This content was originally published by Creating a Family, the national infertility education and support nonprofit.
In an interview on Creating a Family Radio Show Dr. Richard Barth, Dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, said something that startled me.
“The more educated the parents and higher their socioeconomic level, the greater degree of problems with their adoptions.”
Hmmm… As a BS, MS, JD educated, middle-income adoptive mom that certainly gave me pause.
“Problems” were defined as psychiatric placements (in a Swedish study) and adoption dissolutions (in a US study). In short, what we used to call “blue collar” families are a more robust adoptive placement for kids.
Why do wealthier more educated adoptive parents struggle
According to Dr. Barth, an explanation for these research findings is that people in higher socioeconomic levels are accustomed to hiring out services rather than doing things themselves. The business of parenting, especially parenting kids who have experienced abuse and neglect, is very personal and very time-consuming. These families are perhaps less accustomed to putting in the time and effort themselves.
I can see some problems with his reasoning. First, I have some trouble making generalizations based on income and education. Also, other studies have indicated that adoptive parents as a whole are better-educated and put more effort into raising their kids, as measured by things like eating family meals together, providing the child with books, and getting involved in their schools.
In fact, higher income could lead to more time for one parent to devote to the child/children to meet the needs of the child and to take them to their various appointments and activities. It also seems to reason that higher education levels could lead to greater willingness to prepare pre-adoption and continue to get educated post-adoption, although I would be the first to admit that educational level does not always reflect the desire to get educated.
However, putting my defensiveness aside, I have to admit that Dr. Barth was quoting real research findings whether I like them or not. This research provides us with valuable information on how to prepare ourselves.
What is the take home message?
All children take time, but kids who have experienced abuse and neglect, prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs, or poor prenatal environments take more time. Parenting these children is not a task that we can delegate. Oh sure, therapists can and should be hired, doctors seen, and babysitters used, but the day in and day out job of parenting must fall to us.
Parenting is all about relationships and relationships take time – sometimes lots of time.
The question we must ask before we adopt is, do we have the time? Are we willing to alter our life and lifestyle to make the time?
Have you adopted a child who experienced abuse/neglect/prenatal exposure? Did the amount of time involved surprise you?
I LOVED this interview with Dr. Richard Barth, Dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and a prodigious adoption researcher and author. He was full of insight and presented it in such a matter of fact, easy to understand way.Access Radio Interview
Originally published in 2016, updated 2019 by Dawn Davenport on Creating a Family.