Why Aren’t More ‘Fertile’ People Adopting?

This is a difficult post to write because it’s such a touchy subject. But I need to get it out: I hate that adoption seems to be linked to infertility 90% of the time, at least in people’s minds. I don’t have any problem with infertile couples adopting. If medical intervention isn’t their thing, or they’ve tried that and had no success, many couples who are unable to conceive turn to adoption. I think birth mothers who are unable to parent their children (and willingly surrender their rights) like to know they’re helping out a couple who couldn’t become parents without adoption. That’s all fine and dandy. My problem is the assumption that adoption is (only) for people who can’t have babies biologically.

It bothers me on two levels.

First, quite a few people have made the assumption that Jason and I really wanted—or still want—to have children biologically and we turned to foster care and adoption as a Plan B. They say things like, “Maybe you’ll get pregnant after you adopt! That’s what happened to my second cousin” and “We adopted two kids and then my wife finally got pregnant after 7 years. You never know!” It’s always said with kindness and sympathetic smiles. But, in our case, we felt like we were supposed to become foster parents and open our hearts to adoption and put the idea of having biological children on hold. Perhaps, indefinitely. I don’t know if we will ever have a child biologically. Honestly, at this point, I have no desire to become pregnant. We have chosen a different route to building our family.

Second, and the main reason I have a problem with the adoption=infertile assumption, I would LOVE to see more kids adopted. My passion is for the orphans in our own country, though there are millions around the world waiting to be adopted, too. There are over 130,000 kids in the United States with their mugshots next to short biographies on photo listings, desperately waiting for parents who will adopt them. Another 300,000 kids in foster care need loving, stable, temporary (but potentially permanent) homes. I don’t have patience to wait for 130,000 infertile couples to exhaust all other possibilities and get desperate enough to consider adopting an older child. And the kids don’t have time to wait either. Every year, 24,000 of them turn 18 and get pushed into adulthood alone, unprepared and unsupported. It’s tragedy upon tragedy.

We need some of the millions of fertile couples in this country to join us on the adoption road!

If you feel compelled to do something, check out:

Adopt US Kids and follow them on Twitter

Adopt America Network and follow them on Twitter

or call your county Department of Childrens Services (Dept. of Human Services in some states, I think) and ask about becoming a foster parent.

(Look at the photo listings of waiting kids if you’re feeling brave.)


17 Responses to Why Aren’t More ‘Fertile’ People Adopting?

  1. Jen says:

    I have been following your blog for quite a while now. My husband and I were foster parents for a year before changing directions and doing cradle care for an adoption agency. Unfortunately, our foster care system is so horrible in our state and we felt like we were feeding a monster more than helping children, hence the change in our focus.

    I completely agree with you on the adoption front. We feel the exact same way – that children in our very country are overlooked. We have even had people tell us that they wanted to adopt internationally because those children come with less baggage than children in the American foster care system. SERIOUSLY?!

    We had a sibling group in the foster care system that we wanted to adopt and were told we couldn’t because the case worker didn’t like us. I wish that the games would just end so that kids could be in homes. Instead, “our” kids are still sitting in the system, waiting for a forever home, when they could have been with us 6 months ago. Everyone BUT the case worker was fighting for us to have the kids. We even had one of them as a placement the first time she came into care. She is now in care for the 3rd time in a year, along with her siblings.

    The only thing about adoption that I can’t shake is the price tag. When looking into private adoption after the foster kiddos didn’t work out, we were told it was going to be about $30,000. I felt like I was partaking in child trafficking. We can’t afford $30,000 to buy a child. We have bio kids of our own and decided that it would be cheaper just to have another bio child instead of adopt.

    What are your thoughts on that? We feel like we’re supposed to adopt, but all of the doors have been shut. I am sure there are many other couples out there in the same situation.

    • mahlbrandt says:

      Jen, thanks for your comment. I sent you a lengthy email response but in short: I know the system is a complete mess and I hate that, too. We need good parents to stick it out and push for reform. It’s not fair to the kids. I’m in favor of thoroughly checking people out with home studies, references, background checks, etc. before their approved to adopt but from that point forward things should be simple, quick and much less expensive. $30,000 is absurd.

  2. Annie says:

    I don’t meant to stir the pot but… It really bothers me that fertile couples (by that I mean have bio kids and/ or can have more bio kids without a problem) adopt in a private, domestic adoption. Obviously birth parents are more than capable of making whatever choice they chose.

    That being said. I would LOVE it if any couple would adopt waiting children domestically or internationally. A child is a child, it doesn’t matter where they come from. There are millions of kids in the world that need a home. You don’t have to limit it just to USA. The truth of the matter is if you have young kids in your home already it’s really hard to adopt waiting kids in foster care. We have called on a number of older children and we would open our homes to one in a heartbeat as long as our girls weren’t at risk. Unfortunately, all of the kids we’ve called on all had severe issues that would potentially put our girls in harms way. The saddest part about that is the reason they have so many issues is because they have been in foster care for so long. I don’t think any child is unadoptable, but just not right for us.

    Foster care reform needs to happen and it needs to happen now! There are so many things wrong with our system that people just don’t realize until you are in it. The system give all of the rights to birthparents and don’t think twice about the children. (at least in my county). Babies have no rights. When a child is old enough to form an opinion their word is taken into account, but it really doesn’t carry much weight.

    It’s sad and infuriating.

    I do wish younger couples would become foster parents. We are one of the youngest, if not the youngest couple at our foster agency to foster. It breaks my heart. I know people are maturing at later ages (getting married, ready to make life long commitments). But foster parents can be single. They can be homosexual. It doesn’t matter. But these kids do need homes.

    I have tried a number of times to convince my MIL to adopt a boy on our counties waiting children’s website that I LOVE! But I need more than a 15 year age gap between parents and children.

    Gosh I feel like this is just a rambling.

    • mahlbrandt says:

      Thanks for your perspective, Annie.

      I had to laugh about trying to convince your MIL to adopt a boy from your county. I’ve had the same thought for my parents about a boy that captured my heart on the photo listings. 12 years younger than me feels like he should be my little brother, not my son. (Mom, are you reading this? You know I always wanted a little brother…)

  3. Danielle says:

    I have a related annoyance. I actually do not want to have children and have no plans to, biologically or otherwise. I often have people, usually family or young women with whom the topic arises, ask me why and ponder whether I will regret it.

    There are many reasons why…MANY. I certainly don’t look down upon motherhood as some would think, it’s just not what I want. But I DO know that I will NOT regret it because if I one day feel like I am missing motherhood in my life I plan to then foster with a view to adoption. I think this would be my path regardless of fertility. I know that if I make that change in my life plan I will have made the decision maturely.

    It bothers me that more people don’t consider it. So many dive into biological parenthood, even though deep down they want to do other things first. We shouldn’t feel the pressure to get pregnant before its too late to ‘have our own’. I think I would make a better mature foster mum (if I decide to) than a young biological mum who wanted to do other things. I like my plan 🙂

  4. Mrs. Something says:

    Yes! Thank you for your refreshing post. We are fertile (as far as we know) not quite 30 and considering foster care adoption. Your post spoke right to the heart of many thoughts I’ve had. Thank you for sharing!


  5. tarynkay says:

    We adopted domestically, privately, and transracially in an open adoption after struggling with infertility. What really bothers me is when fertile couples (or couples who believe that they are fertile but who knows?) say “we’re not adopting because we can’t have children, but because we really love children!” It is great that they want to adopt, I am totally in favor of fertile couples adopting. My problem with it is that the unspoken subtext is that infertile couples adopt only because they can’t have children, that this is Plan B, or second best, or a consolation prize. That wasn’t true for us.

    We adopted because we want children. We have no doubt that adoption is exactly what we are supposed to do, and we have no angst over not having biological children- infertility was just part of the road to getting there. I also feel like fertile couples who adopt are fearful of people thinking they are infertile. If you adopt and have no biological children, some people will assume you are infertile. Get over it.

    We considered adopting through foster care, but we realized that in order to do foster care, we needed to be committed to reunification. We absolutely would not have been at that time. I am not saying the thing here that people say about “Oh, I would just get too attached!” I am saying that I believe that in order to do foster care, your goals need to be at least somewhat in line with DSS. We are considering doing foster care in the future.

    I am not bothered by ANYONE who tries to adopt privately because the decision is ultimately up to the birthparents, and they deserve to have as many good options as possible. Our SWs told us that some birthparents really want their child to have siblings, so they choose families with children already. Private adoption is not surrogacy. Parents place children for adoption privately for many reasons. Some place because the alternative is the baby being taken by DSS- this happens a lot when the baby tests positive for exposure in the hospital. Some place because they were too late to get a legal abortion- abortion clinics actually refer women to adoption agencies when this happens. Some place because they just aren’t able to give the child the life they want. There are as many reasons as there are placements. I have never heard of anyone getting pregnant and then placing that child for adoption because they wanted to help out an infertile couple. I think that for some birthparents, that is a nice thought for them, that they are helping a couple be parents who otherwise couldn’t be, but it’s not why they got pregnant. Therefore, private adoption should not be restricted to infertile couples. Sorry for this ridiculously long comment!

    • Annie says:

      Adoption was plan b for us. To be honest, we probably wouldn’t have adopted if we could have bio kids because of the cost. My pregnancy and delivery with our first daughter cost me $20. Obviously you spend much more than that with a private domestic adoption or international adoption. Which is why we adopted through foster care. Our other daughter isn’t less loved by us than our bio daughter. It’s just something we wouldn’t have thought was a possibility for us until God smacked us upside the head and told us this is what we are supposed to do. I am so grateful that he knew we would be able to accept the challenge of adoption. And if anyone out there thinks adoption is “easier” than giving birth. You are nuts. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

      I completely agree that through domestic adoption, the birth parents are not surrogates. We hope to have made a lifelong friendship and partnership with our birthparents. I just recently found a blog of a fertile couple adopting domestically. They were chosen a few times by white bparents but denied the referrals. They only wanted an AA baby, they are white. I have an issue with this. It makes me feel like they are shopping. It’s not my place to judge and the birth parents chose them for good reasons I’m sure. Like I said above, bparetns are more than capable of choosing the best family to raise their child. And I have friends who are only willing to accept an AA child because they are already a transracial family.

      Anyway, that’s where I’m coming from. 🙂

      • tarynkay says:

        I think that for us, Plan A was having children. When people ask us why we adopted (which happens a lot) we say, “because we wanted children.”

        That is odd, about the couple turning down referrals. For us, we wanted to be as open as possible, so we had no restrictions on gender or race or anything. But maybe they had some reason for this? I read on loveisnotenough.com that only 13% of prospective adoptive parents will consider adopting an AA baby. I read somewhere else that 30% of children available for adoption in the US are AA. I know that some agencies have very few families willing to adopt transracially. This wasn’t a problem at our agency, but I’ve heard other adoptive parents say that there will be say, 50 couples waiting at an agency and only 1 will adopt transracially. Anyhow, maybe your blog family wasn’t “shopping,” but waiting for an AA baby since they knew that they were one of the few families at their agency who would? I don’t know, this is just speculation.

        • Annie says:

          I love that!! Your plan A was having children. Ours too. We specifically chose our agency because of their involvement with AA birthparents. We did a lot of research and found a few of the agencies in our city were not stellar to AA families. Most of the families waiting at our agency would accept a brown baby.
          And you’re right, about the other blog. I have no idea why they chose that. All I know is that I could personally not turn down a baby because of it’s skin color. In fact, our birth parents that just chose us are white and we were really wanting a brown baby for our daughter “honey”. I just take that as a sign that God wants us to go for a 4th or 5th. Haha

        • mahlbrandt says:

          When our friends learned from their adoption agency that the “least desirable” babies to adopt; the hardest to place are black boys, they decided that was what they wanted–a black boy. I doubt they would have turned down another race or a girl because they were completely open to gender/race in their home study but sure enough they were very quickly matched with a black boy.

          I love that this post is inspiring a lot of conversation and unique perspectives.

          • Annie says:

            We told our agency we really, really wanted an AA or biracial baby boy. But I said yes to “petunia” and we said yes to our hopeful Lenny. But if we do end up with a white baby you better be sure we are going for another baby. I don’t want Elsie to be the only black child in our family.

  6. Bobbie says:

    Thanks for this post! I’ve bee following your blog for a while – found it while looking for someone blogging about foster parenting. I’m a single foster mom raising four special needs kids. The youngest two, biological sisters, are up for adoption. Despite my request to adopt them, the social worker is required to consider several other families as well and may decide there is a “better” home for them.
    Neither infertility nor singleness brought me to the place of adoption. It’s because there are kids needing homes and I can provide that.
    A young couple from my church recently adopted two children through foster care despite being fertile. I’m praying they’ll be the first of many. As for single parenthood, it’s certainly not for the faint of heart so it many not be a trend I’m setting. But I know it’s where God’s placed me at this point (still open to a husband if that’s the path God has!) But in the meantime I’m happy be take care of the children He brings me.

  7. Amy says:

    Hi, I found your blog in a google search trying to find blogs about foster care! :)I’ve been following for a while but just wanted you to know how much I love this post. I’m single and just started out as a foster parent. I’m a little nervous about it, but I know how many kids need homes even just temporarily. Thanks for this post.

  8. caroline says:

    Oh, how glad I am to have found your blog. My husband and I hope to adopt some day, and I used to work with abandoned children in a group home setting – it’s become my calling, so I’m now a doctoral student interested in researching adoptions and foster care (trying to figure out how to create better supports for families and children). I think you’ve started a wonderful and candid discussion, and I was so comforted to read your words and all of the different perspectives in your comments section!

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