Kinship Placement vs Non-Relative Adoptions

Shirley M. Berens
Grandparents Resource Center
Denver, Colorado

Adoption started in America in 1927. Prior to that time children were placed in orphanages or were raised in kinship homes. Children placed in orphanages experienced some extent of rejection and abandonment trauma in their lives. For one thing, orphanages broke up families and sibling groups when one child was adopted to a family and the other to another family. During this time period, children were labeled "bastards" if they were born out of wedlock. Thus, so many children went into orphanages or were adopted out to extended family members in some other state because it was shameful for families to have "bastards." Situations like this turned children into marketable products. When you have a product that is in demand it has great value. Babies then became a commodities and were sold out to families in need of them. For lack of adoptable babies today, many children are being placed in foster care by over zealous social workers who want to fill the need of couples who cannot have children. Social Services Personnel take babies away from young mothers and place them in foster homes while they look for the right couple to adopt them.

The baby-selling industry has also encouraged the rise of hundreds of Adoption Agencies. The fees charged by some of these agencies start at $10,000., per child, and there are some pretty desperate childless couples who are willing to pay any price. In the 1970's and 1980's, when a radical transformation took place in how people thought about having children outside wedlock, many unwed mothers decided to keep their babies at all cost. Babies for adoption became scarce. The only babies available then were those with special needs or developmental challenged. Many adoptions of developmentally challenged babies fail because the adoptive families are not equipped to deal with children with special needs. Thus, the occurrence of failed placement. Many children today go through failed adoptions, and are moved from one adoptive or foster home to the other. Very often, children who are taken away from their biological families and adopted out, or go through failed adoptions and are moved from one home to the other are scarred for life with wounds that may never heal as a result of instability and loss of identity and biological connections.

Very few adoptive parents understand that history for a child starts at the point of conception and carries on throughout the child's life. Many adoptive children suffer painful losses and feel deep primal wounds when the birth mothers give them up, or are taken away from their biological families for adoption. When there is an adoption of a child, there are so many losses that the child, the biological parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, go through. In my 16 years experience in advocating for kinship placement instead of adoptive placements, I have gone through an unspoken amount of pain, broken-heartedness, and sorrow, witnessing sometimes, cruel, forced, and painful separation of children from their biological families, especially, siblings. The whole family go through unwarranted loss and grief, particularly the children involved. They experience the following losses:
• birth parents, siblings, relationships with extended family members, genetic bonding, cultural, racial and familial history
• the traditional family environment in which they were born
• genetic semblance and biological connectivity
• Shared times and experiences
• folklore of birth family - stories of and about the family
• family history and place on the family tree
• a sense of belonging
Many children also go through the loss of original place of a family continuum, i.e., they may have been born into the Jones family and are now a part of the Smith family. It is often happenstance and random as to which family an adoptee is place with. Changing the child's name in the adoptive process implies non acceptance of the child. Many times children are adopted against their wish, under the disguise of what is in "the best interest of the child," and are very unhappy. This causes problems Self esteem, trust issues, and chronic sorrow, which leads to other forms developmental disorders. According to a statistics by the Child Welfare League of America, about 7 out of 10 adoptions fail. If this is the case, why are ex-familial adoption still preferred?

For all practical purposes, and based on the testimonies of adults who have written about their own experiences as adopted children, it is truly in the best interest of any child to be allowed to grow and enjoy their growth within the biological family. There are so many other factors that are not considered during adoption processes. There are genetic factors, spiritual factors, and traditional factors that make it imperative for children to remain in their biological families if the parents are unable to exercise proper parental responsibilities over them. In many adoption processes what the children feel, and the losses they go through, are 90% of the time not considered. Children do not need to go through all of these losses as a result of separation from biological families. Many children have attachment disorders because they have been adopted. Even a baby right from the hospital and given to an adoptive parent, just few hours after birth, do show symptoms of attachment disorder because of the conceptual and prenatal bondage with the mother (McKelvey & Stevens, 1995).

Kinship placement of children with other capable family members, like grandparents, aunts and uncles is better, in the long run, for the children than adopted by non-relatives or total strangers. The transition from birth parents to extended family members in Kinship placement is less traumatic for these children than being put through the horrific process of adoption to complete strangers. In my own observation and experience in this field, grandparents are good candidates for, and are more successful in, raising these children because of the special bond of love, wisdom and patience they bring to the child.

Many adoptive children become violent in their adolescent years and have anger related problems (especially those adopted after infancy). These adoptive children act out aggressively, commit all forms of crimes, and even end up in jail. These children come to a place in their development when all they can feel is abandonment and loss of identity. Adoptive children grow up with many psychological problems. If for grave reasons, ex-familial adoptions are "the best" way to go, then, perhaps, "open adoption" might be more effective and wholesome. Open adoption allows a continuous relationship of the child with the biological family. This has to be an agreement between the natural family and the adoptive family. This type of adoption arrangement would be a solution to the current adoption crisis. Open adoption most of the time becomes mentally healthy for the child.


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