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Adoption’s Current Realities: How Much Do You Know?

Adopted, multi-race family enjoying an autumn day

By Mary O’Leary Wiley, PhD, ABPP

When you think of adopting a child, what images come into your mind? For most of us, the images are based on how adoption used to be. We think of infant adoptions, which now make up only 17% of non-step parent adoptions in the U.S. We think of inter-country adoptions, which now make up only 15% of non-step parent adoption in the U. S. Inter-country adoptions have steadily declined since 2004.

A high majority of current adoptions are from child welfare agencies. Most of these are children who have come from foster care. Many of these children have experienced significant trauma. In inter-country and infant adoptions, children have experienced significant loss. How can we best help them?

The answer is permanency, stability and openness. Laws and policies must be changed to reflect current adoption realities. The era of secrecy and shame is long past. Adoption must truly be in the best interest of the child, and policies and laws must reflect this.

Grief and loss must be accepted as an important component of adoption. Trauma must be treated and not ignored (or wished away with loving intentions). Adopting families must be aware of the challenges they and their children will face, including, often, the creation of a multi-cultural family.

Adoption is truly a lifelong journey.

Those wishing to learn more about the lifelong issues related to adoption for all members of the adoption constellation can find excellent information at


Mary O’Leary Wiley, PhD, ABPP is a Board Certified Counseling Psychologist who specializes in the life long issues related to adoption. She received her doctoral degree from the University of Maryland in 1982 and is one of the founding chairs of the Adoption Research and Practice Special Interest Group in the Society of Counseling Psychology (APA Division 17). She is in independent practice in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Her peer reviewed publications about adoption can be found at She can be reached at

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