What Is Adoption? 

Adoption is the legal means by which the child of one set of parents permanently becomes the child of another set of parents. Provision for adoption appears to have been made as far back as the earliest recorded histories. The Babylonian Code of Hammurabi establishes the existence of adoption practices more than 4,000 years ago. The Bible refers to adoption as does ancient Roman civil law, and the early Spaniards had an adoption law. In Canada every province has legislation regarding adoption.



Statistics show that approximately 48{a886d2509afb02fdbd678c9c9cbef29e9b4ac8f1454580a0bf53ee67e764b753} of the children placed for adoption are adopted by relatives and 52{a886d2509afb02fdbd678c9c9cbef29e9b4ac8f1454580a0bf53ee67e764b753} are adopted by non-relatives. Of those children adopted by non-relatives about 61{a886d2509afb02fdbd678c9c9cbef29e9b4ac8f1454580a0bf53ee67e764b753} are placed by social agencies and 39{a886d2509afb02fdbd678c9c9cbef29e9b4ac8f1454580a0bf53ee67e764b753} are placed independently.

Today adoptive parents desiring children are more numerous than the children available, so that no child need go without a good home. The greatest demand and longest wait – several years – is for healthy babies.  Some adoptive parents adopt older children or children with handicaps. 

Today many women faced with an unplanned pregnancy believe they have only two options – to abort or to parent the child.  Yet 40-50 years ago, 80 to 90 percent of single women chose to place their babies for adoption. The three main reasons for a decline in adoption are the increase in abortion, the increased social acceptance of single parenting, and the myths being voiced against adoption. 

Myth One:  A birthmother who cares about her child would not think of adoption. 

This misunderstanding can cause a birthmother, who is considering adoption as a way to provide what she feels she can’t provide for her child, a great deal of needless suffering and guilt.  Without exception, the birthmother who releases her child for adoption does so because of love and a sincere concern for the welfare of her child.  She honestly answers these questions:  Am I able to give a child what it needs?  Would I have to count on my parents to take over for me?  Can I raise a child and meet my own needs?  Am I ready to become a good parent on my own?  She makes a caring decision, one in which she places her child’s needs and best interests above her suffering and the possible disapproval of important others.  This is a true act of love. 

Myth Two:  A birthmother has no control or knowledge of her child’s welfare during or after the adoption. 

This is not true as counsellors are sensitive to the pain of the birthmother and her need for support and information about her child and the adoptive family.  In addition, they are aware of the importance that information be given to adopted children about their birthparents and their need to view adoption as positive and loving.  Today information sharing in adoption ranges from secrecy at one extreme to full disclosure of all identifying information at the other.  The birth-mother chooses the type of adoption plan she believes to be best for her child and herself.  Public or private agencies carefully investigate and screen adoptive parents; their reasons for wanting to adopt; their family, finances and health; their personalities.  They help match adoptive parents to the child – even considering physical characteristics and temperament.  Agencies take the birthmother’s release when she is ready to give it; help her overcome fear, doubt, and guilt, and answer her questions to her satisfaction; assure her that her baby will go into a home where it will be nurtured and loved and her religious wishes and other cultural preferences will be respected.When this is done, birthmothers are able to accept and live with the decision to release their children.  They know that they have done what is best by lovingly placing their children’s needs before their own.

Myth Three:  No one can love a child as much as the birthparents. 

Research and experience indicate that adoptive parents can love and care for a child as fully and selflessly as biological parents.  The ability to be a good parent has no relationship to one’s ability to give birth.  Adoptive couples can be marvelous parents because good parenting is a matter of consistently and continuously nurturing and loving a child, not a matter of biology. Adopted children become loved, valued family members, thereby diffusing the following myth. 

Myth Four:  Adoptees grow up to have serious psychological problems. 

Recent research does not support this gross misconception.  Studies throughout the years have shown no differences between adopted and non-adopted children in terms of adjustment, delinquency, or mental health.1,2,3  No relationship between psychopathology and adoption has been found.  In fact, most adopted children adjust well.

Myth Five:  A birthmother will have serious emotional problems if she relinquishes her child. 

Placing a baby for adoption is a difficult decision.  A birthmother will grieve over the loss of her child, and that grief can be painful.  However, the ability to grieve is a sign of mental health.  Fear, false guilt, and the grief process can be and are resolved.  When needed, sensitive, experienced counsellors are available to help.  The birth-mother can go on with her life, not forgetting, but with a growing peace and joy in the gift of life she has given and in the loving decision she has made for her baby and herself.  This knowledge is a source of strength to women.  A pregnant woman can receive help – financial aid, emotional support, medical care, employment services, and education – during her pregnancy and receive a future free of guilt and full of hope for her unborn baby and herself by choosing adoption. 


  1. Arms, S., To Love and Let Go, New York. Knopf, 1983.
  2. Brinich, P.M. & Brinich, E.B., Adoption and Adaptation, The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 170, 8, 1982, 489-493.
  3. Chess, S., An Introduction to Child Psychiatry, 2nd Ed., New York: Grune, 1969.
  4. Plumex, J.H., Successful Adoption: A Guide to Finding a Child and Raising a Family, New York: Crown, 1982.
  5. Ideas for myths from A Case for Adoption, Bethany Christian Services, 1985.

Pregnant and afraid? For help call toll-free 1-800-665-0570.

For more information about adoption contact Action Life (Ottawa) Inc.

Adoption: A Special Kind of Love

Not flesh of my flesh

Nor bone of my bone,

But still miraculously my own.

Never forget for a single minute,

You didn’t grow under my heart,

But in it!

(Adoption Creed, Author Unknown) Produced by Alliance for Life Ontario. Reprinted with permission.

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