If you haven’t seen any articles on the CDC’s collection of adoption data, check it out. It’s a fascinating dismantling of stereotypes. The big news-generators is that men adopt more than women. And by more, I mean “twice as often”. The stereotype that anything child or family-related is the domain of women fails us yet again as a predictive theory. My initial thought was that it makes perfect sense that men would adopt more than women for roughly the same reason that you’re more likely to eat out if you don’t have your own kitchen. Not that I’m implying children are edible or anything, though I suppose they technically are. But there’s actually a slightly more complex reason that men adopt more than women, which is the practice of adopting the children of your new spouse.
Why might men adopt more often than women? Jones points to divorce arrangements. Children of divorced parents usually live with their mothers. When men and women remarry, men are more likely than women to adopt children that come into the household.
But there’s another aspect to it, which is my eating-out-when-you-can’t-cook theory.
Another point of view comes from Kim M. Hober, LMSW, an obstetric social worker at New York’s University of Rochester Medical Center. For 20 years, Hober has worked with women who place children for adoption.
“We’ve seen an increase in same-sex couples adopting, and this is a trend all over the country,” Hober tells WebMD. “If you think about same-sex couples, gay men who want children really have to adopt, but gay women can have their own children. I don’t see as many gay female couples adopting as gay male couples.”
But that doesn’t quite follow, because more never-married women are adopting than never-married men, a category that’s going to conceal same sex couples that adopt, sadly. So I’m guessing that adopting your wife’s children probably makes up for the difference. The common nature of this practice gives lie to the stereotype that men are hostile to raising children fathered by another man, which I find interesting. This belief is the underpinning of a lot of bullshit evo psych theories about why women are supposedly monogamous and men are supposedly promiscuous. The reality is that both sexes are a little of both to varying individual degrees.
But I digress. There was another interesting stereotype debunked that didn’t reach the headlines, but is nonetheless important.
“It is not just white married couples who are adopting children.”
Indeed, black Americans are proportionately more likely to adopt than are white Americans.
The majority of the focus is on white, married, childless couples who adopt because they’re the ones whose needs fuel the anti-choice movement, to put it bluntly. It’s a function of their privilege that their desires completely dominate the conversation and obscure the reality of adoption. The anti-choice movement in particular has managed to make people think of childless white couples deprived of “their” babies by selfish unmarried white women who get abortions or become single mothers. What that image has done is erased the reality of adoption, which is often about adopting older children, and in fact, a lot of adoption situations are ones where the adoptive parents formed the relationship with the child and then adopted her. Adoption looks like the stepfather adopting kids he’s grown to love, or the neighbors who bring in a child neglected by her own parents, or a kid moving in with non-parental relatives. I always thought it was cool how the “Bernic Mac Show” showed an unconventional sitcom family without committing either of the two grievous errors in “unusual” sitcom families, which is erasing adult women from the picture (Full House and 8 million other “gosh men raising babies” shows) and not making a big, honking deal out of how “weird” they are. Add to that list that the show portrayed adoption in a way that’s closer to the diverse reality of it than the public image.
Of course, all this raises one question, which is that it might not be a demand issue that creates these statistics, but a supply issue. Perhaps married, white, childless couples aren’t the picture of adoption because they’re sitting on waiting lists instead of adopting.