Policies make state adoption-friendly

Families formed through adoption are more common in Indiana compared with other states.

According to the National Council for Adoption, Indiana has the nation’s fourth-highest rate of adoption per live births, the ninth-highest rate of adoption per nonmarital births and the 11th-highest rate of adoption per 100,000 adults.

“Our state’s laws make Indiana a very adoption-friendly state,” said Nadja Radke, a pregnancy and adoption counselor for St. Elizabeth Coleman, a Catholic Charities ministry that has been serving in Indiana for 100 years.

Radke explained that the birth mother’s signature on the adoption consent decree is final, while the birth father or other biological family members have only 30 days after the baby’s birth to claim custody.

“One of the biggest fears we hear is that the birth parents will continue to meddle,” Radke said. “That just is not true at all. By the time the decision has been made to place the child for adoption, the birth parent has made the choice to not parent the child.”

Between 2009 and 2013, an annual average of 3,678 children were adoptedin Indiana. Along with domestic adoptions through private agencies or attorneys, children also can be adopted through the state’s foster care system as well as internationally. Overall, 2.7 percent of Hoosier children live in adoptive families.

Adoption often is beneficial for children and adults. A federal survey of adoptive parents revealed, “largely positive experiences, with the majority of adopted children faring well on measures of physical health, social and emotional well-being, and cognitive development and educational achievement.”

Adoptive parents also benefit. The national council reports that 87 percent would “definitely make the same decision” to adopt a child.

That is the experience of pro golf champion Bubba Watson. He and his wife, former WNBA player Angie Watson, have two adopted children, and the Watsons are leading the council’s national public relations campaign to promote adoption.

“Angie and I have been incredibly blessed by the gift of adoption,” Bubba Watson said. “It breaks our hearts to think so many kids out there don’t have a family of their own — and that there are people out there who might not understand just how awesome adoption is.”

The national council recommends that families work with an attorney or agency that is licensed by the state for adoption and that the attorney or agency provides the birth parents with the same high level of service and support that is provided to the adoptive parents.

The council concluded, “The ability to communicate promptly and efficiently, deliver information and training, provide pre- and post-placement support, and remain connected to clients over the long term are all hallmarks of a good agency.”

Meanwhile, prospective parents who are interested in adopting through the state’s foster care system can start online at www.in.gov/dcs and click on “Adoption.”

Whichever path is chosen — domestic, international or foster care — Radke says parents will not be alone on their journey through adoption. “There are interviews, a home study, several hours of training, awareness of common challenges, awareness of support services and other information parents need as they prepare to adopt.

“We also offer the opportunity for the new family to be part of a small group of other adoptive families, and we let them know that a counselor always is here to help after the adoption.”

Federal data reveal that before 1973, 8.7 percent of babies born to unwed mothers were placed for adoption. By 2002, the rate had dropped to just one percent. Radke speculates that single parenting has become more socially acceptable during the past four decades, while teen moms who were raised in unstable families are less likely to place their child for adoption because they often view their baby as a source of love and stability.

Radke hopes more birth parents become aware of the option of adoption and that more adults develop interest in becoming adoptive parents.

“We think of adoption as just another way to parent,” Radke said. “Whether you have biological children or not, adoption is another way to build your family. You’re providing that safety and stability that every child needs.”

Bill Stanczykiewicz is president and chief executive officer of the Indiana Youth Institute. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.

Bill Stanczykiewicz is president and chief executive officer of the Indiana Youth Institute. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.