Adoption is one way of creating a family

August 26, 2005|by LISA PREJEAN

"Mommy, what does it mean to be adopted?"

My 6-year-old had overheard a conversation and was curious.

"It's when a little boy or a little girl who doesn't have a mommy and a daddy is taken care of by someone who wants to be that child's mommy or daddy," I told her, remembering that my son asked a similar question when he was about her age.

Children typically begin to ask questions about adoption when they start attending school, says Marilyn Regier, executive director of The Barker Foundation, a nonprofit adoption agency that is based in Bethesda, Md.

At this age, a child is beginning to understand what it means to be a family and that not all families are the same.


"Adoption is one way of creating a family. You can be born into a family. You can be adopted into a family. You can be a foster parent. You can marry into a family," Regier says.

A child might wonder what happened to the original set of parents. Sometimes adults will say that the birth parents loved their child enough to give him a new home. This explanation might frighten a child, making her wonder if her mommy and daddy will love her so much that they will give her away.

It's better to explain that sometimes birth parents cannot care for a child at a certain time in their lives, Regier says. When that is the case, the birth parent can give the child to someone else. Provide the assurance that birth parents often think of and love their children. They were just unable to provide for the child's needs at that time in their lives.

"For this wonderful thing - adoption - to have happened, someone had a loss," Regier says.

Losses can be felt in both families.

Couples often choose adoption after experiencing primary or secondary infertility. Primary infertility means that a couple has been unable to conceive a child. Secondary infertility means that a couple has conceived a child or children but has been unable to have other children.

Most birth parents in the United States opt for open adoption, where they may select the adoptive parents that meet their criteria.

"It gives them a feeling of control, 'We would not have a stranger baby-sit our child, so why would we want a stranger to raise our child?'" Regier says.

A child might want to know how much it costs to adopt a child.

While there are fees involved when a family adopts, those fees are for professional services, not for the child.

If an adopted child wants to know how much his new family paid for him, the response should be, "Not one penny. You are priceless. No one could ever put a price tag on a human being," Regier says.

Just as a family who gives birth in a hospital pays for the medical services provided by a doctor, a family who is adopting pays for the professional services of the agencies involved.

Children might want to know how long the adoption will last.

"Adoption is permanent. It's not like you are trying on a child for size," Regier says. "Just like you get what you get when you birth a child, you get what you get when you adopt a child. Once you sign those papers, it's a lifetime commitment. If you don't get along, it's really no different from any other family in the neighborhood whose children are fighting."

The Barker Foundation will host an adoption information meeting from 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 10, at Frederick Church of the Brethren, 201 Fairview Ave., in Frederick, Md.

The meeting will feature:

- Adoption options - infant, older child, domestic, international, special needs.

- Issues to consider before you adopt.

- Discussions with families who have adopted children.

For information, call 1-800-673-8489, or go to

The foundation also offers a pregnancy hotline, 1-800-821-3104.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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