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Barcode Babies: National Infertility Awareness Week Myth Bust

Myth: There are Many Unwanted Babies Available for Domestic Adoption

National Infertility Awareness Week is April 24-30. As a majority of the families who become clients of A Gift of Hope Adoptions have some degree of infertility, we are proud to celebrate their arrival as parents through adoption. However, this celebration never comes without a struggle, and proper grieving of the biological child that they will not have. Part of our job as Adoption Counselors is to make sure that they are supported through that grief, and to help them celebrate when the child they have waited for finally arrives.  As part of their events for the week, RESOLVE has asked infertility bloggers to “Bust a Myth” about infertility. While we are not an infertility blog, adoption is often intertwined with infertility, so in honor of all of our clients who have fought that fight, A Gift of Hope Adoptions is happy to bust a myth about domestic adoption.

Yep, we get calls asking about our inventory. Ouch – does that sound harsh or demeaning? It is. It degrades the birth mothers who make the agonizing choice to make an adoption plan for their child. It degrades the adoptive parents who wait and hope and agonize over whether their profile will appeal to a woman in that position. It degrades the professionals who counsel clients in either position, and ultimately work to further the best interest of the child.

And yet for some reason there seems to be this perception that there are just loads of babies lined up in bassinets in an adoption agency back room just waiting for someone to pick out the perfect addition to their family.They magically remain newborns until they are chosen, usually healthy, white, and preferably a girl. Sometimes we get requests for other attributes, or twins, or a potty trained toddler to “fit in” to the existing family structure, or worse, be a playmate for another child the same age.

My colleagues and I have started calling these magical situations “Barcode Babies”

Because people seem to think that we can just build their perfect baby – they put the order in and we build their perfect baby like a new computer. Then we slap a barcode on them and scan them through the system and send them on their way. We will often get deadlines such as “I’d like healthy twin girls by Christmas, with brown eyes like me and blonde hair like my husband.” I’m not sure why this perception exists, although I can understand why infertile families latch on to that. This is what many infertile families dream of during the process of trying to conceive, and it is natural that it would transfer to the next step. Unfortunately, this is not the way it is, and this is part of the process that adoptive families must reconcile before they adopt.

While there are a lot of children waiting to be adopted – a little over 114,000 according to the Dave Thomas Foundation – they are not healthy infants. They are children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect and are waiting through the foster care system. They are in desperate need of loving families, however the process to adopt is difficult and the needs that must be addressed are great. I commend anyone willing to jump through the hoops to adopt these children and am thrilled when A Gift of Hope is part of that process, but I never recommend anyone go about it uninformed – that sets both you and the adoption up for failure. Does this mean there are no infants adopted in the US? Of course not, but the process is more complicated than putting your order in. The data is somewhat vague on this subject as agency and independent adoptions are not reported. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway in 2001 (most recent data available) about 127,000 children were adopted and 45% of those were private agency, independent, kinship or tribal. The most recent data on people seeking to adopt is from 1995, and only includes data on women. In 1995, there were about 1.6 million women who had taken steps to adopt, and 487,000 who had completed an adoption. Just by my extremely conservative math, that means there are approximately 9 families waiting for every child placed, if you apply the waiting women 1995 data to the 2001 adoption data. This does not take into account type of adoption, and since in general infants are preferred by adoptive families but declining in availability, I would assume there are many more waiting adoptive families per infant placed (I have heard whispered estimates that it is closer to 100 waiting families for every infant, although I'm not sure who did the math on that). Please do not take these calculations as gospel – the data is largely unavailable so these are very much estimates. But the harsh reality is there are fewer and fewer babies available and more and more families waiting for them. It is not impossible, however, and to those who are still dreaming of a baby know that we are hoping with you that it will soon be your turn.

Want a basic understanding of Infertility? Check out RESOLVE's Infertility 101.

Interested in knowing more about National Infertility Awareness week? Here is the background.


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