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Adoptive Families Strengthen Familial Bonds

Kennah Salvo, Staff Reporter

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Our culture is uncertain of its place, nervous of change, and terrified of what it doesn’t understand. If something is unfamiliar or outside of the mainstream, it is bad, and nothing is more scrutinized by society than family. When a family does not fit into society’s prescribed shape, it is considered bizarre by some. This is especially true when one or more children in a family do not share a parent’s gene pool: in other words, when a child is adopted.

The act of adoption is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “to take by choice into a relationship; especially: to take voluntarily (a child of other parents) as one’s own child.” This broad concept can be broken into two sub-categories: domestic adoption and international adoption.

Within the umbrella of domestic adoption, there are several different routes. One route is adopting from foster care, and another is domestic newborn adoption, or when the child’s birth parent legally consents to an adoption.

International adoption, also called intercountry adoption, is defined by the U.S. Department of State as the process by which you adopt a child from a country other than your own through permanent legal means, and then bring that child to your country of residence to live with you permanently. This is usually done through an agency.

In the U.S., the need for adoptive families is astounding. In 2016, while there were approximately 65,300 children available for adoption, only 57,200 of them found homes. That means over 8,000 children languished without forever families to love them. Why?

Perhaps it has something to do with the way we, as a culture, view the concept of adoption: as this strange, alien phenomenon that is “less than.”

The stigma surrounding adoption perpetuates an idea that adopted children are not really part of a family, when this is grossly untrue. Love is not limited to blood, nor is it beholden to the expectations of a culture.

Physics teacher Mr. David Dougherty, who has two daughters adopted from the foster care system, can attest to this.

“The most ignorant comment I hear in my daughter’s life is that people use, ‘Oh, you’re adopted,’ as an insult. And we have discussions about how it makes her feel,” Mr. Dougherty said. “We are very clear that family is work. We put a lot of effort into being a family.”

From the beginning, our culture has been, by definition, diverse. People from countless different cultures, races, and ethnicities came together to build a land based on freedom. The U.S. comes off as the world’s shining beacon of equality: but is it really? For such a “melting pot,” we have quite a problem with differences. They scare us. What does it say when our culture is, in and of itself, an oxymoron?

Partially to blame is the media we consume.

Miss Pennsylvania 2017, Katie Schreckengast, was adopted from South Korea when she was six months old. During her pageantry, she shared her story by naming her platform issue “Building Families Through Adoption.”  

“I think that adoption is sensationalized by Hollywood. You see all the movies where adoptees go on a big quest to find their birth parents and fill a missing piece inside them,” Schreckengast said. “That’s just not the way it is; I don’t have a missing piece.”

Movies often make mountains out of molehills, but when they start broaching subjects like adoption, caution is warranted. Adopted children may be watching that movie. If Hollywood tells them they should be loving the people who gave birth to them, how are those children going to feel? At the very least, they will be offended at the presumption. At worst, they will feel guilty about being adopted or resentful of the people who raised them, thinking they should be with the people who birthed them. That can incredibly damaging to a family.

For example, the movie “Stuart Little” is about a human family that adopts a mouse, Stuart, but Stuart feels as if something’s missing within himself. At the end of the movie, his birth parents come to take him back, and Stuart willingly goes with them, becoming separated from his adoptive family.

There is a huge problem with this narrative. Once a child is adopted, legally, the birth parents cannot “take them back.” The child is, in every respect, just as much as the child of the adoptive parents as they would be had they been the adoptive parent’s biological child. The child is a person, not a commodity.

Another facet of the adoption stigma is the vernacular used surrounding adoption.

“Is that your real son/daughter?” “What happened to his/her real parents?” “Are they really siblings?”

The use of the word “real” is insensitive and hurtful. They are real children, and the adoptive parents are their real parents. There is nothing fake or disingenuous about the relationship between a child and those who raised them. The children are legally a part of that family, and that should be good enough for all concerned.

“The best way to remove a stigma is to not generalize, and to listen to the stories of adoption that are told to us,” Schreckengast said.

The adoption stigma is largely a result of the fact that very few people know much of anything about adoption. Perhaps this should be a topic that is built into school curricula. If people are educated about adoption, there will be less insensitivity and ignorance in the way it is discussed. Of course, if we really want to stop a stigma, it is up to each and every person to stop perpetuating it.

Adoption, at its core, is about family. No one can set a rule on what family must look like.  

“Families may not mean blood,” foster care social worker Amelia Feleccia said. “But they will do anything for each other. Family is the people who teach you the most valuable lessons.”

For families with adopted children, openness is key in maintaining a familial bond. If an adopted child is facing stigmas out in the real world, it is imperative that they receive unconditional love and support at home.

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About the Writer
Kennah Salvo, News Editor

Junior Kennah Salvo is a second-year staff reporter and the news editor for the Spotlight. She is a member of the feminist student union and the Southern...

The student news site of Southern Lehigh High School
Adoptive Families Strengthen Familial Bonds