Bryan Caplan: An Adopted Child is Second-Best
The last thing I want is to give more free publicity to a book that frankly doesn’t look all that promising. But when you condescend to me, and when you bring my daughter into it, well, that’s when I have to say — free publicity be damned, I’m gonna rant.
I think that adoption is a noble, generous act, and admire those who do it. But I personally don’t want to adopt. On raising a biological child very different from myself: Of course I’d still love and raise him/her… Still, I’m honest enough to admit that I’d be happier if my child and I had a lot in common.
I am astonished that someone writing a book about children can have such prejudiced views about adoption. I see these views all the time among friends and family, but never, as a rule, among experts in the field.
I wonder how many adoptive parents Bryan talked to in his research. How many books and articles did he read about adoption? Did he talk to any social workers, child psychologists, or even — call me crazy — actual adopted kids? Or did he just recycle the same glurge I always get from casual acquaintances when I tell them that I adopted a daughter? (“Oh wow, that’s so great of you. Tell me though, why didn’t you get a surrogate mom?”)
Overwhelmingly, parents adopt for exactly the same reasons that lead others to have kids in the biological way. The “mode” adoptive parent in the United States is heterosexual, married, and infertile. But they want kids just like anyone else, and for the very same reasons. The only catch is that they aren’t able to have kids in the cheap, fun, and conventional way.
Adopting is a pain — it means tons of paperwork, hours of interviews, repeated hearings before various officials, thousands of dollars in fees, criminal background checks, home safety inspections, financial reviews, invasive medical tests, and possibly years of waiting. (All for good reasons, I’d add.)
Compare all that to an evening of sexual intercourse, and it’s obvious why adoption is a second choice — as a method. But that doesn’t mean that adopted kids are a second choice. If anything, it may mean that adoptive parents are more committed to parenting than many “natural” parents. It’s not like we end up here on accident. Which quite a few bio-parents do, of course. And many infertile couples — those among them least committed to parenting — don’t ever adopt.
Perhaps all this is what brought Bryan to think of adoption as noble. But saying that adopting a child is “generous” is both an insult and an undeserved, patronizing compliment.
It’s an insult because it suggests that adopted kids don’t really count as kids. The only truly apt response here would not be printable given the high standards of this blog.
I know from my own experience in the adoption system that many infertile heterosexual couples have to face this very same prejudice, and much of adoption counseling aims to erase it. Bryan only hurts adopted children when he talks about how noble it is to adopt. As if my daughter were any less human than his precious little clone!
It’s also an undeserved and patronizing compliment. I guarantee you that most adoptive parents didn’t start out with adoption in mind. (Yes, the gay ones did, but we dealt with that whole “never gonna have kids” thing long, long ago, and we’re over it already. Which gives us some perspective.)
The typical adoptive parent probably tried all sorts of things to have kids the “natural” way — exercising, wearing boxer shorts, praying a lot, expensive fertility drugs, and IVF. And none of it worked. They adopted because they had to, not because they wanted to. Having been through the process once, I completely understand why they’d want to avoid it.
Which is not to say that I love my adopted kid any less, or that I have somehow sacrificed my true interests to take on those of a parasite.
 I’m speaking, of course, from the male standpoint. Women’s views on pregnancy and labor seem to be all over the map, but enough of them obviously desire it that the species continues. If I could go back in time and carry a child to term myself rather than deal with the adoption process as we experienced it, I’d gladly take that choice. I’d just want it to be our daughter… the one we adopted. How ’bout that one, Bryan?