Should we adopt or have a child the old fashioned way?
September 24, 2007 6:29 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are planning on having a second child, but we are pretty sure we want to adopt.

Hi everyone. My wife and I are planning on having a second child, but we are pretty sure we want to adopt.

About us. I'm 36 and she is 37. We have a five year old daughter who is healthy and very bright. My wife is a public school teacher and I am a pastor.

Now, before I go any further with the LOLXTN crowd (because I still want your opinion), let me say this, we are United Methodists who are tolerant, happy Christians. We work hard for matters of social and economic justice. We work hard for the poor, and I am an activist for the people of Sudan. We try to operate in that Walter Raushenbush, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. social gospel kind of Christianity. We agree with St. Augustine that science isn't a threat to out faith, and in very many ways, a gift from God. if you have ever said or thought "Not ALL Christians are 'that way' (i.e. Pat Robertson), you may have been talking about us."

Having said that,

We live in a beautiful home with a big yard, large old trees, in a community with great neighbors and excellent schools. There are strawberries to pick in the summer and apples to pick in the fall. We have a great marriage of nearly a decade and a loving extended family. We love being parents. God has been very good to us.

We also have an empty bedroom.

For five years, I thought one child would be enough. i no longer think that. But I struggle to justify bringing another child into the world. when there are so many waiting to be adopted, waiting for a happy loving home like ours. Of course, we know little about adoption, especially overseas adoption.

So I guess this is my question: Have you ever wrestled with this? What was your thinking? How did you resolve it? If you decided against adoption in favor of the old-fashioned way, I can totally relate, but how did you make that decision?

As always, thank you so much for your help. If you want to talk more, please feel free to e-mail me at
posted by 4ster to Human Relations (32 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I've never struggled with this, so I might not be the anwerer you're looking for. But you sound like happy, tolerant, loving people. Who better than to give a family and home to a kid that has neither? Adopt. All the way.
posted by sneakin at 6:40 PM on September 24, 2007 [3 favorites]

I have both friends and relatives who have adopted children from foreign countries. Foreign adoption can be real hard and expensive depending on the country and bureaucracy. It took one friend over 2 years to get her child to be officially adopted from Guatemala while another couple are at the 3+ year mark and, cross fingers, will have a child coming in a few months from Texas (hey, its a part of the US but it is considered a "foreign" adoption -- way complicated)

One cousin adopted handicapped, learning disabled Romanian orphans - Lord, bless him. While another cousin went the Chinese baby girl route.

If you choose adoption you must make several decisions including the age cut off for adoption. Older children are very hard to place and sometimes families are wary of taking on troubled children. Only you can answer questions like these with the naked heart.

It has been hard for everyone I know who have adopted children because of the wait, the bureaucracy, and special issues BUT they have loved, loved their children and like regular childbirth the pain is soon forgotten. The hardest has been special needs so be VERY prepared and understanding of the full implications of taking a special needs child.

The hardest part is deciding to bring a child into your life, no matter the method. After that leap of love and faith begins a journey whose end is not easily forseeable (sp?). However, you will have the same issues, adopted or not, of growing pains and frustrations.

I chose to have children because it was the easiest route for me after considering adoption and the wishes of my spouse. YMMV will definitely vary and in retrospect, the correct decision made.
posted by jadepearl at 7:01 PM on September 24, 2007

You might also consider fostering. I don't know what the adoption situation is like in the US, but here in Australia there are many fewer bureaucratic hoops to jump through to become a foster carer than there are to become an adoptive parent, and there are far more children in need of fostering than babies available for adoption.

It seems to me that your apparent preference for providing a stable and loving home to an existing child who needs one, as opposed to making a new child to occupy that space, is exactly correct. Good on you, and best wishes for your future family.
posted by flabdablet at 7:03 PM on September 24, 2007

There are people who have strong political objections to international adoptions. I am not one of them, so I'm not sure I can adequately explain the position, but it is something along the lines of that usually the families would prefer to keep the children only they can't afford to. I guess I'm just suggesting that you at least look up some of these viewpoints (there are a lot online) before you make that decision. Closer to home, open adoptions are pretty popular these days, and while I'm sure they can be challenging, they also seem to have a lot of benefits (like not wondering who the birth family is and why they chose to give up their child).
posted by lgyre at 7:11 PM on September 24, 2007

i totally support your impulse to adopt. you sound like you would be great parents. i've never adopted, but my parents facilitated the adoption of my cousin (my aunt had fertility problems) and it was a great choice for them. my cousin has, as an adult, met and become a part of her birth family as well, even inviting a birth sister to be a part of her wedding party. she considers her adoptive mother her "real" mother, but is very glad to have this other family (dysfunctional though they are) in her life.

from coworkers who have adopted or plan to adopt from abroad, the main problem is that the babies have some developmental delays due to their chaotic early days and perhaps overhwelmed or disorganized orphanages. this varies from country to country. you have to be prepared to basically bring a baby home with no or incorrect medical information. so that can be scary.

i might suggest that you could also look into adopting a harder-to-adopt child from your own community--usually an older minority child. they come with psychological baggage, but a lot of them mostly just need a lot of love and stability to catch up and flourish. also, siblings are hard to adopt out together, and that would be a real blessing. someone would have to share a room, but that's okay. you could probably find a baby/toddler combination, or toddler/young child combination who need a home.

if you aren't sure, how about adopting a teenager in your area? someone you could parent for a few years, and then ease into independence and a brighter future.

you guys are great. don't be afraid of making a wrong choice here--there are so many kids who need good homes, you'll be doing a world of good to anyone you bring into yours.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:20 PM on September 24, 2007

I second thinkingwoman - if you decide to go with adoption (which I think is a wonderful alternative), consider looking closer to home, and for children who might not be the "first choice."

I see that you are a pastor - could you reach out to your community and see if any families in it have adopted? You'll get a much clearer picture of what it's like, and if you do end up adopting, you can hopefully go back to them for advice if necessary.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 7:40 PM on September 24, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you all for this advice. Please keep it coming. It is what we are looking for.

One of the things we struggle with regarding domestic/local versus overseas adoption is that it somehow feel like we should be helping those with the greatest needs, and those with the greatest needs seem to be overseas.

I also should have mentioned that we are in the U.S. My apologies for assuming everyone would know that.

It sounds like we need to be open to the possibility that anyone we help is someone we have helped.

Again, many thanks for all this great input.
posted by 4ster at 7:55 PM on September 24, 2007

I am a birth mother of an adopted child and we have an open adoption. I don't have any insight on foreign adoption, but I can give you some information on domestic open adoption.

First, unless you are willing to adopt an older child (i.e., not a baby), be prepared to wait. My daughter's adoptive family waited a number of years before they were matched up with me. Her mom is a counselor who works with adoptive families, and she has told me that many families wait for a long time to adopt. However, special needs children and older children are generally more available, if you are willing to take on the challenges inherent with both of them, as mentioned above.

If you do go the open adoption route, be prepared. Take advantage of counseling if you can find a counselor in your area that deals with adoptive families. Open adoption is tough at times given the emotions involved, but it can also be wonderful. We have had a fantastic experience - I have a good relationship with my daughter and her parents. We see each other regularly and correspond often. In fact, my daughter is going to be the maid of honor at my upcoming wedding.

For what it's worth, we used Catholic Charities to facilitate the adoption. It is a Catholic organization, but you do not have to be of any specific denomination to use them - my daughter's parents are an interfaith couple.
posted by bedhead at 8:01 PM on September 24, 2007

Response by poster: bedhead, when you say "older," can you give me a ballpark on the age range? I guess what I am asking is what the younger side of older is (if that makes sense), so we have a better picture of what we are looking at.
posted by 4ster at 8:09 PM on September 24, 2007

My friends are in the process of adopting a Chinese baby, and it's been quite a long and expensive process, but they are about to be able to bring her home. She told me some of the requirements in order to adopt are getting stricter, for example, now a parent that wants to adopt can't have a BMI over 40! Here's a list of various countries' requirements.

Just an anecdotal example of adopting an "older" child. I worked for a wonderful man who was a pastor. He and his wife adopted three children -- two as infants, and one five-year-old. The five-year-old had been bounced in and out of foster homes before the adoption, and even with all their love and care, he was never able to form an attachment. As soon as he got close to them he got scared they would leave, and he pushed them away, sometimes even to the point of violence as he got older. He's now an adult, and they continue to love him, but at times have to tell him he can't come and visit because of fears that he might hurt the other son. I've overheard my former boss talking to many people who come to him with questions about adoption, and one of the first things he advises them is to adopt an infant so that the attachment issues don't develop.
posted by la petite marie at 8:39 PM on September 24, 2007

You sound pretty enthusiastic about adoption, so I'm wondering, what questions are you wrestling with? What's holding you back?

Adoption can be great, and it's of course fine to adopt your next child, but if you really, in your heart, want another biological child, that's fine too. (You and your wife haven't even had enough children to replace both of you yet.)

And if you do want to adopt the neediest child, that child is likely to be close to home and with many problems, and probably older. There are a lot of people happy to adopt babies from other countries, so I don't think they are as needy. It takes a strong family to adopt the mentally disturbed 6 year old, though.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:48 PM on September 24, 2007

There's a This American Life episode titled "Unconditional Love" featuring a segment about a couple that had adopted a child that had been in a Romanian orphanage. It turned out ok at the end, but they faced some incredible struggles because the child had attachment disorder. It was really interesting, and something to consider regarding older kids and foreign adoptions.
posted by Ostara at 8:52 PM on September 24, 2007

If you are looking for the children with the greatest needs, there are many, many children in the U.S. who have exceedingly great need for families. Most of the children who are eligible for adoption abroad are not the ones who are starving to death or dying; they are the ones who have been "rescued" and are languishing in orphanages and foster homes. They are clearly not well off, but they are fed, clothed, etc.

Similarly, there are children in the U.S. who are languishing in group homes and foster homes who, without your help, stand little or no hope of ever finding permanent families. These children, unlike children abroad, are available almost immediately (as soon as your family passes background and other checks of suitability).

Foster children in the U.S. are usually minorities, they are mostly older, and many have problems. The difference between these kids and foreign kids is that you can usually find out from domestic social workers what the nature of the children's problems are so that you can get them appropriate educational, emotional, and other assistance from the start instead of having to guess at what they will need. You also avoid the problem of removing a child from the country where he or she was born and transferring him or her to a new country and culture, which brings with it a lot of cultural and class baggage.

I would look not just at where the greatest need lies, but at where you can do the most good. Clearly, there are needier children in the developing world than in the U.S. However, adopting from the developing world doesn't help the very neediest children from those countries, and the very neediest children in the U.S. are available to be helped quite easily. I'm not telling you to choose one over the other; merely offering another perspective.
posted by decathecting at 9:08 PM on September 24, 2007

Response by poster: Margalo Epps: To answer your very good question, here is where we are:


Pros: All the joys of having a biological child: pregnancy, ultrasounds, first kicks, baby clothes, baby smell (the good one), all the firsts. The typical stuff.

Cons: Creating a life when there are children who have so little.


Pros: Giving a happy home to a child who quite possibly would not have had one otherwise.

Cons: The time it could take, the possible attachment problems, and the big concern, how all of this would affect our five-year-old, especially considering hwo she could go from first-born to youngest almost overnight.
posted by 4ster at 9:11 PM on September 24, 2007

I'm an adoptee, though domestic and so slightly more boring, har har. I'm the product of a closed adoption, and lived with foster parents until I was 7 weeks old. I'm still in touch with them. I have never attempted to make contact with or find out about my birth-parents, but plan to try in the near future.

Interestingly, I was indeed brought up by a pastor and wife in a nice little suburb. I'm very glad to have had caring adoptive parents, and I feel that they provided very well for me and my two (old-fashioned-way bio-born) younger siblings. However, I did feel pretty sheltered, and I've ended up a pretty sweet 180 from where the rest of my family is. Even as a little hippie pro-choice liberal, I do believe strongly in adoption and support it wherever I can. Definitely don't forget about domestic adoptions, as some above have said. It's easy to forget about the thousands of babies born right here that desperately need a loving home--especially special-needs children.

I just need to warn you... don't expect this child to follow in your footsteps in terms of faith. In fact, please don't force that on any of your children once they're old enough to make that choice themselves. I'm church-shy now because, as a PK, I literally HAD to make an "appearance" at church every Sunday or, according to my dad, the world would pretty much fall apart--or at least his reputation. I'm pretty resentful of that.

Also, it's easy for an adoptee to relate a lot of things back to being the "different" kid in the bunch. Especially within the family, I know it's incredibly hard to prevent, but try to avoid blatant inconsistencies or singling out, and emphasize that, even though they're not your actual genetic material, they mean just as much and more to you. Telling the story of the adoption from early on can facilitate this--"mommy and daddy were so excited when we got the call that we could take you home! We knew as soon as we saw you that you were ours forever and ever and we would always love you very much."

If you want to ask me questions at all, I'd be happy to answer. Contact's in the profile.
posted by rhoticity at 9:41 PM on September 24, 2007

4ster - from what I understand it can be anything from toddler on up. It varies. You might need to foster them first, or there may be adoption placements right away - but you'd have to start contacting adoption agencies to find out the situation in your area.

Also, to add to rhoticity's comment, my daughter's parents definitely made an effort to let her know how special she is - that they were excited to take her home, and that everyone involved wanted the best for her. She has known she was adopted her whole life, and it was presented to her as a positive thing. She was told how loved she was by all parties from the get-go.

It sounds like you and your wife aren't lacking in the "love to give" department, so I'm sure you'll do well, whatever you choose.
posted by bedhead at 10:07 PM on September 24, 2007

Cons: all of this would affect our five-year-old, especially considering how she could go from first-born to youngest almost overnight.

Oh, dear, please don't do this to your existing child. Even if the older child you might adopt is not one of the troubled ones who lashes out at other children around it, it seems very unfair to change birth order on your daughter when she is too young to understand or have any say in the matter. Sibling rivalry is tought enough on a first born without stacking the deck.
posted by Scram at 11:36 PM on September 24, 2007

My little sister is adopted (open adoption, American white infant) and has reactive attachment disorder. It's basically unrelated to her adoption, rather the outcome of her adoptive mother's (my stepfather's first wife) declining health and terminal illness while her primary caregiver. By which I mean to say, shit happens. She's a wonderful, loving girl with a faint urge to run and join the circus. Don't let the bogeyman of RAD dissuade you the least little bit from adopting, I ask you.

Will you regret never adopting? Maybe. Will you regret never having your own baby? You already have. After this kid, however begotten, you can take another whack at it. Adopt. Share your love with those who need it. I really think it's the Christian thing to do.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:48 PM on September 24, 2007

Wow, I could not disagree with Scram more. Sibling relationships build character, blended families are beautiful, and five year olds should not cannot have say over your family building. It's as if Scram is unfamiliar with what love within a family has to do with your child's welfare.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:55 PM on September 24, 2007

My beautiful little Chinese monkey (or is she a bunny rabbit today?) makes me happy and proud every day. We travelled to China in a group of 6 families who were all adopting, and not one of those girls was not utterly fantastic and a gorgeous little someone you'd love to share your life with.
posted by Wolof at 12:05 AM on September 25, 2007

And yes, I am a total bore on this subject. But it's love, man.
posted by Wolof at 12:10 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have no expertise in the area of adopting a child older than your bio-kid, but I share Scram's instinct. Adjusting to a new sibling will be enough of a change without your firstborn suddenly no longer being the oldest. I'd want to do a lot of research before I went down that road. And, truth be told, if you are going to adopt a kid that old anyway, what's the rush? Wait until your daughter will be at least a couple of years older than the new kid. This has nothing to do with giving her say over your family decisions (although I'd give my kid a voice) it has to do with making the most prudent decision.

Another social justice minded pastor here, with a daughter, who is also looking into adoption. Nice to have a kindred spirit here.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:25 AM on September 25, 2007

The genetic thing and the replacing-yourself thing are both worth touching on. In a world with six and a half billion people in it already, the chances of any of your genes going missing from the gene pool are negligible, even if you have no children at all; and with a world population that's already at least twice as big as it should be, and tipped not to stop rising until we get to about triple that again, the idea that each of us has a moral obligation or even a right to replace ourselves just doesn't stand up to thinking through.

There are countless existing children who could really use a good upbringing, and it has long seemed to me that the stark fact of that trumps any argument in favour of reproduction.

Our first foster arrived when he was 12. He's about to turn 16, and we now have permanent care (which makes us, rather than the Department of Human Services, legal guardians). We may soon be joined by a two year old girl, possibly for the long term.

I don't know that there's much to be gained by looking for children from places far from where you live. Every child in need is a child in need, regardless of how many other nearby children are also in need. The heartbreaking truth is that the two of you are only going to be able to provide a loving, stable family environment for a small number of children, and I can assure you that you will have no trouble finding more kids than you could possibly help anywhere you look.
posted by flabdablet at 1:29 AM on September 25, 2007

One of the things we struggle with regarding domestic/local versus overseas adoption is that it somehow feel like we should be helping those with the greatest needs, and those with the greatest needs seem to be overseas.
If you really want to help those children far away, you could consider sending a lot of money to them. There are many issues surrounding international adoption, like Igyre said. Often those mothers would love to keep their babies, if only they had the money. If you could make sure they had more money, you would do more good than by what effectively boils down to buying their child.

If you do plan to go the international route, make sure to find an excellent agency. Recently there was some uproar in my country about agencies that everyone thought to be great, that turned out to steal children from poor mothers who had no intention of giving up their child for adoption.

Also consider that there are many people who want to adopt a child from Canado or the US. There is, apparently, even a baby shortage.

I agree with everyone else that if doing good is what you are after, consider a difficult-to-place child. But be good to your five year old as well.

And I am sure you know this, but I want to stress it anyway: make sure you do not have any expectations of the adopted child. If your highest motivation is not just doing good, but doing the greatest good, finding a child that is even more in need of your care than other orphans, you may be disappointed if the child fails to appreciate all that you did for him/her.
posted by davar at 2:32 AM on September 25, 2007

Perfection is the enemy of good. Any one of the options you suggest are great. Ignore anyone who suggests that instead of doing good deed A, you should instead do better deed B.

If you wanted a dog, and adopted one from the shelter, only an idiot would look down on you for not adopting a pit bull with one leg that hates people and pees on the rug because that one has greater need.

Yet people suggest that other people (that's key) should bypass well run international adoption programs and instead try to find a foster child, ideally one who has been through a couple of homes already and likes to play with matches. Your call on how to treat those opinions.

If you do choose to become a conspicious family, you should start cultivating a bad attitude now. No matter what you do, some total stranger is going to tell you that you made the wrong choice. You should develop your devastating put downs now.

As far as the five year old goes: no idea. A bunch of people on our China group brought big sisters (usually 1st adoptees), but I remember 1 bio kid. They seemed to dig the trip and liked being a part of the process.
posted by mrbugsentry at 7:13 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I know lots of people who are adopted (I'm one of them!) and have adopted both domestic and international. The vast majority of them have been extremely happy with the experience.
posted by drezdn at 7:31 AM on September 25, 2007

mrbugsentry, I see what you are saying, but the BIG difference between the dog analogy and adoption is that there actually seems to be a baby shortage. There is no shortage of dogs in shelters, as far as I know. And even still, if someone would say that they want to adopt the dog that needs it the most, I am sure people would tell him to adopt the one-legged aggressive pit bull indeed.

The OP actually asks for our opinion on adoption, and says himself that he wants to adopt the child that needs it the most, whatever that means. People in this thread are just answering his questions and responding to what the OP said.

Not long ago there was a big story in the Dutch media about an Indian child that was abducted and later adopted by Dutch parents. When the Indian parents found out that the kid was not dead, they (of course) wanted him back. This was a very well run agency, not some scam. Experts said that these kind of things are inevitable and that the agency did nothing wrong.

When I read about that drama I came across Transracial Abductees. I have no idea about the site or organization, but I think that if you are planning on adoption, it would be a good idea to be as informed as possible, and therefore to read viewpoints of people you disagree with.
posted by davar at 8:26 AM on September 25, 2007

I have two biological children and one adopted baby. We chose domestic infant adoption, and adopted transracially. The baby was drug-exposed.

When we were researching adoption, it seemed to me that each option carried risks, and you have to decide which risks you're willing to take. I personally found the idea of having matched with a baby or child in a foreign country and then having to wait _months_ to take custody, knowing the baby might be getting sub-optimcal care all that time, unbearable. We adopted in a state where there is no revocation period after the birthmother surrenders her rights, in part because I also found the idea of brining a baby home and then having the birthmother reclaim her horrible to contemplate.

I also wasn't willing to take the risks of adopting through foster care, because of the responsibility I felt I had to my existing children. If I were to adopt a non-infant, I would not violate birth order, in part because I imagine that it would be even more disruptive to an existing child than a younger child adoption and in part because of the risk of abuse re-enactment on the part of kids adopted through foster care.

I'm seconding the person who says not to listen to people who tell you you have an obligation to adopt, or to adopt through foster care rather than some other route. Having a baby is a good thing; adopting is good thing. In fact, that's part of your problem--it's hard to decide between various good options!

Oh, to davar: there's only really a _white_ baby shortage in the US. I chose transracial adoption after I read an article in the Christian Science Monitor about European couples coming to the US to adopt black and hispanic babies, because the US allows placement immediately after birth.

You know, for us, though, we used our rational brains to choose which type of adoption to pursue, but we used something else--intuition? leadings?--to decide on adoption rather than a third biological child. In our case, we were trying for a third bio baby, and realized after the second failed attempt that we were actually relieved not to be pregnant--that helped us decide. This question is set up perfectly to hear a hundred different opinions, because there is no right answer to a question like this. Maybe hearing all those opinions will be helpful; for me, it was more helpful to listen to my own heart, and to the voice of God as best I could interpret it.
posted by not that girl at 8:39 AM on September 25, 2007

When I adopted my second child from Moscow, I saw all the other kids at the orphanage and really wished I could have afforded to adopt another! And another, and another, and another ...

About two years prior to that, I had adopted my daughter from Moscow. I had grown accustomed to being a dad and to devoting my love and attention to her. The thing I struggled with in adopting the 2nd child was how it would affect all the relationship dynamics, whether I would feel as much love for my son as I did for my daughter, whether my love for my daughter would diminish, and how my daughter would feel about sharing her parents with a brother.

All my worries were for naught as my son is an integral part of the family. We wouldn't be the same without him. And from my daughter's viewpoint, she has a playmate, a confidant, a friend and a brother.

Another advantage of adopting an older child is that your daughter can get a brother or sister close to her in age.
posted by indigo4963 at 8:53 AM on September 25, 2007

Ambrosia Voyeur wrote: It's as if Scram is unfamiliar with what love within a family has to do with your child's welfare.

On the contrary, it is the case that Scram is all too familiar with the difficulties children face when parents make extreme lifestyle choices. It is very easy for me to put myself in the place of a child whose world is about to turn upside down, and anytime I see an opportunity to speak out on behalf of a child, I will. Love has nothing to do with it. Sometimes loving people with good intentions do things that are really hard for others to live with.
posted by Scram at 10:19 PM on September 25, 2007

I have no experience with this, but since you're looking for opinions, I agree with many that adopting is a wonderful idea. I myself would love to offer a nice life to a child who needs one.

Unfortunately I have this hangup with wanting to create a life, continue the line, etc, but I've always believed that if I have even a little trouble getting pregnant, I'll stop bothering with that and start filling out adoption papers immediately. So my feeling is that if you have no nagging need to procreate again, go for adoption if you can!
posted by iguanapolitico at 7:36 PM on September 26, 2007

Why not start researching agencies and countries? Start the process and see where it leads you. That's what a colleague of my husband did. They were sort of vacillating between bio and adopt and they did a bit of research, chose an agency, and 18 months later had their son at home with them. All the pieces seemed to fall into place for them, I think because they were open to following whatever path was laid out for them.

And, no matter how the second child comes into the family, your five-year-old will feel different. If you help her sort out her feelings and guide her, she'll likely feel enriched and happy that she has a sibling.
posted by cooker girl at 1:24 PM on September 27, 2007

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