Hi, my name is Dr. Janet Welsh. I'm a research professor at the Penn State Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness. My background is in developmental psychology and prevention science. I want to thank you for joining us today for this presentation. Let's go ahead and get started. I hope you enjoy today's presentation on adoption and military families.
In addition to doing research with adoptive families, I'm also the parent of three children adopted internationally so I know firsthand the joys and challenges that come with adoption. Adoption is a complex process for many families and everyone's experience is unique.
There are basically five different types of adoptions, and each has its own laws, policies, procedures, and challenges for families and children.
Kinship adoption involves the adoption of a child who is already a member of the family such as a niece, nephew, or grandchild. Often, these adoptions occur under circumstances of stress or difficulty within the family, such as death or illness in family member, unexpected pregnancy, or, often, family members who can't care for their children due to substance abuse, mental health problems, or difficulties with the law. Unlike other forms of adoption, the adoptive family may not have even been seeking or planning to adopt but found themselves adopting anyway.
Foster care or fost-adoptions occur when foster families adopt the children that they were fostering. Often, this was their intention from the beginning and they were just waiting for the child become available. Other times the child becomes available for adoption unexpectedly. In many cases, in fost-adoption, children have been with the foster family since birth or a very young age; however, children can be of any age. Because these children are part of the child welfare system, there are often minimal costs associated with these adoptions, and adoptions of special needs children may come with subsidies that pay for their medical care and other services.
Public welfare adoption involves the adoption of children who are in state custody and are legally available for adoption; usually these children are living in foster care or group home situations. Most children available through the public welfare system are over the age of eleven and there are very few healthy children under the age of five available unless they are members of a sibling group. Many children available had significant medical problems and handicapping conditions. A national database on children available through the public welfare system as well as resources for families and professionals including military families specifically can be found at www.adoptuskids.org
Private domestic adoptions are sometimes called infant adoption and refer to the adoption of healthy newborns. This was once the norm for adoptions in the US; however, since the 1970s, the availability in helping newborns, particularly caucasian children, has declined significantly, while the number of families seeking to adopt newborns has increased. Less than one percent of infants born in the US are relinquished for adoption. For these reasons prospective adoptive parents need to understand that there's a shortage in healthy newborns and that infant adoption has become highly competitive, with birth parents choosing the families, long waits, and high fees. Additionally, many of these adoptions are now open, but the expectation of some ongoing relationship between the birth family and the adoptive family.
International adoption refers to the adoption of the child who's a citizen of a foreign country. International adoption to the US began after World War II with the adoption of war orphans and made up only a small percentage of adoptions until the 1990s, when political changes in China and Eastern Europe suddenly made large numbers of children available for adoption by foreigners. International adoption is highly complex and ever-changing with countries changing their policies and procedures often without warning. Numbers of international adoptions to the US peaked in 2004 and have dropped significantly since then. In 2011, there were about 9,000 international adoptions to the US with China, Ethiopia, Russia, South Korea, and Ukraine as the major sending countries. Although many children adopted internationally are under the age of two, the age has been increasing over time and in some countries there's been a increasing trend for the placement of children with special needs.
This brief overview of the different types of adoption available to families concludes part one of our vodcast on adoption.