Identity is defined both by what one is and what one is not. Adoptees born into one family lose an identity and then borrow one from the adopting family. The formation of identity is a complicated process and there are many factors that affect its outcome. From a perspective of looking at issues in adoption circumstances, the people involved and affected by adoption (the biological parent, the adoptive parent and the adoptee) can be known as the "triad members and state". Adoption may threaten triad members' sense of identity. Triad members often express feelings related to confused identity and identity crises because of differences between the triad relationships. Adoption, for some, precludes a complete or integrated sense of self. Triad members may experience themselves as incomplete, deficient, or unfinished. They state that they lack feelings of well-being, integration, or solidity associated with a fully developed identity.[129]
Adoptions can occur either between related family members, or unrelated individuals. Historically, most adoptions occurred within a family. The most recent data from the U.S. indicates about half of adoptions are currently between related individuals.[78] A common example of this is a "stepparent adoption", where the new partner of a parent may legally adopt a child from the parent's previous relationship. Intra-family adoption can also occur through surrender, as a result of parental death, or when the child cannot otherwise be cared for and a family member agrees to take over.

Psychologists' findings regarding the importance of early mother-infant bonding created some concern about whether parents who adopt older infants or toddlers after birth have missed some crucial period for the child's development. However, research on The Mental and Social Life of Babies suggested that the "parent-infant system," rather than a bond between biologically related individuals, is an evolved fit between innate behavior patterns of all human infants and equally evolved responses of human adults to those infant behaviors. Thus nature "ensures some initial flexibility with respect to the particular adults who take on the parental role."[96]

The language of adoption is changing and evolving, and since the 1970s has been a controversial issue tied closely to adoption reform efforts. The controversy arises over the use of terms which, while designed to be more appealing or less offensive to some persons affected by adoption, may simultaneously cause offense or insult to others. This controversy illustrates the problems in adoption, as well as the fact that coining new words and phrases to describe ancient social practices will not necessarily alter the feelings and experiences of those affected by them. Two of the contrasting sets of terms are commonly referred to as positive adoption language (PAL) (sometimes called respectful adoption language (RAL)), and honest adoption language (HAL).


The adoptee population does, however, seem to be more at risk for certain behavioral issues. Researchers from the University of Minnesota studied adolescents who had been adopted and found that adoptees were twice as likely as non-adopted people to suffer from oppositional defiant disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (with an 8% rate in the general population).[135] Suicide risks were also significantly greater than the general population. Swedish researchers found both international and domestic adoptees undertook suicide at much higher rates than non-adopted peers; with international adoptees and female international adoptees, in particular, at highest risk.[136]
Infant adoption during Antiquity appears rare.[4][7] Abandoned children were often picked up for slavery[8] and composed a significant percentage of the Empire's slave supply.[9][10] Roman legal records indicate that foundlings were occasionally taken in by families and raised as a son or daughter. Although not normally adopted under Roman Law, the children, called alumni, were reared in an arrangement similar to guardianship, being considered the property of the father who abandoned them.[11]

Infertility is the main reason parents seek to adopt children they are not related to. One study shows this accounted for 80% of unrelated infant adoptions and half of adoptions through foster care.[79] Estimates suggest that 11–24% of Americans who cannot conceive or carry to term attempt to build a family through adoption, and that the overall rate of ever-married American women who adopt is about 1.4%.[80][81] Other reasons people adopt are numerous although not well documented. These may include wanting to cement a new family following divorce or death of one parent, compassion motivated by religious or philosophical conviction, to avoid contributing to overpopulation out of the belief that it is more responsible to care for otherwise parent-less children than to reproduce, to ensure that inheritable diseases (e.g., Tay–Sachs disease) are not passed on, and health concerns relating to pregnancy and childbirth. Although there are a range of possible reasons, the most recent study of experiences of women who adopt suggests they are most likely to be 40–44 years of age, currently married, have impaired fertility, and childless.[82]

The research literature states adoptees give four reasons for desiring reunion: 1) they wish for a more complete genealogy, 2) they are curious about events leading to their conception, birth, and relinquishment, 3) they hope to pass on information to their children, and 4) they have a need for a detailed biological background, including medical information. It is speculated by adoption researchers, however, that the reasons given are incomplete: although such information could be communicated by a third-party, interviews with adoptees, who sought reunion, found they expressed a need to actually meet biological relations.[167]
Save 5% when you buy online and pickup in-store. Offer valid online only. Transaction total is prior to taxes & after discounts are applied. Offer valid on select merchandise when choosing In-Store Pickup. Savings will automatically reflect in the shopping cart with the purchase of qualifying merchandise. Maximum value $150. Offer not valid on gift cards, gift certificates, previous purchases, charitable donations and may exclude all or select items from the following brands: Adaptil®, Advantage®, Advantus™, Andis®, API®, Applaws®, Aqueon®, ARM & HAMMER™, Bayer, Benebone®, Blue Buffalo®, Brown's® Tropical Carnival®, Burt's Bees®, CANIDAE®, Capstar™, carefresh®, Castor & Pollux, Catit®, Cesar®, Charlee Bear®, Cheristin™, Chuckit!®, Cloud Star®, CRAVE™, DESIGNING HEALTH, DR. ELSEY'S® Precious Cat, DURAFORCE®, Eukanuba®, Fancy Feast®, Feliway®, flexi®, Fluval®, Free Spirit®, FRONTLINE®, FURminator®, Glandex®, GREENIES®, HALO®, Hikari, Hill's® Science Diet®, Himalayan Dog Chew®, Iams®, Jackson Galaxy®, JW Pet®, K9 Advantix®, KAYTEE®, KONG®, Kurgo®, Lafeber's®, Litter Genie™, Manna Pro, Merrick®, MILK-BONE®, Muse®, Natural Balance®, Naturally Fresh®, NATURE'S RECIPE®, Nature's Variety® Instinct®, NaturVet®, Nite Ize®, Nulo, NUTRO® ULTRA™, NUTRO® MAX CAT®, NUTRO® MAX®, NUTRO™, Nylabone®, Old Mother Hubbard®, Omega™, Outward Hound®, Oxbow™, PawZ®, PEDIGREE®, Pet Corrector™, PetArmor®, Petmate®, PetSafe®, PetSafe® Drinkwell®, PetSafe® ScoopFree®, Petstages®, Plato®, PureBites®, Purina® ONE®, Purina® Beyond®, Purina® Friskies®, Purina® Pro Plan®, Purina® Yesterday's News®, Rachael Ray™ Nutrish®, Redbarn, Royal Canin®, Seachem, SENTRY®, Seresto®, SHEBA®, Simple Solution®, Skout's Honor®, Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy™, Solid Gold®, Starmark®, Temptations™, The Missing Link®, ThunderShirt®, TropiClean®, True Chews®, TUFFY®, Vet's Best®, Virbac®, Vitakraft®, Vittles Vault®, Wellness®, WHIMZEES™, Whole Earth Farms®, WORLD'S BEST, ZOO MED™, Zuke's®, ZuPreem® Offer may not be combined with other promotional offers or discounts. Terms and conditions of this offer are subject to change at the sole discretion of PetSmart. Offer valid on PetSmart.com through November 22, 2019 @ 6:30 am EST.
Adoption is the legal process through which a child joins a family different from his or her birth parents. Adoption is a permanent, lifelong commitment to a child. In CPS cases, adoption becomes an option if CPS and the child's birth parents cannot resolve issues that made it unsafe for the child to live at home. Then, CPS may ask the court to end the parents' rights to the child and place the child with another family permanently. A child can also become legally free for adoption if both birth parents agree to give up their parental rights.
Ad hoc studies, performed in the U.S., however, suggest that between 10 and 25 percent of adoptions through the child welfare system (e.g., excluding babies adopted from other countries or stepparents adopting their stepchildren) disrupt before they are legally finalized and from 1 to 10 percent are dissolved after legal finalization. The wide range of values reflects the paucity of information on the subject and demographic factors such as age; it is known that teenagers are more prone to having their adoptions disrupted than young children.[91]
Previous research on adoption has led to assumptions that indicate that there is a heightened risk in terms of psychological development and social relationships for adoptees. Yet, such assumptions have been clarified as flawed due to methodological failures. But more recent studies have been supportive in indicating more accurate information and results about the similarities, differences and overall lifestyles of adoptees.[125]
This system of apprenticeship and informal adoption extended into the 19th century, today seen as a transitional phase for adoption history. Under the direction of social welfare activists, orphan asylums began to promote adoptions based on sentiment rather than work; children were placed out under agreements to provide care for them as family members instead of under contracts for apprenticeship.[21] The growth of this model is believed to have contributed to the enactment of the first modern adoption law in 1851 by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, unique in that it codified the ideal of the "best interests of the child."[22][23] Despite its intent, though, in practice, the system operated much the same as earlier incarnations. The experience of the Boston Female Asylum (BFA) is a good example, which had up to 30% of its charges adopted out by 1888.[24] Officials of the BFA noted that, although the asylum promoted otherwise, adoptive parents did not distinguish between indenture and adoption; "We believe," the asylum officials said, "that often, when children of a younger age are taken to be adopted, the adoption is only another name for service."[25]
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The practice of closed adoption (aka confidential or secret adoption),[74] which has not been the norm for most of modern history,[75] seals all identifying information, maintaining it as secret and preventing disclosure of the adoptive parents', biological kins', and adoptees' identities. Nevertheless, closed adoption may allow the transmittal of non-identifying information such as medical history and religious and ethnic background.[76] Today, as a result of safe haven laws passed by some U.S. states, secret adoption is seeing renewed influence. In so-called "safe-haven" states, infants can be left, anonymously, at hospitals, fire departments, or police stations within a few days of birth, a practice criticized by some adoption advocacy organizations as being retrograde and dangerous.[77]

In some countries, such as the United States, "Homecoming Day" is the day when an adoptee is officially united with their new adoptive family.[196] In some adoptive families, this day marks an especially important event and is celebrated annually from thereafter. The term Gotcha Day is also used to refer to this day. Many adopted people and birth parents find this term to be offensive.


Europe's cultural makeover marked a period of significant innovation for adoption. Without support from the nobility, the practice gradually shifted toward abandoned children. Abandonment levels rose with the fall of the empire and many of the foundlings were left on the doorstep of the Church.[18] Initially, the clergy reacted by drafting rules to govern the exposing, selling, and rearing of abandoned children. The Church's innovation, however, was the practice of oblation, whereby children were dedicated to lay life within monastic institutions and reared within a monastery. This created the first system in European history in which abandoned children did not have legal, social, or moral disadvantages. As a result, many of Europe's abandoned and orphaned children became alumni of the Church, which in turn took the role of adopter. Oblation marks the beginning of a shift toward institutionalization, eventually bringing about the establishment of the foundling hospital and orphanage.[18]
"Honest Adoption Language" refers to a set of terms that proponents say reflect the point of view that: (1) family relationships (social, emotional, psychological or physical) that existed prior to the legal adoption often continue past this point or endure in some form despite long periods of separation, and that (2) mothers who have "voluntarily surrendered" children to adoption (as opposed to involuntary terminations through court-authorized child-welfare proceedings) seldom view it as a choice that was freely made, but instead describe scenarios of powerlessness, lack of resources, and overall lack of choice.[187][188] It also reflects the point of view that the term "birth mother" is derogatory in implying that the woman has ceased being a mother after the physical act of giving birth. Proponents of HAL liken this to the mother being treated as a "breeder" or "incubator".[189] Terms included in HAL include terms that were used before PAL, including "natural mother," "first mother," and "surrendered for adoption."

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Social workers and other professionals in the field of adoption began changing terms of use to reflect what was being expressed by the parties involved. In 1979, Marietta Spencer wrote "The Terminology of Adoption" for The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA),[184] which was the basis for her later work "Constructive Adoption Terminology".[185] This influenced Pat Johnston's "Positive Adoption Language" (PAL) and "Respectful Adoption Language" (RAL).[186] The terms contained in "Positive Adoption Language" include the terms "birth mother" (to replace the terms "natural mother" and "real mother"), and "placing" (to replace the term "surrender"). These kinds of recommendations encouraged people to be more aware of their use of adoption terminology.
Save 5% when you buy online and pickup in-store. Offer valid online only. Transaction total is prior to taxes & after discounts are applied. Offer valid on select merchandise when choosing In-Store Pickup. Savings will automatically reflect in the shopping cart with the purchase of qualifying merchandise. Maximum value $150. Offer not valid on gift cards, gift certificates, previous purchases, charitable donations and may exclude all or select items from the following brands: Adaptil®, Advantage®, Advantus™, Andis®, API®, Applaws®, Aqueon®, ARM & HAMMER™, Bayer, Benebone®, Blue Buffalo®, Brown's® Tropical Carnival®, Burt's Bees®, CANIDAE®, Capstar™, carefresh®, Castor & Pollux, Catit®, Cesar®, Charlee Bear®, Cheristin™, Chuckit!®, Cloud Star®, CRAVE™, DESIGNING HEALTH, DR. ELSEY'S® Precious Cat, DURAFORCE®, Eukanuba®, Fancy Feast®, Feliway®, flexi®, Fluval®, Free Spirit®, FRONTLINE®, FURminator®, Glandex®, GREENIES®, HALO®, Hikari, Hill's® Science Diet®, Himalayan Dog Chew®, Iams®, Jackson Galaxy®, JW Pet®, K9 Advantix®, KAYTEE®, KONG®, Kurgo®, Lafeber's®, Litter Genie™, Manna Pro, Merrick®, MILK-BONE®, Muse®, Natural Balance®, Naturally Fresh®, NATURE'S RECIPE®, Nature's Variety® Instinct®, NaturVet®, Nite Ize®, Nulo, NUTRO® ULTRA™, NUTRO® MAX CAT®, NUTRO® MAX®, NUTRO™, Nylabone®, Old Mother Hubbard®, Omega™, Outward Hound®, Oxbow™, PawZ®, PEDIGREE®, Pet Corrector™, PetArmor®, Petmate®, PetSafe®, PetSafe® Drinkwell®, PetSafe® ScoopFree®, Petstages®, Plato®, PureBites®, Purina® ONE®, Purina® Beyond®, Purina® Friskies®, Purina® Pro Plan®, Purina® Yesterday's News®, Rachael Ray™ Nutrish®, Redbarn, Royal Canin®, Seachem, SENTRY®, Seresto®, SHEBA®, Simple Solution®, Skout's Honor®, Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy™, Solid Gold®, Starmark®, Temptations™, The Missing Link®, ThunderShirt®, TropiClean®, True Chews®, TUFFY®, Vet's Best®, Virbac®, Vitakraft®, Vittles Vault®, Wellness®, WHIMZEES™, Whole Earth Farms®, WORLD'S BEST, ZOO MED™, Zuke's®, ZuPreem® Offer may not be combined with other promotional offers or discounts. Terms and conditions of this offer are subject to change at the sole discretion of PetSmart. Offer valid on PetSmart.com through November 22, 2019 @ 6:30 am EST.

Now it happens that some people are interested in the welfare and high development of the human race; but leaving aside those exceptional people, all fathers and mothers are interested in the welfare of their own families. The dearest thing to the parental heart is to have the children marry well and rear a noble family. How short-sighted it is then for such a family to take into its midst a child whose pedigree is absolutely unknown; or, where, if it were partially known, the probabilities are strong that it would show poor and diseased stock, and that if a marriage should take place between that individual and any member of the family the offspring would be degenerates.[39]
The research literature states adoptees give four reasons for desiring reunion: 1) they wish for a more complete genealogy, 2) they are curious about events leading to their conception, birth, and relinquishment, 3) they hope to pass on information to their children, and 4) they have a need for a detailed biological background, including medical information. It is speculated by adoption researchers, however, that the reasons given are incomplete: although such information could be communicated by a third-party, interviews with adoptees, who sought reunion, found they expressed a need to actually meet biological relations.[167]
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