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4 Worlds of Adoption October 7, 2006

Posted by fajita in Adoption, Family Science.

If you aren’t adopted or know someone who is, then you might not think much about adoption. However, if you are adopted or have adopted a child, then you think about it quite a bit.

I’ve had several conversations with people over the past few weeks who have adopted children are are themselve adopted. These conversations are powerful. I am moved when I hear people speak of their adoption experiences.

So, let’s have a little intro to the 4 worlds of adoption. The following are in no specific order and are not actually comprehensive, but do cover the majority of types of adoptions.  The following categories are borrowed from a paper written by Harold D. Grotevant entitled, “Openness in Adoption: Re-Thinking “Family” in the United States.”

World1: Domestic infant adoption – This is the kind of adoptioin in which an American couple or individual adopts an infant. This kind of adoption is decreasing in frequency as compared to past decades as there are fewer infants available in the U.S. for adoption.

World 2: International Infant Adoption – This is the kind of adoption in which an American couple or individual adopts an infant from another country. It doesn’t take much imagination to realize that there might be some challenges for the family and the adopted child as he or she ages. There is an increasing frequency of international infant adoption.

World 3: Foster care Adoption – When a couple or individual adopts a child who has been in foster care. Since children arrive in foster care for a number of reasons, most of which can be traumatic for the child, these adoptions pose a number of different kinds of challenges as compared to other adoption arrangements.

World 4: Stepfamily Adoption – When a stepparent adopts a stepchild. Now, in order for this kind of adoption to occur, there are some antecedents. Death of a bio parent, relinquishing or parental rights or somenhing like that. In just about every way possible, there was a loss experienced by the child.

Here’s another little piece of the adoption world. 20,000 American children age out of the foster care system. Think about it, 20,000 18 year olds transitin from foster care to “real life” without anyone to call family. Granted the foster parents might be considered family, there is a difference between fostering a child and adopting one.

I have a growing respect for the complexities, challenges, and heroic efforts that make up adoption.

Anyone out there have an adoption story they don’t mind sharing with the loyal dozens who gather here?


1. Marc - October 9, 2006


As you may remember, my younger sister was adopted from Seoul, South Korea. She was about three years old when we drove to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport to meet her incoming flight. I don’t remember that day, but I do remember meeting with a judge in chambers to get the adoption papers signed.

We had a sometimes difficult relationship through the years and I think it would be hard to trace the causes, but I don’t think it had much to do with the fact that she was adopted. I was certainly a nicer and better brother to my older sister. I am thankful my younger sister had such a big heart and had already forgiven me by the time I was smart enough to ask for forgiveness.

She was stirred into the melting pot and was a typical American girl. She has never expressed an interest to me in meeting her real parents or returning to visit her homeland.

My wife and I are considering foster child adoption. We have a six-month old boy and IN OUR OPINION AND FOR US it seems selfish to have more children naturally when there are so many children in our own country and throughout the world who need parents. (I capitalize IN OUR OPINION AND FOR US so I don’t get hate mail from couples with four children).

2. Mark - October 9, 2006


I just wanted to put my 2 cents worth into the discussion. Concerning the domestic infant adoption, one reason for the decline might be the laws that are on the books regarding the rights of the birth family. You might be able to enlighten me on the latest laws, but when I was in high school one of the elders, where I was a member, adopted an infant from a neighboring state. When he (the child) was ~2 yo, the mother petitioned the state of birth for a return of custody and it was granted. This decision set off a battle between neightboring states, because neither would budge. The family could not visit their relatives in this state for fear of being arrested and/or losing their adopted son. It was awful and extremely hard on the family. They were forever changed. I remeber as a HS student marching on the capital in support of the adoption family. Anyway, I hope that they have changed this process.

3. TCS - October 9, 2006

well, we have started the process to adopt a daughter from China. I have posted a bit about that, but will do more as we move along the process. your name came up this weekend as we all made blog connections at Zoe.

4. Donna - October 9, 2006

I have no adoption stories…but I did miss you at Zoe.

And there are 32 other subscribers on my Blogline feed to you…..

But, I do see many of the foster kids and kids in the home we support who are dumped into the system without much of a support system under them. It is a sad situation.

5. Char - October 9, 2006

I’m a lurker, coming out to add my story.

My son (who is now 4 1/2) was 2 1/2 months old when we adopted him (domestic infant adoption) through a wonderful agency in Nebraska. Nebraska Children’s Home is one of the only agencies in America that doesn’t charge for adoption, and ONLY adopts to couples who live in Nebraska. We have an open adoption with Samuel’s birth mom, and we visit by phone, email, and in person visits (about once a year).

Our family story has since become long and complicated, but the adoption story itself was full of “God-incidences”. We had gone through a 2 year process of being approved, (normally takes 8-10 months, but we were slow), and then after our approval, we only waited 2 months before getting “the phone call”. We found out on a Thursday that a Birthmom liked our bio and wanted to meet us. The next day, we met with her and the social worker and found out that Samuel had been born 2 months prior. They gave us a picture of a beautiful, beautiful baby boy, and I just cried and cried.

So, the “God-incidences”… she had tried to parent him, but after 6 weeks had decided that she could not do it. If she had tried to place him for adoption when he was born, she would never have met us – as we weren’t approved until AFTER he was born. The fact that she waited… meant we were in the “pool” of possible adotive couples. But, it doesn’t stop there.

During her pregnancy, she had begun worshiping with a Church of Christ, and had been baptized. When she decided she couldn’t parent Samuel, she had asked for help from an older couple in the congregation. They took him into their home at 6 weeks old, and helped her find Nebraska Children’s Home. When she had filled out paperwork about what she was looking for in an adoptive couple, she stipulated that she wanted a Church of Christ couple. In over 120 couples, my husband and I were the only cofc couple.

There is more, but the main point – on May 13, 2002, she signed the paperwork, and we brought Samuel home. An amazing, amazing story, that still makes me cry.

Life took a few twists and turns, and I am no longer married to Samuel’s dad. But, God made all things good, through an incredibly difficult situation. When Samuel was 2 1/2, I married a wonderful man, who hasn’t adopted Samuel legally (as my ex-husband wouldn’t stand for that), but has “adopted” him in every other way. Samuel is too young to understand much of it yet, and I know we are in for lots of conversations, and possible issues, as he learns about his history. So far he is a an amazing, wonderful, sensitive, and incredibly inquisitive kiddo, and I pray every day that we can show him God’s love, so no matter what, he never doubts WHO he is and WHOSE he is.

Whew.. major hi-jack from a long-time lurker! I look forward to reading other comments. Thanks for the chance to share!

6. Keith Brenton - October 10, 2006

Both of our children (from World #1) are gifts of God – in fact, Matthew’s very name reflects that. They’re not perfect. They have anger issues. They quarrel. One of them is struggling in school, and socially.

In short, normal wonderful kids.

And this week, when they cleaned their rooms, they came up with a whole drawer full of mostly-McDonald’s toys for toddlers and other little ones who visit the church office where I work.

Only one of a long and boring (to others) list of reasons why I think they’re the greatest and why I’m so proud of them.

7. Randy Vaughn - October 10, 2006

Kelly and I are in the process of adopting a beautiful little girl, Kadi Lael (kay-dee lay-el)….we live in Benin, West Africa! We are ACU grads and both American missionaries, but the wife of one of our pastoral leaders died from complications from her C-section (a common story here). After a month of lots of praying (us and him), the pastor asked if we could raise his daughter. You see, he’s got polio and was overwhelmed at the task of raising a newborn PLUS his other 3 children (obviously his wife was hugely significant in their child raising responsibilities). So even though we had never considered adoption (plus, our 3rd biological is just 6 months older than Kadi Lael), we are so blessed. We are still navigating the adoption procedures here in Benin (we’ve raised her since she was a month old; now she is almost 15 months old and such a part of our family!) When I was in grad school at ACU in 1996, Kelly got a job to support our family…”just happened” to be at Christian Homes of Abilene (now Christian Homes and Family Services). Now a decade later, we are rejoined with this wonderful group of adoption advocates to satisfy all the necessary requirements so that one day soon (when we phase out of our work here in Africa), we’ll be able to immigrate our daughter into the U.S. Do we contemplate “issues” ? YES! Even our 8 year old said, “do you think the kids in American schools will make fun of me for having an African sister?” Honest thought! We are trying to think how we can integrate ourselves into the lives of other people who also have similar stories…not too many people out there, though, who will have an adopted child from Africa. But do we need to intentionally integrate with families who have (adopted or biological) children who are African American? Do we be sensitive to her difference (skin, hair style, etc) and put her around other black girls? Or do we have to be so “race” conscious and just have her interact with WHOMEVER we interact with (not making it a racial thing). Her “culture” will be the culture she is raised in inside our home…even now, while living in Africa, she is by far more American in her clothes, food, toys, interaction with parents, etc…than she is African. Anyway, just some questions I’m pondering on your blog!
Thanks for asking……..
-Randy Vaughn

8. jb - October 11, 2006

My paternal grandfather had a wife when he was in China but she could not conceive. Due to the harsh economic environment, many people left Southern China to find work and food. My grandfather went to Malaysia. In fear of losing my grandfather, the wife in China adopted a boy to make herself more legitimate to her husband. But my grandfather ended up settling in a village in Malaysia and married my grandmother. In addition to their own children, they adopted a boy and a girl domestically from a neighboring village. The adopted girl came from a family of siblings with Schizophrenia, and so she became psychotic at around 16 and suffered greatly through poor mental-health treatment until her death at around 40.

My father only had boys, and decided to adopt a girl domestically, and so we became a bi-gendered siblingry!

All of my life, I have heard about my paternal grandfather’s home in China, and came across a website on adopting children from the VERY village that my grandfather came from. I am very open to considering adopting a child from that village since my wife cannot bear the possibility of going through another harsh pregnancy.

Adoptions can run in families, and international and domestic variations can start to look a little circular when you consider how migratory and global our world is now.

That is my story… or my family’s story. Tune in next generation to hear more.

9. Links of the week (an odd mix this round) « The Time Has Come - October 21, 2006

[…] Chris Gonzales writes about the 4 Worlds of Adoption. (seven of my own siblings are adopted, by the way) […]

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