Adoptive Families in a Diverse Society

By Katarina Wegar | Go to book overview

3
Adoption and Public Opinion
Implications for Social Policy
and Practice in Adoption

CHARLENE E. MIALL AND KAREN MARCH

Adoptive kinship as a family form is in a process of change. Social scientists, clinicians, and family practitioners, therefore, are increasingly interested in the social context within which adoptive families live. First, it is important to determine whether these newly constituted adoptive families are accepted and supported in the wider community or subject to sanctions and stigmatization, as either response may affect the successful functioning of adoptive families. Second, individuals involved in the adoption triangle cannot be understood by practitioners unless the social context that shapes their identities, attitudes, and behavior is known. Third, an awareness of contexts beyond the adoptive family, including connections to the community, are essential to an understanding of adoptive identity and how it is shaped and develops.1

In this regard, various studies of adoptive families themselves have revealed that at times, they grapple with community attitudes, beliefs, and cultural images that define adoption as a different—and sometimes even deviant—family form. In one study, adoptive mothers identified three beliefs about adoption in the wider community that they felt were stigmatizing. These were the belief that bonding and love in adoptive families are second best because a biological tie is missing; that adopted children are suspect because of their unknown genetic past; and that adoptive parents are not real parents in the way that biological parents are.2 In another study, adult adoptees revealed that a main motivating factor for their search for birth family members was to neutralize the stigma of not knowing their own biological background in a society that emphasizes these connections.3 Both birth mothers and adoptive mothers have described their struggles with meeting societal expectations of what a good mother should be, and both adoptive mothers and fathers have identified the adoption process itself as humiliating and intrusive.4

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