Note: I am focusing on national adoption here, international adoption can be problematic for many reasons.
The organization where I am doing my European Voluntary Service is a „Casa famiglia“ (engl.: foster home) where children and teenagers live, temporarily or until they turn 18, because they cannot live with their parents or relatives. Especially for the children, the prior goal is for them and their parents to follow a curriculum in order for them to be reunited after some time. If this is not possible, because the parents are not cooperating or because the environment at home with the parents is proven not to be safe, adoption can be an option. It is an uneasy choice and as I myself had many questions coming up encountering this, I decided to do some research and write this article.
According to Italian law (legge 4 maggio 1983 n. 184), in order for a child to be declared adoptable it must be in a situation of abandonment because it is deprived of emotional and material assistance from the parents or relatives required to provide for the child, as long as the lack of assistance is not of transitory nature (art 8). It is important to note that by this definition the direct contact between biological parental figure and child can still be loving and somewhat healthy but due to personal problems of the parent figure they might for example be unable to always show up to meetings, or generally to provide a safe environment at home.
The parents to be of an adopted child have to be married, together for at least three years, between the age of 18 and 45, and perseverant, patient, and highly motivated (art. 6 della legge 184/83; Cappalletti, 2012). The adoptive parents cannot choose a specific child, and neither the sex, age, or race (Cappalletti, 2012).
The adoptee has the right to be informed about being adopted in any case (Cappalletti, 2012) but once the adoptability of a child is declared, by Italian law, the child has to face the definitive separation from their parental figures. The children in the process often feel torn between wanting to go back to their biological parental figures who, although inadequate, gave them a feeling of belonging, and between the fear of developing new affective attachments to someone other than their biological parents (Monaco, Niro & Rovera, 1999). Only when the adoptee turns 25 years old, they have the right to look out for their biological parents but even then there will be limitations varying from case to case, defined by the Juvenile Court (Cappalletti, 2012).
This strict law that does not allow contact between adoptee and biological parental figure holds some problems. Adoptions with non-infants show disruption rates of about 20%, with a range between 10 and 50%, rising with the age of the adoptee (Rushton, 2004). As much older they are, as more difficulties they have with not being allowed to see their family anymore. While adoption still works for the majority of children up to middle school, the picture is much less positive for adolescents (Rushton, 2004). An alternative to the model of adoption currently executed in Italy is the model of open adoption where contact arrangements with the birth family are made after adoption. Although scientists do not recommend broad prescriptions for all children concerning open adoptions, contact was shown to have beneficial effects for many children (Rushton, 2004).
To conclude, surely, some children will benefit from never seeing their biological parents again but I think it is important to listen to what the children want and decide from case to case. Adoption is a difficult topic to begin with but I believe we have to inform ourselves and invest a lot of time in the decision making to make sure these procedures run in the best way possible.
Cappelletti, Gabriele (February 12, 2012). Domande e risposte sull’adozione. Italia Adozioni. Retrieved June 11, 2020 from http://www.italiaadozioni.it/domande-e-risposte-sulladozione/
Monaco, M. F., Niro, M. T., & Rovera, G. G. (1999). Adolescenti e adozione: una Odissea verso l'identità. Centro Scentifico.
Rushton, A. (2004). A scoping and scanning review of research on the adoption of children placed from public care. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 9(1), 89-106.