Adoption is thought of very differently now from what it was when we were growing up. Today people are encouraged to explore emotionally charged topics that were hidden in the past, such as giving up a child for adoption, interracial adoptions and infertility. The last two decades have seen much progress towards openness in many aspects of adoption. But what do Americans really think about adoption, and how do these opinions affect the lives of all the people involved?
To begin to answer these questions, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute conducted an extensive survey examining opinions about issues as diverse as open adoption, adoptees' search for birth parents, public policies in welfare reform and teen pregnancy. Their results show that American attitudes toward adoption are complex and often contradictory. They show, for example, that although Americans think adoption serves a very useful purpose in our society, only half say adopting is as good as being a birth parent. Half feel that adopting a child is preferable to remaining childless, but not quite as good as having one's own. And a quarter think it is sometimes harder to love an adopted child because the child is not your own flesh and blood.
Attitudes about triad members are varied as well. The majority considers adopted children to be well adjusted and secure, but some think they are insecure, poorly adjusted and more prone to behavioral and academic problems than other children. Many Americans support birth parents' decisions to place children for adoption, but a notable minority disapproves of decisions to do so, and some even see it as irresponsible or hardhearted.
Americans are divided over whether it is better for pregnant teenagers to place their babies for adoption or raise them themselves. Americans also are divided over which is better for the child in this situation, although slightly more believe the baby is better off adopted than raised by the birth mother.