Over twenty years ago, Michigan mental health and social workers began noticing a truly disturbing trend: at that time, it was relatively easy (they reported) to find placements for children who needed families. But what they saw happening with increasing frequency was broken adoptions: adoptive families returning—or even abandoning!—their new children. A great proportion of these children ended up in the mental health system.
Informal adoption has existed for generations in the Hispanic community and is proof of our strong sense of family unity and our devotion to our children. Most of us know children raised by their grandparents, tías and tíos, madrinas and madrinos.
Sadly, sometimes those involved in an informal adoption have problems. It may not be clear, for example, what the responsibilities of each of the participants are. The birth parents, foster parents, and the child may suffer anxieties because of the informality of their situation. The new parents may be afraid to bond with the child because they are worrying, “When will they come to take her back”? And the child may wonder “Who is my mother”? or “Where is my father”?
Formalized legal adoption has not been popular in our community. Many people feel shame, or believe an adoption should be clouded in secrecy. But there are many situations in which the child will need legal papers, and only formal adoption will be able to provide those papers. Traveling with the child, authorizing medical treatment, and enrolling the child in school all require formal legal adoption. Formal legal adoption is a legitimate and loving option that we must all discuss openly. There are many, many children in this country who need forever families.
¡Viva la adopción! A Guide to Adoption for Hispanic Christians and Their Congregations © 1993 by Carolyn Flanders McPherson and Maria Ruggiero
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The views expressed in these books are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Health and Human Services or the Michigan Department of Mental Health.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
These guidebooks were written for the Michigan Post Adoption Services System. They were funded in part by: Adoption Opportunities Grant #90-CO-0553 awarded to the Michigan Department of Mental Health by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families; by the Michigan Department of Mental Health; and originally printed with a grant from an anonymous benefactor.