.
It is not good practice to send individuals who have recently undergone the stresses of pregnancy and birth back to work after a mere twelve weeks. The same is true for adoptive parents who have recently brought a child home. Adoptive Parents need sufficient time to form a lasting bond with their new child. This will help reduce the chances of PADS, as well as allow more time to screen for it.
LGBTQIA Working Americans Denied Adoption
There are plenty of American LGBTQIA people who want to adopt children and start a family of their own. There are also plenty of places in the United States where they can’t. In spite of the marriage equality ruling of 2015, there are only 25 states where adoption agencies are forbidden by law from discriminating against parents based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. States like Arizona prohibit discrimination in adoption and fostering based only on sexual orientation, but not gender identity. Then there are states which explicitly allow for discrimination against LGBTQIA people trying to adopt people based on religious beliefs.
For example, in Texas, a religiously affiliated adoption agency has the choice to disallow adoption by an LGBTQIA person. Even if said person has the time, the money and there is a child up for adoption who would love them, they can be denied based on religious grounds. There would have to be sweeping changes in legislation in order to fix this problem. There is ongoing debate about what religious freedom means in regards to the law. Because of this, adoption equality could take a while.
The Waiting Game
As previously mentioned, time is a huge factor in the adoption process. Aspiring parents who talk about their quest to adopt, often bemoan the loneliness and anxiety they feel waiting for their child. Don and Nicole of Washington State are a married couple who have been waiting years to become parents. According to them they hit roadblock after roadblock. Don and Nicole met couples who initially seemed eager to help them and later turned them down. Their agency closed down. Closed adoptions were the only kind available. They wanted an open one.
At one point they met their prospective children and got to bond with them for eight hours, only for the placement to fall through. As of July of 2017, there have been no updates as to whether or not they finally managed to adopt. As Nicole herself said, “Adoption is not a sure thing.” Understandably, there are bound to be people who want to be parents and want to adopt but who don’t want to endure the heartbreak and anxiety such a wait could entail.
What Has To Be Done?
There are far too many obstacles to adoption, especially for the working class. The system fails the children waiting to be adopted as well. According to social psychologist Susan Newman, only 2% of American families adopt and most of them want white infants. It’s no wonder why older children and black children linger in the system. In pursuit of helping children of all ages and ethnicities find a family, adoption should be accessible and affordable for everyone.
Fixing these issues requires breaking down the barriers which stop working Americans from adopting. That means that discrimination against LGBTQIA people trying to adopt needs to be outlawed nationwide. Financial assistance needs to be widely and readily available for anyone looking to adopt either domestically, or abroad. Adoption subsidies for foster children need to increase, so those adopting them can more easily afford to raise them. Those adopting kids from foster care should receive free training in how to care for traumatized children. Said children should receive full mental health care coverage from their state. Adoptive parents need regular mental health screening as well.
Why It Matters
Bringing a child in need of a family into one’s home is a heroic act and those willing to do so should receive as much assistance as possible. It says something grim about America that working people who want to adopt have to fight a long, expensive uphill battle to do so. Both FMLA and the adoption system are hindering the efforts of working Americans to provide a home and a family for the children who need them. In order for adoption to be a more viable option for working people and to help more children find a family, both FMLA and the adoption system require intervention on the state and federal level.
Hopefully you enjoyed this article about adoption in the U.S.