- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

Americans' view of adoption is growing more favorable as more people experience it among their families and friends, said a survey released yesterday by two adoption groups.
However, more than 80 percent of Americans still worry about birth parents trying to reclaim their children from adoptive parents and half think adoption costs are "a major concern."
The new survey on American adoption attitudes expands a benchmark survey taken by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in 1997. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption co-sponsored the 2002 research, which was done by Harris Interactive.
The new data show that "people are even more favorable about adoption than five years ago," said Cindy Freidmutter, executive director of the institute.
For instance, in the 1997 survey of 1,554 Americans, 58 percent had experienced adoption within their family or among close friends and almost the same portion 56 percent had a very favorable opinion of adoption.
In the 2002 survey of 1,416 Americans, 64 percent had experienced adoption and 63 percent had a high opinion of adoption.
Both surveys showed that nearly 40 percent of American adults or 81.5 million people, have considered adopting a child.
If even a tiny fraction of these adults actually adopted, virtually all of the 134,000 children in foster care who are free for adoption would have permanent homes, said Rita Soronen, executive director of the Dave Thomas Foundation, which is named for the late founder of the Wendy's hamburger chain, who was himself adopted.
And yet, all things considered, very few people adopt, said Ms. Freidmutter, noting that while there have been recent increases in international and foster-care adoptions, overall estimates of U.S. adoptions remain at 120,000 a year.
The 2002 survey showed that one of the biggest adoption concerns is that birth parents would try to take their children back, even after an adoption has been finalized.
Realistically, that is an "extremely rare" occurrence that attracts media attention, said Ms. Freidmutter. There are hundreds of thousands of adoptions that are finalized without conflict.
The 2002 survey also showed that 50 percent of Americans are worried about adoption costs.
This, too, may be an unfair perception, Ms. Freidmutter said, given the $10,000 federal tax credit, generous employer adoption benefits and very low costs of adopting a child from foster care.
Prospective adoptive parents need easier access to basic adoption information, Ms. Freidmutter said, adding that, unlike fertility treatments, "adoption is 100 percent successful."
"It may take you a short time or a long time, and you may have one or two roads to go down that don't work, but there's no question that if you want to adopt a child and you're approved, there's no way that you're not going to get a child," she said.
The 2002 survey also found that:
People most favorable to adoption were female, married and those with some college education. Hispanics were most likely to consider adopting (54 percent), followed by blacks (45 percent) and whites (36 percent).
There is steady support 68 percent for adopted children searching for and finding their birth parents.
Sixty-eight percent of Americans think "open" adoptions, in which a child may have ongoing contact with birth relatives, are a good idea in many cases. But 21 percent think it's usually not a good idea and 10 percent think it's a bad idea.


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