Adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
I’m not sure who first said that, but I’ve seen it a lot lately. I hate it. The mean part of me wants to say that anyone who uses it is an idiot. The more even-tempered part of me just says they’re naive.
Adoption happens in many situations, many of which are not temporary. For example:
- The one child policy in China, in effect from 1979 through 2015.
- The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, which began in the 1970s.
- War, pretty much everywhere, which began when the first caveman threw a rock at another caveman and said, “I want what you have.”
- Poverty, again, pretty much everywhere, including here in the US, possibly beginning as early as the Stone Age.
- Generational cycles of abuse and/or addiction, which occurs everywhere as well.
- Biological fathers insisting that their children aren’t theirs and disappearing. US child support laws go back to the 1960s, but courts were dealing with support issues in the 19th century.
There are situations that may be temporary, such as a lack of education, resources, support, or a combination thereof. Of course, no one has a crystal ball. Situations that may seem temporary become permanent. For example, parents who are addicted swear that they will get clean for their kids, but it never happens. Situations that may seem permanent, or at least long-term, turn out to be temporary. For example, a single woman wants her child to be raised by two parents, but doesn’t have a partner in her life, so she places her child. Months later, she meets the person she will marry. However, no one knows with certainty what will happen in the future.
How long, exactly, is the child supposed to wait for these “temporary” problems to be solved?
The phrase is also incorrect because adoption doesn’t solve any of these problems. That is one major, valid criticism of adoption. Adoption doesn’t solve poverty. It doesn’t make African men wear condoms. It doesn’t fix a country that’s experienced decades of war, famine, or natural disasters. It doesn’t make poor people richer. But then, adoption isn’t supposed to solve any of these problems. Adoption is supposed to be about finding families for children who need them. The children need families because their biological families are not able – or sometimes not willing – to take care of them in the here and now.
Sometimes, adoption may be a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I know that for my son, it was not. The situation that his birthmother was in at the time of his birth was not temporary. Time will tell if the same is true for my daughter. As of 2015, it’s very clear that no, her birthmother’s situation is decidedly not temporary.
And that’s the rub: Time. A child needs a permanent, stable, loving, secure family from day one. You can’t put the child on pause while you finish your education, grow up, get the courage to leave your abusive partner, go to rehab, and so on. I would argue that foster care is analogous to that “pause button” and most people within that system admit that it doesn’t work. Children languish while adults get their stuff together. Or don’t, as the case may be.
No, adoption is not a permanent solution to a temporary problem. That’s one pithy sound bite I wish we could just do away with.