There are far too many adoption restrictions that could potentially hamper worthy future families from adopting children. Many of these restrictions placed on families trying to adopt are based upon outright discriminatory bias and as a result, more children are being left in foster care for extended periods of time. This is a problem because many of these alienated groups would make excellent parents and would be able to provide safe and loving homes to the hundreds of thousands of American children in foster care.

Aside from these blatant adoption restrictions, there are other factors that could encourage adoption, including better federal funding so that more attractive incentives for qualified adoptive parents could be offered. Furthermore, this might help curb the current trend of growing international versus declining domestic adoptions. Children who remain in long term foster care are likely to suffer emotional stress and other difficulties. These are young people who deserve good caring adoptive families but who are being denied this right due to governmental restrictions based on gender and race. In order to best help America’s vast population of foster children, we must work to remove these restrictions on adoption and find ways to encourage prospective parents to adopt.

Children in the United States are spending far too much time in foster care—an institution that was founded on the basis that it would be a temporary solution or an intermediate point before actual adoption. Although there are many qualified foster parents available, there seems to be a serious lack of long-term parents seeking to adopt. This fact has remained a constant throughout the past decade only recently has begun to demonstrate some positive changes. “In 2004, 518,000 children lived in foster care, 118,000 of whom were eligible for adoption… Since then, the number has stalled at about 51,000 annually; even the number of children adopted abroad by U.S. citizens continues to rise" (Koch 2006). It is interesting to note that there are children being taken out of foster care, just not in the United States.

Despite the hardship and expense often involved in adopting children from foreign countries, prospective parents seem quite willing to accept this challenge (Ladika 2005). Although there are likely complex social reasons behind this increasingly popular choice, potential adoptive parents must examine the state of adoption and foster care here in the United States. With so many children remaining indefinitely in foster care within our own borders, one has to question why this trend is occurring. One possible explanation would be that there are far too many obstacles in place within our own system that for only slightly more money and a bit more hassle, parents can seek children from other nations. In order to place as many children as possible, new measures must be put in place to assist prospective parents and encourage them to adopt within the United States.

The most solid argument for why adoptive parents seek alternative routes to adopting children is that there are far too many restrictions associated with adoption agencies in the United States. For instance, there are limitations placed on gay and lesbian couples who wish to offer homes to foster children. These couples, often despite their financial (as well as other) qualifications that are important to agencies when making placement decisions, are often turned down for this opportunity simply because of their sexual orientation. “Child welfare policy requires that all potential adoptive parents be thoroughly screened. Laws that exclude gay people from consideration as adoptive or foster parents unnecessarily reduce the already insufficient pool of available homes" (ACLU 2006). This screening process looks at several key indicators of a couple’s potential to raise a happy, healthy child but because of sexuality-based discrimination, even the most qualified of couples might be refused. This discrimination does not end with sexual orientation alone, either. Although it is not as well documented, there are cases of racial and age bias in these agency decisions as well. In order to remedy the problem of too many children without permanent homes, these surface distinctions should not, by law, have any bearing on an agency’s final decision. If such an anti-discrimination policy were enforced, it seems more than reasonable to assume that this problem would be solved.

The list of criteria an agency considers is long and involved. Their primary categories of analysis include, age, fertility status, previous children, financial status, employment, religion, background, and marital status. Any cursory glance at this list should send off warnings in anyone’s mind if they have ever considered employment law. When applying for a job in the United States, employers are not allowed to ask about your religious or sexual preference or the personal details of your background. Since being an adoptive parent is very much like a job, so too should the federal requirements that help employers decide be applied to state adoption agencies as well? “All of these [requirements] are important issues to consider when placing a child in a new family, however, marital status seems to be the primary focus of some debates. Concerns over single parent adoptions should be laid to rest by the many benefits singles have to offer children in need of a home" (Cake, Hanson, Cormell 2001). Just as is the case with all of the bias discussed thus far, if a family (or in this case, person) has all of the other requirements concerning stability, discriminating against them because of their marital status is not fair and should be unconstitutional. While so many children await a loving family or person to offer them permanence, disallowing someone simply because they are not a “traditional" family is harmful to all parties involved.

A more elusive explanation for the trend toward international adoption is that there is a greater possibility for couples to adopt an infant as opposed to an older child. Many couples seeking to adopt are more inclined to wish for an infant rather than an older child, which leaves many older children in a perpetual state of foster care. Also of importance, many potential parents do not wish to adopt children with mental or health problems and these children are also left within the system while dealing with these painful issues. “Where adoption can be arranged, many of these children find themselves moved from one foster family to another.

Furthermore, finding a permanent home for abused, handicapped, or troubled children is especially hard" (Hehir 2006). Just as agencies must not discriminate against prospective parents, these potential parents should be open to offering their love and homes to any child, regardless of his or her age or status as a troubled child. After all, with enough attention and caring, many of these troubled children will finally come of their own once they feel as though they are secure. Furthermore, although infants are desirable, there are several advantages to adopting an older child such as the escape from potty training and other stressors associated with infants. In order to help with this more inclusive approach to adopting children, the federal government should set aside special financial resources dedicated to families who adopt these “less desirable" children. These incentives would encourage a greater number of adoptions overall and would provide these children, who might have been otherwise doomed to temporary care the possibility to live a normal life.

By removing discriminatory restrictions for potential adoptive parents, children would be taken out of foster homes and placed into a stable and loving environment that will offer them a feeling of permanence. The burden on foster parents would be greatly relieved and the foster care and adoption systems would be able to function more efficiently. Such action, coupled with greater financial incentives sponsored by the federal government, would greatly increase the quality of life for the thousands of children who are moved from home to temporary home, as well as the lives of the thousands of people wishing to adopt but have hitherto been rejected because of clear racial, sexual, and marital bias. Although it is a pleasure to see that so many Americans want to help children in third world countries by adopting them overseas, perhaps the problem of foster children here in America would be improved if going out of the country was not necessary for some. Overall, this would take legislative action to outlaw outright discrimination by agencies, but the end result would be worth all of the trouble.

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Works Cited

American Civil Liberties Union (2006). Too High a Price.www.aclu.org/lgbt/parenting/24950prs20060407.html

Cake-Hanson-Cormell (2001). Single Parent Adoptions: Why Not? http://www.adopting.org/adoptions/single-parent adoptions-why-not.html

Hehir (2006). Abandoned Children. Commonweal, 133(6), 5

Koch, Wendy. (2006). Relatives open hearts and homes. USA Today. 3 March.

Ladika, Susan. (2005). Adoptions’ Multiple Benefits. HR Magazine, 50(10), 60