Explaining Adoption to Your Children, Family, and Friends

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Children are growing up in many different kinds of families today. Race, religion and sexual orientation are all blending together and changing the "traditional" family structure. There are stepparent families - children being raised by a biological parent and his/her spouse. There are single-parent families - children being raised by one parent. And, there are kinship families - children being raised by a grandparent, aunt/uncle or other extended family member. Adoption is often one of the links bringing families together.

Adoption is an issue of extreme importance to the persons most directly involved in the adoption triad - the child, the adoptive parents, and the birth parents. However, there are the siblings, extended family members, neighbors, teachers and doctors who are indirectly touched. Occasionally, there are also casual acquaintances who will take any opportunity to talk about "their" adoption experiences - whether it is invited or not.

This factsheet addresses the complicated issue of adoption, defining it, explaining it to others, and dealing with the feelings that arise. A complete bibliography, resource list and resources for adoptive families are included.

What is adoption?

Adoption is defined as "the permanent legal transfer of parenting rights and responsibilities from one family to another." The word adoption, however, has different meanings to the people touched by it. To an adoptee, the word implies that a choice was made with the forming of his/her family. To an adoptive parent, it describes a parental relationship that was made legally, not biologically. And to a birth parent, it recognizes the loss associated with giving up parental rights.

How are children being adopted?

There are several different types of adoptions:

Public - Children in the public child welfare system who are placed in permanent homes by public, government-operated agencies or by contracted private agencies.
Private agency - Children are placed in non-relative homes through the services of a licensed (non-profit or for-profit) agency.
Independent - Children are placed in relatives and non-relative homes directly by the birth parents or through the services of either a medical doctor, a member of the clergy, an attorney, or a licensed or unlicensed facilitator. (Independent adoption is illegal in some States.)
Kinship - Children are placed in relatives' homes, with or without the services of a public agency.
Stepparent - Children are adopted by the spouse of one birth parent.

Credits: Child Welfare Information Gateway (http://www.childwelfare.gov)

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Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.

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