“We don’t get why adoption takes so long?” they asked. A childless couple who just finished unsuccessful fertility treatments, they contacted Abrazo hoping to hear there were plenty of babies readily available. They were surprised to learn that their adoption wait to match or place could be 6-12 months. (Or maybe even longer, depending on their expectations.)
Learning that the adoption process entails a lot of paperwork and waiting was definitely discouraging. They knew adoption could be costly. But they’d figured the change in abortion laws had probably “flooded the market” with adoptable newborns? That, as any adoption professional can tell you, is not the case in the US these days– even if most politicians expected a different outcome. Adopting an infant is a slower process now than ever before. And adoption agencies, adoption attorneys and adoption consultants owe it to prospective adopters to be honest about this. (Even though it isn’t what anybody wants to hear.)
Why adoption takes so long is a multi-faceted question, with many different possible answers…
#1: baby fever
The biggest reason why adoption takes so long is because the vast majority of people seeking to adopt want only infants or babies– and less than 1% of women release newborns for adoption these days. And by most estimates, there are 1-2 million people seeking to adopt in the USA, so the demand far outpaces the number of available babies. There are thousands of children available to be adopted through state foster care systems across America. However, most are older children, sibling groups or children with medical issues. Although these children have already been legally released for adoption and the costs of their adoptions are subsidized by taxpayers, most prospective adoptive parents want to adopt healthy babies only. As a result, every year, more American teens age out of foster care having never found the home and family they deserve, and far too many become parents who lose their children to the state, themselves.
#2: fewer parents placing
The numbers of babies placed for adoption has continually fallen. The reasons why may vary, but in short, there’s little stigma involved in being a single mom anymore, which was why most birthmothers “had” to place years ago. Since Covid and the fall of Roe v. Wade. the amount of public aid available to single mothers has risen incrementally. The Texas Legislature recently awarded a record $225 million in aid for alternatives to abortion, much of which will continue to fund organizations that give away free diapers, formula, baby clothes and parenting classes. That is only a small fraction of what it takes to successfully raise a child to adulthood, but it’s enough to lead young moms to think there’s no need to consider adoption options, even when they should.
#3: more people adopting
With an estimated 50-100 couples awaiting every one baby placed for adoption these days, and more folks attempting DIY (do-it-yourself) adoptions online. there is a seemingly-endless supply of adoption options competing for the attention of any parent considering placing. One mother who recently placed through Abrazo told us she encountered no shortage of illegal payment offers from adoption facilitators who were advertising in Texas in clear violation of state adoption advertising laws, something she found “scary.” Too many prospective adopters and birthparents alike can get snared in blackmarket adoption arrangements without even knowing it. (Remember: in Texas, only a licensed adoption agency can assist placing parents with living support.)
#4: drop in global fertility rates
Over the past 70 years, fertility rates have fallen worldwide by 50%. That’s a good thing for our planet, of course, but it does mean that there are fewer babies being born, and accordingly, fewer babies available for adoption. Fewer placements means longer wait times for adopting couples, which understandably means more frustration for those in the adoption process, where families are finding waiting periods nationwide are doubling or tripling.
#5: selection of the fittest
It’s not something adoption professionals enjoy having to tell clients, but in the domestic adoption system, where more placing parents choose a family for their baby based on profiles and/or videos, visuals sell. Whether they’re placing or adopting, adoption consumers are all hoping for the best possible range of options, despite the fact that they’re dealing with a less than optimal set of circumstances. This, too, can account for why adoption takes so long, for some people.
Nationwide, the majority of expectant moms considering adoption tend to prefer (1) childless couples, and/or (2) gay males and/or (3) younger people (in their 20s-30s) who are economically advantaged and and/or (5) physically fit (not overweight). Meanwhile, the majority of adopting parents are seeking to adopt (1) an infant or newborn, who is (2) Anglo-Caucasian or Anglo-Hispanic or Anglo-Asian and (3) has no medical issues, and (4) whose birthmother had full prenatal care and little or no substance use during pregnancy. (Fortunately, Abrazo has adoptive families ready and waiting for children of all backgrounds, including prenatal drug exposure.)
#6: unqualified adoption services
Some years ago, the federal government implemented a long overdue crackdown on international adoption, which resulted in many unqualified or unethical adoption vendors getting edged out of the foreign adoption system by America joining the Hague Treaty. As a result, many bad actors retooled their programs and started cottage industries pitching domestic adoption services– whether seeking state-licensure or not. Many states like Texas do have laws prohibiting adoption advertisers, adoption facilitators and other baby brokers. Yet they fail to enforce their laws. Hopeful adoptive parents and desperate birthparents can fall victim to vendors who make big promises but fail to deliver, which further perpetuates adoption scams and extends how long some people wait.
#7: failed matches
Another factor that can slow down the adoption process is a failed adoption match, which is a risk in any domestic adoption plan. Expectant parents can choose an adopting couple at any point in pregnancy (although Abrazo typically advises placing parents to never match in the first trimester.) Yet everyone can change their minds, at any point, prior to adoption paperwork being completed two days or more after birth. Spending months building a relationship intended to result in adoption can sometimes feel like a waste of time if a match fails, but the most important thing is that the child ends up with the parents they should– whether or not an adoptive placement occurs. (The wrong placement is always the very worst outcome for everyone, because a failed match is less devastating than a failed adoption.)
“Why adoption takes so long” may serve a purpose
Adoption delays can be frustrating for hopeful adoptive parents, placing parents and adoption professionals alike. Seemingly-endless adoption wait times can take a toll on even the strongest of adopting couples. But remember: there’s something to be said for taking the time to do things right, to be sure about life’s most important choices and to always put children’s best interests first. It’s hard to understand at the time, but the best moments in life and the best choices we make are worth the wait– whether that’s about finding the right family for your child or finding the right child for your family. Use the waiting time to learn all you can about all your options. Prepare yourself for the changes that lie ahead, and build adoption connections that will withstand the tests of time. It’s hard to understand why adoption takes so long when you’re going through a long season of waiting? Yet the destination is truly worth the journey, if it gets a child where they’re ultimately meant to be in life.